Looking Back – with Gil Alumna Katie Daniel

Daniel_Katie_PhotoMy time as a fall 2015 Gil Intern was the first meaningful experience I had within the world of applied psychology. Though the hours spent and knowledge gained within my placement were instrumental in preparing me for the opportunities to follow, it was the Gil Internship experience as a whole that I credit with setting me up for success in both the professional and the graduate school settings. Sitting among my fellow Gil Interns on a weekly basis allowed me to hear about their unique experiences within wildly different internship placements. These firsthand accounts of the many different pathways one can pursue in the field of psychology caused me to realize that I wasn’t quite ready to jump into advanced schooling directly upon graduation. Instead, I chose to seek out an additional year of post-baccalaureate research experience at Duke University before ultimately deciding to apply to doctoral programs in Clinical Psychology.

The professional and academic directions I have taken since my time as a Giler and the research interests that I intend to pursue as a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia have been entirely informed by my progression through the Gil Internship Program. A large portion of my internship hours were spent acting as a behavioral interventionist within elementary schools in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system. It was during these student-teacher interactions that I first considered why self-destructive behaviors often persist despite an individual’s expressed wish to improve. This basic question has acted as a “jumping off point” for me, and I look forward to dedicating my graduate research to studying the automatic cognitive processes that contribute to the development and maintenance of psychopathology, particularly anxiety disorders. Within this overarching focus, I am specifically interested in studying regulatory flexibility and dynamic emotion regulation patterns over time. While I was not fully aware of these underlying processes throughout my internship, the ultimate passion I now have for learning more about them undoubtedly started in the first grade classroom that I frequented in Fall of 2015.

Finally, I will say that I often spoke of my experience as a Gil Intern throughout my graduate school interview season and found that most faculty members were uniquely impressed with this experience on my CV. Applying to PhD programs in Clinical Psychology is an inherently competitive process and being able to differentiate oneself from other candidates in this way was invaluable. I am confident that my success as an applicant was heavily influenced by the background I gained as a Gil Intern and I couldn’t be more grateful to have had this unique opportunity.

From Research to Clinical Applications – With Katie Reiter-Lavery

katie_reiter_lavery_originalMy name is Katie Reiter-Lavery and I’m a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Religious Studies. I’m broadly interested in positive psychology and its intersections with social, clinical, and developmental psychology while being culturally sensitive and relevant. Ultimately, I am interested in the application of positive, evidence-based programs and bridging the gap between research and practical application.  I want to see the impacts of research in action. This semester, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work as a Gil Intern at 3C Family Services, a private therapy clinic in Cary. I’m so grateful to both Dr. Buzinski at UNC and my supervisor at 3C, Dr. Lori Schweickert, for the wonderful experiences I’ve had through this internship.

I have done a fair amount of research at Carolina, including my senior honors thesis, so I was really excited that my placement would have a strong focus on the application of research and the ways it can directly improve individual’s lives. 3C Family Services embodies the practical application of research and has enabled me to dive into the practice of clinical psychology. 3C has roughly 15 licensed clinicians, each of whom have a general practice. Many specialize in different areas, such as specific disorders (e.g. PTSD) or treatment models (e.g. DBT). It has been incredible to see and learn about the variety of work that they do.

My work as an intern is very different from that of a licensed clinician and, as a result, I have worked on a wide range of projects for multiple clinicians. I have scored psychological assessments (and learned their significance in the process), reviewed patient reports, organized information on North Carolina special education programs, and researched various topics such as drug interactions and the distinguishing differences between disorders. The range of these activities has highlighted the range of services that therapists provide for their clients and the ways they support them. My favorite and most meaningful activity has been co-leading a group therapy, S.S. GRIN, with children ages 3-5. It is an evidence-based therapy that builds and develops social skills. This therapy has been adapted for multiple different groups, typically based on age. One of the most rewarding aspects of co-leading this group is the observable difference it makes; the children come in unable to answer our questions and by the end of each session they are already using the skills we just taught them. For me, this experience highlights how a research foundation creates the positive outcomes and growth that individuals experience.

