Hi! My name is Savannah McCabe and I will be graduating from UNC in the Spring of 2022 with a degree in psychology and English, and a minor in health & society. I am originally from Rockville Centre, NY, but also reside in Wake Forest, NC, so UNC was both a foreign and familiar scene. Being a part of the Fall 2021 cohort of the Karen M. Gil internship program has not only helped me find my place at UNC, but also my niche in the world of psychology!
While of course as a child I dreamt of all sorts of careers (astronaut, chef, president of the world), ever since I took my first psychology course in high school, I’ve known that this is what I was meant to do. After joining multiple organizations pertaining to student mental health such as Mental Health Ambassadors and Psi Chi, I also began my first ever clinical job in the Summer of 2019. I began my psychological journey with the Center for Motivation and Change — an NYC-based company that focuses on substance-use disorder and has a rehab center, nonprofit, and outpatient center. When I first took on this job, while I was of course ecstatic, I was also nervous; I had planned for years to be a therapist, and once I took this job, I would truly find out if this felt like the right industry for me. Luckily, finally being able to work in psychological fields didn’t scare or deter me in the slightest, but rather I was imbued with the sense that this was exactly what I was meant to be doing. Whether I was creating graphs for current patients’ progress, sitting in on group therapy sessions, or putting together helpful pamphlets, I loved everything I was doing.
This love for psychology has only increased as I have now spent time in a couple of different labs. My first experience in a lab was in Dr. Kurt Gray’s Deepest Beliefs Lab, in which I had the chance to present a poster on symbolic and realistic threats during the COVID-19 pandemic for the SPSP conference. This gave me great experience in working on a team, analyzing data, and creating and testing my own hypothesis! After working in Dr. Gray’s lab, I began working in Dr. Abramowitz’s Anxiety and OCD lab. Although I have only just begun with Dr. Abramowitz’s lab, I have gotten practice coding therapy sessions and gotten to listen in on lots of interesting talks, giving me insight on different areas of psychology I could potentially work in.
During my time as a Gil intern, I have been working for Dr. Baker at the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, and have already learned so much. In my time at CEED, I have conducted in-depth literature reviews on eating disorders as well as watched didactic series that inform me on many topics in psychology. Additionally, I have been working on creating codebooks for CEED’s project with the National Institute of Mental Health. Although working with the National Data Archive (NDA) has been challenging and an entirely new experience for me, it has given me a new level of comfort with codebooks, data, and learning how to navigate programs I haven’t worked with yet.
However, my favorite part of my internship so far has been the independent project I am working on. Based on prior data CEED collected, I have been able to create my own research question, write up a statistical analysis, and run the data to test my hypothesis. Through my experience in different arenas in psychology, I have found that trauma is something I am quite interested in studying, so for my project I am looking at the perception of trauma versus the occurrence of trauma, and seeing if this impacts the likelihood of ED symptomatology in participants. This has been a super exciting part of the experience because I am further honing my skills in how to work with data, and I get to embark on a study of novel research that has not yet been done.
Overall, the Karen M. Gil internship and my time at CEED so far have already given me a wealth of knowledge and made me even more confident in my love for the field of psychology. Additionally, because of my time watching the didactic series and looking at the data, as well as my prior experience in research, I have decided that I want to work with those with anxiety disorders (primarily as a couples therapist), and also trauma, as I have really enjoyed getting to do research in these areas. Post graduation, I am hoping to matriculate into a PsyD program where I can further explore these topics. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store!