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My name is Mary Triplett and I am a Senior from Greensboro, North Carolina, pursuing a double-major in Psychology and Anthropology. I came to UNC with an interest in mental health and have since had various opportunities to develop and hone these interests in the classroom, in the lab, and in an array of mental healthcare settings. Specifically, I am interested in Obsessive Compulsive and Anxiety disorders as well as in their treatment using CBT and mindfulness-based approaches.

As I’m nearing the conclusion of my undergraduate studies, the “real world” looms heavier than ever. I’ve known for quite some time now that I ultimately desire to pursue a career in the clinical field of psychology. In the past, I’ve had the opportunity to work with individuals facing the obstacles presented by mental illness at a hospital and at a county health department. Despite how enlightening these past experiences have been, it’s difficult to realize exactly what working in a private patient-clinician psychological setting entails prior to doing so. When I applied for the Gil Internship, I sought to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day processes of a private clinical practice.

Located only a few miles from UNC’s campus, Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill is an outpatient clinical practice that provides psychotherapy and medication management services to children, adults, and seniors. In her pursuit to help individuals achieve their personal goals by optimizing their mood and thinking, business-savvy mental health professional extraordinaire Dr. Jennie Byrne opened the practice in 2010. As would follow, CPCH’s mission is to “improve patients’ lives daily through convenient, comprehensive, and top-quality mental healthcare.”

Prior to starting my internship at CPCH, Dr. Byrne and I determined that my primary responsibilities in the office would include working as a receptionist, maintaining a critical eye to identify areas for improvement regarding clinical operations and patient experiences, and to shadow psychiatrists. These three roles truly allowed me to gain insight regarding the integration of patient outcome and administrative operations in a clinical practice and how it relates to the successful outcome of patients.

Before beginning my internship at CPCH, I was incredibly unaware of how crucial a good business model is in maintaining a clinical practice. I’ve spoken with countless undergrad psychology majors who speak frivolously about the possibility of opening their own practice, as I certainly did before this semester. However, I’ve learned that a clinical practice is, first and foremost, a business; in order to ensure the success of patients, the practice must operate in a way which enables this success. Although Dr. Byrne spends her professional time improving the lives of individuals with mental illness, she also spends a lot of time addressing the duties associated with being CEO of a business.

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of this critical connection, I also had the opportunity to observe several therapy sessions at CPCH. Shadowing psychiatrists or clinical psychologists can be tricky. As the needs of the patient certainly remain a priority, observation must be done in a way that doesn’t infringe on the quality of therapy delivered or the patient’s willingness to open up. In order to minimize these risks, I often observed the sessions as an active participant rather than as a fly on the wall to facilitate the patient’s comfortability with my presence.

This past Thursday was my last day as an intern at CPCH. My time there has not only bolstered my clinical and professional skill set development, but has also informed my career path. I am truly grateful for the Gil Internship program which has allowed me to experience the day-to-day operations of clinical psychology practice.

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