Being a Gil Intern at 3C Family Services has combined class material and research-based knowledge and immersed it in the world of clinical practice. It has been a wonderful foray into the world of mental health practitioners. The semester isn’t even halfway over yet, and I’m so excited to dive even deeper during the rest of the semester.

Multidisciplinary Collaborations – with Jessica Ferrall

jessica_ferrall_originalMy name is Jessica Ferrall and I am a senior majoring in Psychology, with minors in Spanish and Business. I am broadly interested in cognitive neuroscience and I have previously worked on projects in the fields of neuroeconomics and concussions research. Through those experiences, I became fascinated by how the brain changes in different circumstances, such as after a traumatic brain injury, and how those changes relate to behavior. This semester, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to work with Dr. Martin Styner at the Neuro Image Research and Analysis Laboratories (NIRAL) in the Department of Psychiatry at UNC Medical School. This is the first time that I have been given the responsibility and independence to work on my own project, which is exciting but also a bit daunting.

At NIRAL, I am mapping the arcuate nucleus in DTI scans of one and two-year olds, correlating the volume of the tract with performance on cognitive assessments of language. Interestingly, the size of this area of the brain varies considerably between the two cerebral hemispheres and among individuals, with some people completely lacking the tract on one side! The arcuate nucleus connects two language areas in the brain, so I think it will be very interesting to see if the amount of asymmetry between the hemispheres is related to early language skills. Before this internship, I had never even heard of the arcuate, so I initially felt a bit outside of my comfort zone in regards to the subject matter. However, I now feel that this project fits in perfectly with my interests in cognitive neuroscience, and I am learning a number of skills that will be useful in my future. For example, I am currently learning how to use a free DTI analysis software called SLICER which allows me to visualize white matter tracts. Throughout the course of the semester, I also plan to learn how to code cognitive assessments and run statistical analyses.

I have realized that neuroscience is a multidisciplinary field drawing from psychology, physics, computer science, and neurobiology. Many of the researchers at NIRAL have backgrounds in these various fields, which contributes to a diverse and innovative scientific atmosphere. In fact, my advisor, Dr. Styner, was trained as a computer scientist and is a professor in both the Computer Science and Psychiatry departments at UNC. I would not be able to complete my project without the help of a computer scientist who devised an algorithm to identify the arcuate nucleus in DTI scans. On the other hand, computer scientists also need feedback from neuroscientists on how to improve their programs for brain analyses, so the relationship is mutually beneficial. Although my internship has only just begun, I have already learned so much and I look forward to the rest of my Gil internship experience.

Learning to Support – with Rachel Uri

uri-rachelHi there! My name is Rachel Uri and I’m a senior from Charlotte, North Carolina majoring in psychology with a minor in neuroscience. I am really interested in researching the influence of racial discrimination upon psychological and physiological health in people of color, as well as culturally specific coping strategies that may buffer negative health outcomes in communities of color. I am also fascinated by eating disorders and body image and their intersection with racial/ethic minority mental health. Last year, I worked in the Black Health Lab supervised by Dr. Vanessa Volpe, where I collected data for my honors thesis investigating the moderating effect of vagal tone on the relationship between racial discrimination distress and anxiety symptoms in African-American students.

This past semester, I had the incredible opportunity to serve as a Karen M. Gil intern at Veritas Collaborative in Durham, NC. Veritas Collaborative is an inpatient/residential hospital system for children and adolescents that specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. It focuses on providing a safe, comfortable environment for young people struggling with an eating disorder by offering group and individual therapy in multiple settings. Veritas Collaborative believes in an integrative family-based approach that strongly involves parents and siblings in the recovery process; by treating the family unit and the family environment, recovery is increasingly achievable for the patient in the future. In addition to family programs, Veritas Collaborative also provides a fully equipped education site in which patients can keep up with their schoolwork while they are absent from their classes and are assisted by Education Coordinators from the Durham Public School System.

