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Hello UNC and Beyond, my name is Luke Nguyen and I am currently a senior psychology major at UNC. From the moment I got my acceptance letter to this university to the day I’m writing this blog, I have had the goal of becoming a therapist. I want to be a practitioner helping those who are struggling through mental issues live their best lives. With this goal in mind, I’ve spent countless hours working within the department of psychology and neuroscience, across multiple labs, across multiple classes, even across multiple universities to learn as much as I can about mental health. I like to think of every opportunity I’ve encountered in the field of psychology has taken me to this internship as levels in a video game. I had to learn new skills to adapt to harder and harder challenges throughout my journey in the field, similar to gaining a new power up to pass a level. Eventually, all of those levels have taken me to the Gil internship.

During this internship, I am working with Dr. Katrina Kuzysyzn-Jones and Dr. Julianne Ludlam at KKJ Forensic and Psychological Services. I was overjoyed to learn that I would be working with an actual psychology practice for my internship. It was finally a real life glimpse into my dream job. So much of the world in a negative mental decline over the past couple of decades and especially over the course of the pandemic. Mental health has become a hot button topic and will only grow more prevalent as time goes on. With this rise in talk about mental health and mental illness, I noticed a lot of misinformation and misconceptions spreading about mental illness and therapy. It was frustrating to see, on social media and in everyday general conversation, people not really understanding what a mental illness is and distrusting therapy. This negative attitude towards mental health is called stigma, and it’s the primary thing I’m trying to combat in my work at this internship. For Dr. Katrina, I am creating a series of education materials with the aim of delivering accurate and easy to understand information about mental health. The first part of this is a presentation with the aim of dispelling myths/misconceptions about mental illness as well as explaining how therapy works. The second part of my work is creating short infographics that provide statistics and other facts about mental illness and therapy to dispense information in a short amount of time. We are hoping to distribute these education materials and have me present at local schools in the area. On top of this work, I’m also working with Dr. Julianne Ludlam to build a database of case files that will be used to analyze how bias affects clinical evaluations. Since bias is inherent and in everyone, it is important for psychologists to analyze their own biases, especially in cases as serious as forensic evaluations.

This internship, like any new level in a video game, has its challenges. It’s not a college course, but rather a job. Therefore, the stakes are higher given that I’m working with sensitive information, with professionals, and it’s not for a grade anymore but my professional reputation is now on the line. The level dedication and diligence I’m putting into my work had to increase to a higher caliber because I have to represent a practice if I present my work at local schools. In order to meet the rigorous demands this job requires, I’ve had to adapt by honing my time management skills. Communication is another skill that has always and will always be helpful to me going forward with my career. Contacting my mentors for little things did feel intimidating at first, but I realized that as a mentor, they have the responsibility to respond to me, even for matters that might feel insignificant at times. I also learned very quickly how to receive feedback, especially on my mental health presentation. A good reminder to everyone is that feedback, no matter how scathing, should not be taken personally but rather as insight for improvements. I’m learning a lot and improving a lot.

By the time I finish this level in my career, I feel like I’m going to be better prepared for my future career. Every obstacle I have faced during this internship and will face later on in the semester is going to strengthen my resolve when they reemerge later on in my life. All of the skills I’m going to obtain and the skills I will hone throughout this internship will push me farther where I need to go. I still have a long way to go until I am on the same level as Dr. Katrina and Dr. Ludlam, but with their help, I feel like I’m on a good path. That is why I am incredibly grateful for the Karen M. Gil Internship. This opportunity is one of the best and most crucial experiences I’ve had throughout my college journey and I can’t wait to see how the rest of this semester turns out.

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