My name is Shelby Anderson and I am a senior from Dallas, Texas majoring in Psychology and Chemistry. My interest in psychology began through the lens of neuroscience and the fascinating relationship between brain chemistry and human behavior. As I delved deeper into my psychology coursework, I found that psychology, more than any of my past science classes, acknowledged that as human beings we are more than a combination of molecules, genes, and environment—each of us has our own story and a lifetime of experiences that combined with our biology makes us unique. As a result, I have become very interested in the interplay between biological and sociocultural factors in the development of psychopathology and the effectiveness of treatment.
The Gil Internship program has provided me with an invaluable opportunity to explore my academic curiosities through an internship at UNC Horizons, a substance abuse program for pregnant and parenting women and their children. UNC Horizons provides comprehensive treatment that includes prenatal care through an OB-GYN clinic, group and individual therapy, psychiatry services, job preparation, and childcare through both residential and outpatient treatment. Currently I am working under Dr. Kim Andriga on a project to assess the effectiveness of the UNC Horizon’s program in improving parenting based on intake and outtake Arnold Parenting Scale scores. Some of my tasks have included conducting literature reviews, proposing research questions, learning how to score Parenting Scale Assessments, using statistics to evaluate data, and talking to other clinicians about how to interpret the data, all of which have greatly strengthened my data analysis skills. It has been a lot of fun looking for meaningful patterns in the data and presenting my ideas to my mentor because unlike academic classes, at the clinic there is no pre-conceived “right” answer. Instead, I am working alongside the team at Horizons to interpret the results and decide how to best report the findings.
Another one of my favorite parts about working at UNC Horizons is being able to observe how the team of psychologists, nurses, peer support specialists, and doctors work together to provide comprehensive and supportive treatment for the women at the clinic. I have had the incredible opportunity to observe group therapy sessions and appointments at the OB-GYN clinic, and the UNC Horizons program provides individualized treatment for each woman and every provider takes time to understand the specific needs of the client. For example, when women come to the OB-GYN clinic they have the opportunity to meet with a peer support specialist who personally understands the challenges of substance abuse, a therapist who provides counseling, and a doctor who prescribes medication and ensures the health of the baby as well as the mother. While I was observing, each appointment ended with a hug, and to me this demonstrates just how special and unique the UNC Horizons program is. The clients and the clinicians have a relationship of trust, compassion, and mutual respect, and I hope to foster this type of environment in my future clinical practice. Being able to sit in on group therapy has also allowed me to hear the women’s stories, full of both challenges and victories, and I have learned so much from all of the resilient women in the clinic who have committed to change for both themselves and their children. Last week one of the women shared a quote that stuck with me, “Love the life you live, live the life you love.” This internship experience has strengthened my research, clinical, and professional skills and filled me with excitement about my path to becoming a psychiatrist. I hope to bring the personable quality of care of UNC Horizons to my future practice and am incredibly thankful for UNC Horizons and the Gil Internship program for this opportunity!