— By Matthew Medeiros for the UMass Amherst College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
During Summer 2017, senior Brittany Justin (psychology/sociology) took another step in a lifelong path to her goal of working in the mental health profession. As a volunteer intern at the Lyme Disease Resource Center (LDRC) in Northampton, Justin worked to achieve the organization’s goal of being a resource for people with chronic Lyme Disease, their caregivers, and people recently diagnosed with the bacterial infection.
While Justin’s work involved some office responsibilities like answering emails and phone calls, the most important thing for her has been getting clinical experience.
“Networking is key. Ask around about internships, talk to your professors and advisors.”
“When I started looking for internships I spent a lot of time trying to find somewhere I could really make a difference but that could also give me some relevant experience working in a clinical setting,” says Justin.
“At the LDRC I am a certified peer counselor, which allows me to facilitate the monthly support groups we hold,” she notes.
When Justin found the LDRC internship on VolunteerMatch she applied online and soon found herself in an interview with the organization’s Executive Director, Maria Malaguti. Justin knew her education would come in handy at the LDRC.
“My UMass experience definitely has been interconnected with my internship. I took Introduction to Social Work (SOCIOL 328) with Veronica Everett, and she did an amazing job at presenting students with lots of ethical scenarios and really gave us the opportunity to think about how we would handle these situations,” she explains.
“The course broadened my ability to think on the spot about how to address things as they come up,” Justin adds.
As a double major in Sociology and Psychology, Justin brought multiple skill sets to her internship.
“Advanced Topics in Clinical Psychology (PSYCH 391E) taught me good listening skills, how to probe for thought/action, and how to respond to emotional situations. This has been extremely beneficial while running the support groups because I have a better grasp on how to talk with people, get them to open up, and to take action to solve whatever dilemma they may be facing,” she explains.
Justin advises students seeking an internship to never be afraid of networking.
“Networking is key. Ask around about internships, talk to your professors and advisors. They’ll be most well-versed in your major. Also, don’t be afraid to use Career Services, they know a lot and are so underrated. Once you begin searching be diligent about it, and be prepared to work for free,” she says.
After UMass, Justin plans to pursue an advanced degree, possibly a Ph.D. She feels her experience at LDRC will give her the skills she’ll need for her next step, especially since she is working in a clinical setting.
“Since most clinical work requires either certification or is confidential, I knew it would be difficult to get good clinical experience,” she says.
If you’re interested in an internship, please visit the SBS Career & Professional Development Center for resources, tips, and to make an appointment with an advisor.