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My name is Joe Friedman and I am a Junior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience. I currently work in Dr. Jonathan Abramowitz’ Anxiety and Stress Management Lab, where I study the assessment and treatment of individuals with spider phobia, as well as how episodes of racial discrimination influence obsessive-compulsive symptoms. I am also currently involved in developing a meta-analysis on the brain basis of anxiety and fear with the Carolina Affective Science Lab (CASL). As a clinical intern, my interests include learning how social factors impact the effectiveness of treatment strategies. More specifically, I am interested in learning how clients undergoing treatment for anxiety-related disorders may see their progress impeded or aided by their relationships with their families and significant others.

The past month, I have been fortunate enough to work as a Gil intern with the AHB Center for Behavioral Health and Wellness, a psychological services clinic located in Durham. The Center staffs a diverse team of mental health professionals, all ranging in education levels, concentrations, interests and specialties when it comes to providing care for clients. This was a major drawing point in my decision to intern with AHB, as I am currently searching for what type of education and training I would like to pursue after graduation. Luckily, the shape of the entire office is not unlike a circle, with clinicians’ rooms making up the edges on all sides, and the interns’ room placed in the center. As an intern, I really appreciate this setup, simply because of how accessible staff members are. Although clinicians can often be busy with clients during the day, a quick walk around the perimeter of the office makes it easy to meet with, ask questions of, or just say hi to members of the staff. Because of this, I never feel alone on difficult tasks, as I am literally surrounded by a wealth of knowledge on all sides.

My mentor, Dr. April Harris-Britt, who has worked as a licensed clinical psychologist in Durham for over 15 years, specializes in working with clients dealing with trauma, high conflict divorce, adoption and ADHD, just to name a few populations. Despite Dr. Harris-Britt’s busy schedule with taking appointments and making appearances in court, she has already taught me a great deal about the role psychologists can play in child custody cases (as well as kept me very busy with new learning experiences!).

It’s difficult for me to describe my day-to-day responsibilities at AHB in few words, simply because the work I am tasked with is constantly changing. I started out getting assigned more clerical responsibilities, such as creating an online database for the psychological assessment tools we have in the office. Despite being a fairly simple task, I learned a great deal about the array of assessment tools clinicians use to perform evaluations. Other days, however, clinicians will request research from me on topics specific to clients. These assignments can be both challenging and valuable, as I previously had no experience collecting data directly for clients. It is a strange, but remarkably special feeling, knowing that my research may be applied to helping a real person, rather than a make-believe case study or a class assignment. This feeling is only strengthened when I occasionally get opportunities to sit-in on therapy sessions, taking notes on what strong therapeutic relationships look like. I also often work with Dr. Harris-Britt on high conflict divorce cases, proof-reading evaluations or compiling documents for court use. The benefit of working on these cases is two-fold, as I not only learn about the emotional, physical and legal consequences that tumultuous divorces can inflict on families, I also gain insight into how psychologists conduct extensive custody evaluations. On the weekends, I play in a weekly Dungeons and Dragons group consisting of partially therapists, and partially adults with autism. Playing D&D with the group is one of my favorite parts of working at AHB, simply because I am able to learn so much from the players about the different ways autism can display itself, while at the same time, having fun with friends. Overall, the work I do at AHB at varies tremendously, giving me a full range of the experiences that can be made at a private practice.

I am enthralled to continue the rest of my semester at AHB, and look forward to all of the future teaching moments I will gain along the way. I feel truly humbled to be working among such a knowledgeable group of therapists who have dedicated time to helping me build my own dreams and plans for the future. I would like to thank Dr. April Harris-Britt and the rest of the AHB staff for teaching me so much already, as well as Dr. Steven Buzinski, Chelsea Ewing and all those involved in making the Gil Internship possible for helping me grow both personally and professionally.

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