During my time at Veritas, I have been working closely with my mentor, Dr. Jennie Lacy, a clinical psychologist and certified eating disorder specialist. I have had the opportunity to observe dialectical behavioral therapy in both patient and parent groups, participated in social skills groups, and attended employee debriefing meetings to discuss the individual needs of each patient. I have had practice coaching patients through mealtimes and helped encourage them to participate in daily scheduled activities and therapy programs. While interning at Veritas, I have been able to learn how to best support adolescents struggling with eating disorders and help them achieve lasting recovery. I have also had the opportunity to gain clinical experience and further my knowledge of quality therapeutic care in a psychiatric hospital, primarily through the collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of specialists. My experiences at Veritas have given me countless skills that I will be able to implement not only in my future career as a mental health professional, but also as an ally to individuals struggling with eating disorders. I am truly looking forward to wrapping up my internship at Veritas Collaborative for the rest of the semester, and hope to possibly continue my work there as a therapeutic assistant after graduation.

#UNCGiller #UNCPsych  #ConfessionsOfAGiller #Fall2016

Cognitive Psychiatry – with Swapnil Patel

patel-swapnilHello! My name is Swapnil Patel and I am a senior majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Neuroscience and Chemistry. Being a member of the 2016 Fall Gil Intern Cohort has been such a rewarding and enriching experience, one that truly defines both my academic and professional involvement here at UNC. I would like to extend a huge thank you to Dr. Buzinksi and Rachael Hall for this incredible opportunity!

This past semester, I have been working with Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill (CPCH). CPCH is an outpatient psychiatric clinic that strives to treat patients with a variety of mental illnesses. The primary mission of the clinic is to provide quality care to all patients that walk through its doors. CPCH assures this level of performance by first and foremost ensuring that each patient will see a board-certified psychiatrist. Additionally, they provide a coordination of care among the practice, local schools/universities, and other doctors in the area. Unlike other practices, CPCH provides a combined approach with psychotherapy and medication. To help their patients outside of the office, CPCH also provides educational tools via research articles, leaflets, and through social media. Some things that CPCH provides to set itself apart from other practices include: not waiting for an appointment, being able to schedule same-day appointments, having the option of Saturday appointments, having the flexibility to schedule early or late appointments (past 5pm), and generally having 24/7 access to a doctor. 

My involvement at CPCH included a variety of roles and responsibilities. Under the supervision of Dr. Jennie Byrne, I undertook a research project on the efficacy of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) in treating symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) for patients in the clinic. For this study, I was responsible for creating an organized patient questionnaire and later interviewing patients using this questionnaire regarding their experience with TMS treatment. After conducting these patient interviews, my responsibilities largely shifted to analyzing patient data such as demographics, overall TMS experience/satisfaction, post-treatment symptom severity, and PHQ-9 scores throughout the treatment course. After finishing data compilation for TMS patients, it was upon me to quantitatively represent their progress.

I plan to attend medical school to pursue a career in psychiatry. My time at CPCH as a Gil Intern has expanded my research and writing skills, as well as given me tremendous insight into the professional environment of psychiatry. My professional rapport has improved tremendously during the course of this internship as well. I now feel much more comfortable interacting with peers in a professional setting. The Gil internship has also provided opportunity for personal growth and exploration as well, making me optimistic for post-graduate options. I cannot wait to see what the future holds!

#UNCGiller #UNCPsych  #ConfessionsOfAGiller #Fall2016

The Larger Puzzle – with Breanna Dede

dede-breannaHello! My name is Breanna Dede and I am a senior here at UNC majoring in Psychology and double minoring in Social and Economic Justice and Spanish for the Health Professions. I’ve lived in Gainesville, Florida for all of my life, so coming to North Carolina has been such a fun, and cold, adventure! My interest in the field of psychology has only grown since attending UNC, and has blossomed even further with my participation in the Gil Internship Program.

