This semester as a Gil intern I’ve been working at Veritas Collaborative, an eating disorder treatment facility in Durham. I’ve spent almost all of my time on the inpatient & residential unit, which is comprised of kids and adolescents ages 10-19, both male and female. My internship site is a bit unique in that I’m not working on any specific projects at Veritas; rather, I spend most of my time observing therapy groups and eating with patients during meals.
The most remarkable part of my internship experience has been realizing how closely my previous courses and research have informed my experience at Veritas, and vice versa. Although I had no idea what to expect when I first started the internship, I felt prepared for the setting I was going into based on my prior experience studying eating disorders in class and in the Bardone-Cone lab at UNC. Of course there was a steep learning curve at Veritas, but it would’ve been much steeper if, in addition to learning the schedule and policies of Veritas, I’d had to educate myself on eating disorders themselves in order to understand what I observed.
Specifically, it was useful that I had learned previously that many individuals with eating disorders often feel ambivalent about whether they want to get rid of their eating disorder or maintain it. Understanding this helped me make sense of some of the behaviors and language I observed from patients during therapy groups. Prior coursework had led me to understand that this ambivalence can be one of the most insidious parts of an eating disorder, since a desire to recover is an essential part of working towards actually recovering. I certainly saw this ambivalence and the challenges it presented during my internship, and I was able to identify it and understand it better because of my coursework.
On the other hand, my time at Veritas has greatly supplemented my prior understanding of eating disorders with regard to certain topics I’d had only limited exposure to previously. In general, it was helpful to see in person the symptoms, behaviors, and treatments associated with eating disorders that I had previously only learned about in classes. I had learned very briefly about Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in a previous class; however, I observed countless DBT sessions at Veritas and feel that I now have a firm grasp on the goals and structure of this type of therapy. Additionally, I had heard emphasized in classes and journal articles that involving the family in treatment can be very helpful for kids with eating disorders, but I had only a very limited understanding of what this might look like in practice. Seeing intensive family involvement at Veritas showed me precisely what family member participation can look like and just how helpful family members can be in a child’s recovery. Additionally, I hadn’t previously considered the difficult dynamics that might arise between parents and treatment providers when the patients are young children. Interning at Veritas caused me to think much more deeply about how difficult it could be for a parent to relinquish some authority over raising their child to individuals in a treatment facility who they might not always agree with.
While I knew the Gil internship would be a great learning experience, I didn’t know just how great. I feel very lucky to have been able to finish off my college education with the opportunity to build on my classroom knowledge in an applied setting.
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