My name is Lizzie Wilson, and I am a senior from Charlotte, North Carolina, majoring in Psychology and Biology with a minor in Chemistry. In addition to my classes, I have been a leader since I was a freshman in Helping Give Away Psychological Science (HGAPS)—a club founded at UNC in 2016 and a non-profit. This club aims to help students and researchers create and disseminate easily digestible, high quality evidence-based psychological science onto wiki platforms and social media and to bring the best free information to the people who would benefit. I also work in the Mood, Emotions, and Clinical Child Assessment Lab, through which I have learned a lot about assessment, depression, bipolar disorder, and suicide. After graduating, I plan on pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and while these experiences have given me an academic understanding of assessment, mood disorders, and dissemination, I will be better prepared for clinical psychology if I understand the clinical realities of implementing evidence-based practices. Working at Freedom House Recovery Center has given me the opportunity to learn about how assessment is done under the constraints of community mental health settings, and how evidence-based resources and practices are given to patients in residential care.
Freedom House Recovery Center is a non-profit halfway house, detoxification center, and outpatient care facility in Chapel Hill. They provide a wide variety of care for both adults and adolescents with behavioral issues, mental illness, or addiction. I work specifically in the Maggie Alvis Women’s Halfway House, which is residential care for adult women recovering from addiction. These women spend six months in the halfway house attending recovery classes and programs both at Freedom House and in the community, building up their support network in the area, and finding jobs. For many of the women I have gotten to know, their time at Maggie Alvis is the first long span of time that they have been sober. In their sobriety, they are not only forced to confront co-morbid mental illnesses and trauma head-on for the first time, but also must simultaneously find financial stability and a support network outside Freedom House so they can transition back into their lives after they leave. My job at Maggie Alvis is supporting the women as they face these challenges.
No two days at Maggie Alvis are the same. Because the women in the house are constantly coping with life stressors as a part of their recovery, much of my job is to help them find solutions to these stressors. This often involves coordinating visits with their family and children, helping set up transportation to court dates, jobs, or meetings in the area, or coordinating with insurance providers and UNC Charity Care to set up appointments or refill prescriptions. I also help the program manager of Maggie Alvis interview potential clients and do intake assessments, which are used by managed care organizations to help fund care at Freedom House. I also participate in supervision meetings, during which many supervisors from different programs within Freedom House work together to find solutions to particularly challenging cases. In order to help the women adjust to life in the halfway house and feel at home, I plan events and activities for the women in the house to do on the weekends and help organize procedures, rules, and schedules.
My long-term goal over the course of the semester is to develop a resource binder for the women in the house. This resource bind contains information about recovery, physical and mental health, local resources (e.g. free or inexpensive medical care, housing, and vocational training), and how-to guides for various skills (e.g. how to set up a checking account, how to make a resume). My aim with the creation of a resources binder is to collate all of the currently unorganized resources into one helpful guide so that the evidence-based resources Freedom House already has are useful to clients. A second aim is to catalog the institutional knowledge of the long-term employees and patients so it can be passed down to new employees and patients.
Every day at Freedom House, I arrive aiming to be the most helpful I can be in whatever capacity I am needed. I struggled my first month at Freedom House feeling confident both in my skills and in that I was making a difference in the lives of the women who have sacrificed so much to receive our services. As the weeks have passed, though, I have gotten fully into the swing of things, and have learned that just simply being there for the women can make a world of difference to their recovery. I have already learned so much about the realities of community mental health as a model for delivering evidence-based care, and am so grateful for the opportunities and trust my supervisors have given me at this internship. I have done so many challenging tasks at Freedom House that I never could have pictured myself doing a mere two months ago, and it is exciting to watch myself grow my skills so quickly. I look forward to the remainder of my time working at Maggie Alvis, and am excited to continue to contribute to the great care that Freedom House provides.