In the summer of 2017, senior Brittany Justin (a dual major in Psychology and 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 Brittany’s work involved some office responsibilities like answering emails and phone calls, the most important thing for her was getting clinical experience.
“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 Brittany.
“At the LDRC I was a certified peer counselor, which allowed me to facilitate the monthly support groups we hold,” she notes.
When Brittany found the LDRC internship on VolunteerMatch she applied online and soon found herself in an interview with the organization’s executive director, Maria Malaguti. Brittany 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 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,” Brittany adds.
As a double major, Justin brought multiple skill sets to her internship. “Advanced Topics in Clinical Psychology taught me good listening skills, how to probe for thought/action, and how to respond to emotional situations. This was extremely beneficial while running the support groups because I had 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.
Brittany 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, Brittany plans to pursue an advanced degree, possibly a PhD. She feels her experience at LDRC gave her the skills she’ll need for her next step, especially since she worked 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.