This semester, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with Dr. April Harris-Britt at AHB Center for Behavioral Health and Wellness, a mental health clinic in Durham, North Carolina centered around helping children and adolescents with psychological issues. This practice matches well with the areas of psychology that I hope to pursue a career in, as I hope to pursue clinical psychology with a focus on adolescents in minority communities. While working at AHB, I have gained both invaluable exposure to adolescent clinical populations and skill development in areas such as psychological therapy techniques and conference planning. As an intern, my responsibilities have been extremely varied from week to week, and this has been advantageous in many ways, as I’ve been able to about many of the individual pieces that make up the larger puzzle of the career of a clinical psychologist.

One of my favorite parts of my experience as an intern at AHB has been interacting with the patients at AHB through therapy sessions. Through sitting in on therapy sessions with different clinicians at the practice, I’ve been able to learn about a multitude of approaches to individualized therapy for children and adolescents. With younger patients, I get to play soccer and use play therapy to teach skills such as collaboration and physical activity as a means of connecting to mental states. With older children, I’ve learned about the importance of emotional expression in fully understanding the root of psychological issues beyond the surface level. These clinical experiences have been extremely influential in convincing me that this is the work that I want to be involved with for the rest of my career.

In addition to clinical exposure, I’ve also had the opportunity to organize and implement a parenting conference series at AHB, in which clinicians present monthly on a topic of their choice centering around parenting tips to improve the parent-child relationship. Organizing this has not only been a valuable experience in terms of organization and business aspects of the field, but was also a great networking experience, as I worked closely with different clinicians to learn about their areas of expertise and ensure that everything ran smoothly. This project was a great combination of clinical work and professional development, as I also used many of the skills we focus on in the class component of the internship, such as effective communication and professional writing.

Overall, I could not imagine any other program that could provide such a plethora of opportunities to psychology students at UNC, and I am so thankful to have been chosen for this internship. The experiences and skills I’ve gained this semester will be valuable far beyond the bounds of this semester, and I will forever be grateful to have been apart of the 2016 Gil Intern Cohort!


#UNCGiller #UNCPsych  #ConfessionsOfAGiller #Fall2016

Public Health Research Coming to Life – with Renuka Koilpillai

koilpillai-renukaHey there, my name is Renuka Koilpillai and I am currently a junior hailing all the way from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I double major in Psychology and Sociology along with minor in Public Policy. I have always been interested in integrated psychology into the fields of social health research or policy and the Gil internship has given me the chance to do just that. I am interning at the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER), which is part of the Department of Social Medicine in the School of Medicine. CHER is led by Giselle Corbie-Smith and a number of other experienced researchers from diverse educational backgrounds. I have the pleasure of working with Nicole Robinson-Ezekwe who just finished her MPH from UNC’s Gillings School of Public Health this past year.

Specifically, Nicole and I working on creating a new environmental assessment tool called the Rocky Mount SEARCH (Social and Environmental Assessment to Rate Community Health). The purpose of the tool is to collect data regarding neighbourhood, food, and the environment as it relates to the health of the community for Rocky Mountain, North Carolina. Ultimately the tool will act as a repository of data that CHER can use on a number of its other more specific research projects regarding the determinants of health.

When I first joined CHER back in August, the Rocky Mount SEARCH was just barely starting. The idea and concept had been put into place a long with a preliminary scan of the literature. From then to now the project has come such a long way that I am fortunate to see it grow into a real life field tool. That being said, there were many steps in between that I was fortunate enough to be a part of including doing in-depth literature reviews, synthesizing of information, tool and app development description, and committee meetings. These meetings have been my favourite part of the process. The committee consists of a number of different researchers working on various fields of public health. At these meetings there is always great discussion that connects the theoretical concepts of public health with the logistics of creating a research tool and collecting data. Each week the tool development grows more and more. By the end of the semester, and sadly my time at CHER, we would have fully designed the tool and be ready to move into the app development phase, which will be used by Rocky Mount locals to collect the data.

