Summer Internship Experience: Emily Hall '15

Emily Hall interned in Washington D.C. at The Center: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Dissociation Disorders Treatment Center at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington (PIW).

By Emily Hall '15

Among the different units in PIW, this particular program is one of the top trauma-based treatment programs in the country. Although not all, but most of the patients suffered from childhood trauma, some of the patients admitted are also active or former military. My duties and responsibilities were to observe clinical sessions including expressive therapy, knowledge and skills, and group psychotherapy for both in-patient and partial hospital. However, this summer I worked primarily for the inpatient program (last summer I split time between inpatient and outpatient). I also attended rounds and treatment planning on a daily basis, which was extremely helpful for getting important information on clients as well as ways to approach their treatment. I also completed special projects as assigned by my supervisor and helped the nursing staff at the nurses station throughout the day.  

I’ve gained confidence in my ability to actually help patients and say the right things, especially when they are triggered, stressed out, or even dissociating. After observing so many expressive therapy sessions, I find it easier to analyze different patients’ artwork, despite the fact that I am not very artistic whatsoever. It’s much more than art – it’s about looking for the meaning behind it, observing the subtle details, colors used (or not used), symbols present, different words, patterns, etc. I’ve realized how important expressive therapy is for patients to process their feelings and more importantly, express things that they cannot find the words for during group or individual psychotherapy. Regarding pure knowledge, the staff (especially social workers) have been extremely helpful in terms of helping to guide me into the right program for what I’m looking for after I finish Gettysburg.

I thought that Clinical Mental Health counseling was the program I was aiming for, but after several conversations and some great advice, I’ve changed my plans to pursue a strong social work program and then do some postgraduate clinical training to get my LICSW. While social work on the surface doesn’t seem exactly like what I wanted to do, I realized that getting licensed to do clinical work with my MSW would give me a lot more options career-wise than just clinical mental health counseling. This summer has been extremely helpful and I plan on going back to work at PIW after I get my Bachelor’s Degree!

It’s very hard to get clinical experience as an undergraduate, especially on therapy sessions, but this internship still allowed for observation of some of these group psychotherapy sessions. Some days are slower than others, but overall this has been an excellent experience.