My name is Jessica Whalen and I’m a senior from Greensboro, NC double majoring in Psychology and Anthropology with a minor in Hispanic Studies. As part of my experience with the Gil Internship, I’ve been placed at Veritas Collaborative, a mental health hospital for eating disorders. I work underneath Eliza Sholtz, the clinical director of the adolescent hospital, but also with many other staff members, from therapists to pediatricians and dieticians. Veritas prides itself on providing evidence-based treatment for adolescents and adults with eating disorders, as well as collaborating between many different healthcare providers to provide the best recovery possible. It’s been an honor to work with the professionals at Veritas and see the cutting-edge of eating disorder treatment.
The field of psychology, specifically clinical treatment, has interested me since my first psychology class in high school, where we learned about the most basic aspects of the human brain. Like most teenagers, I experienced mental health issues and saw my friends and family struggle as well through the years. As things began to make more sense, I knew that my search for finding a helping profession was going to be realized as a mental health professional. Being at UNC, I’ve joined a research lab, volunteered at a children’s museum, learned from clinical psychologists and now, through this internship, I’m gaining hands-on, real-world experience working with patients in a hospital setting. It’s an amazing opportunity to work in the mental health field so early in my education because I’m able to refine my potential career path. Last year, I wanted to earn my PhD in clinical psychology, but now I’ve decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work and become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I think that this path will work better for my interests and my desire to work more directly with people on multiple levels of care instead of primarily research.
The Gil Internship is providing me with the opportunity to work directly with other LCSWs to understand therapy in action and learn more about one of the most medically debilitating mental disorders. While I don’t have much experience with eating disorders since my research interests have been primarily in adolescent anxiety and depression, I’m learning a lot and I’m becoming more interested in this aspect of mental health. Veritas treats multiple aspects of the disease, from the medical stabilization and restoration of weight, to the incorporation of families in meal processes to better facilitate the patient’s integration to home life after leaving the residential unit. There are so many aspects to treatment in a hospital that I’m learning about, and so far, I’ve participated and observed multi-family DBT, parent support groups, parent education groups, and a patient-family meal and processing. Dialectical behavior therapy and family-based therapy are the two main models they work with, and I’ve never understood exactly how impactful the different models can be until seeing the care at Veritas. Hearing parents’ stories of Veritas’ treatment compared to other hospitals is horrifying even to me as an outsider, because the standard of treatment is so different.
Veritas is truly trying to revolutionize the field of eating disorder treatment, and it’s an honor to see it happen first-hand. I’m thankful to my supervisors and mentors at Veritas for educating me about eating disorder treatment and providing me with so many opportunities to get involved. I’m looking forward to a semester full of learning and interacting with patients, and hopefully I will continue on my path and continue into the field of mental health with the connections I’ve made through this internship!