Above all else, this experience has given me so many additional experiences such as learning about what other CHER researchers are working and seeing how the Public Health sector actually translates research into intervention, and I hope that I have given CHER what they have given me! Finally, the actual internship class has taught me so much about professionalism especially the great resources Career Services has. It’s been great to be surrounded by other driven psychology students and amazing mentors like Dr. Buzinski and Rachael Hall who have been resourceful and supportive. Thank You!

#UNCGiller #confessionsofagiller #UNCPsych #fall2016

Pushing the Boundaries – with Rachael Kang

kang-rachaelHello! My name is Rachael Kang and I am a junior majoring in Psychology. Being a member of the 2016 Fall Gil Intern Cohort has been one of the most enriching and awesome experiences I have had here at UNC. I want to thank Dr. Buzinski and Rachael Hall for allowing me this incredible opportunity. Words cannot express how grateful I am.

I am working at 3-C Family Services clinic located in Cary, NC. I chose 3-C for two reasons. Firstly, I am interested in clinical child psychology, possibly with an emphasis on development. Secondly, I hoped to gain more experience in a clinical setting, especially because I only had clinical research experience. In my short time at 3-C, I have found that this was the perfect place to be. My mentor is Dr. Lori Schweickert, though all the clinicians at 3-C have mentored me in some way. The clinic focuses on providing mental health care and support to the surrounding community. Services include, but are not limited to, family therapy, individual therapy, couples therapy, and group therapy. In addition to having licensed clinicians on staff, there are also two M.D.s on staff, one of whom is my mentor, Dr. Lori Schweickert.

My position as an intern has involved creating visual timelines of medication for patients, proofreading patient reports, being a social skills group co-leader, being involved with a pharmaceutical research study, and creating a database for Non-verbal learning disabilities. I have been at this internship for over half a semester now, and I could not be happier with what I am doing. Not only am I getting hands-on clinical experience as a co-leader for group and still getting to be part of a research study, but I am also catching a glimpse of the diagnostic and assessment processes by getting to proofread Dr. Schweickerts’ reports.

However, I think my entire experience at 3-C can be summed up in one experience. There was one activity that Dr. Schweickert had me do will truly stick with me. She had me look at a drawing that a child drew in session that day, and she told me, “I told the child to draw what their family did this weekend. Based on this picture, what would you guess the diagnosis is?” This was nothing like I had ever learned in a classroom before. There was no prompt or word bank—just me, the picture, and what little information Dr. Schweickert had told me. And, honestly, all I saw was a picture of the child and what looked like a mother in a sea of blue. But to Dr. Schweickert, the picture told the story of a child so afraid of being alone that they neglected to draw their siblings, their father, and the activity they had done over the weekend.

This experience really made me understand how blessed I was to be placed at 3-C. Everyday I am pushing the boundaries of the classroom, applying textbook theory to real-life situations. I watch clinicians as they interact with their patients, listen to them as they seek each other’s advice and feedback, and learn from them whenever I have questions about a practical application of more abstract concepts such as clinician-patient multiple relationships and ethical violations. I am looking forward to completing this internship, and continuing expand my view of the world of clinical psychology.

#UNCGiller #confessionsofagiller #UNCPsych #fall2016

Therapeutic Training – with Mary Quattlebaum

quattlebaum-maryI am a senior from Charlotte, NC, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Education. I work as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Bardone-Cone’s eating disorder and body image lab, where I study factors related to recovery from eating disorders and attitudes toward food across maternal generations. This semester, I have had the pleasure to be a Gil Intern at the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders (CEED). CEED is dedicated to providing the local community with eating disorder-specialized training, treatment, and research initiatives. This research and treatment center is world-renowned for their novel advancements in eating disorder research, as well as providing individualized care for each of their patients.

As a Gil Intern, I contribute to some of the various research projects that CEED leads in order to improve prevention and treatment methods for individuals dealing with eating disorders. For instance, I am a co-author on a manuscript (in preparation) that details the association between ADHD and disordered eating. I also assist in grant proposal drafts, in an effort to continue the search to better understand and treat eating disorders. I observe intake evaluations, as well as weekly didactic clinical trainee supervision. With the wide range of experts at CEED—psychologists, dietitians, social workers, psychiatrists, etc.—I have been able to witness multidisciplinary collaboration that translates to quality, comprehensive care.

My time at CEED has expanded and refined my research and writing skills, as well as given me insight into therapeutic training and techniques specialized for eating disorders. Further, these experiences have illustrated to me the wide variety of careers available in Psychology. The Gil Internship has brought my classwork to life and also brought clarity to where I might fit best in a career in Psychology. My skills in writing, communication, and professionalism have exceeded my expectations, as a result of the opportunities that the Gil Internship has offered me.

I plan to attend graduate school for a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology to pursue a career as a clinician or researcher, specializing in patients dealing with eating disorders. The Gil Internship has prepared me to have confidence and professionalism as I approach post-graduate positions and applications for graduate programs. My experiences as a Gil Intern at CEED set me apart from my competitors and expand my perspectives on research. I am incredibly grateful and appreciative for the unique opportunities I have had thanks to the Gil Internship and the efforts of both Dr. Buzinski and Ms. Hall.

#UNCGiller #confessionsofagiller #UNCPsych #fall2016

Sports and Psychology – with Madison Bell

bell-madisonHey everyone, my name is Madison Bell and I am a junior majoring in Psychology and Exercise and Sport Science here at UNC. I have had the privilege and honor of being chosen as a Gil Intern for the Fall of 2016 and have loved every minute of it. I want to thank Rachael Hall and Dr. Buzinski for taking into consideration my interests and placing me at Carolina Performance, somewhere that combines my appreciation for psychology and sport.

Carolina Performance’s mission is to enhance the performance of their clients, resulting in a smarter approach to sports, a more effective work life, and an improved general well-being. They use mental training techniques to build upon existing skills, develop mental game plans, achieve individual and team goals, and maximize potential. My mentor, Dr. Morse, works here as well as in the Athletic Department at NC State, and has also recently opened his own opioid addiction clinic in North Raleigh. At NC State, his role as the sports psychiatrist is to help athletes work through mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, and addiction via a cognitive-behavioral counseling style and also prescribing medication when he deems necessary. Dr. Morse uses medication-assisted therapy at Morse Clinics, his opioid addiction clinic. Essentially, the medication (either methadone and buprenorphine) treats the physiological symptoms and the counseling allows the patient to engage in the necessary steps he or she needs to begin in order to make a behavioral change. This evidence-based treatment has shown to be most successful in research, and Morse Clinics does everything they can to transfer the treatment’s efficacy to effectiveness in the real world.

My role at each workplace is a little different. At Carolina Performance and NC State, I am lucky enough to be allowed to shadow all of the therapy sessions while I am there, gaining first-hand knowledge as to how therapy works. Since Morse Clinics has just recently opened, my role in making the business more successful is helping with the marketing tasks at hand. It is my responsibility to seek out clients in need of treatment in the area by visiting local urgent cares, primary cares, and emergency rooms and telling them about the available services Morse Clinics has to offer if people seeking help for their addiction come in. Knowing that I am ultimately helping potential clients better their lives is a huge responsibility that is rewarding to fulfill.
Being a Gil Intern has not only increased my knowledge of psychology in general, but has helped me to grow so much in my professional skills such as communication and overall self-confidence. After graduation, I plan to use these skills and hopefully attend physical therapy school and specialize in the sports medicine field. Most people don’t realize how incredibly helpful a psychology background can be for patients in physical therapy. I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for this program. It has helped me to explore my interest in sports psychology and gain knowledge and professional skills that I wouldn’t have without this internship.

#UNCGiller #confessionsofagiller #UNCPsych #fall2016