Hello! My name is Violet Kehoe (she, her), and I am a senior from Chapel Hill, NC pursuing majors in psychology (BS) and women and gender studies (BA). I am super grateful to have the opportunity to be a Gil intern this semester. So far, the program has been extremely helpful in supporting the growth of my professional development skills and exposing me to invaluable work experiences.
The roots of my interest in psychology stem back to high school where I was fortunate to have a close friend and mentor that works as a clinical psychologist. Hearing about her experience working as a psychologist and combining this with my own personal experiences and family background of struggles with mental health, I was very drawn to psychology studies. Upon entering college, I planned to major in psychology with the goal of becoming a therapist.
My first-year, I took both my first psychology course and women and gender studies course. The Psychology of Women and Gender course taught by Dr. Else-Quest established a foundation for me where I learned that psychology can be approached with a feminist lens. Likewise, my Women Throughout American History course taught by Dr. Turk, further opened my eyes to the world of feminist studies and frameworks. Both of these classes energized me and led me to add a women and gender studies major.
During the COVID summer of 2020, I began to look for ways to get involved with psychology and women and gender studies related experiences. I trained to be a domestic violence hotline operator at the Compass Center, and started working on the hotline to support people experiencing intimate partner violence. Later that year, I also began to seek opportunities to get involved with psychology research. This led me to working as an RA in the BEE Lab led by Dr. Cathi Propper and later the Stress and Anxiety Lab led by Dr. Abramowitz. These experiences expanded my understanding of the research side of psychology and allowed me to practice skills such as data entry, literature reviews, and study recruitment. Further, I worked under Samantha Hellberg, who graciously allowed me to join her What2Expect study team, and motivated me to further pursue perinatal mental health work.
During this time, I also became fascinated with the unique roles doulas play in providing emotional, physical, informational, and advocacy support in all stages of the birthing process. This led me to training to become a doula with the Birth Partners program at UNC. Since becoming a doula, I have fallen in love with the work, and now I am pursuing a career in midwifery.
The Gil Internship has provided me with the opportunity to work with UNC Horizons which is a substance use disorder treatment program for women who are pregnant and/or parenting. This program is unique as it consists of an interdisciplinary team of professionals (psychologists, case managers, researchers, nurse practitioners) and centers trauma-informed and gender-responsive care. Matching with the program has been incredible, and I have so much appreciation for the Gil Internship manager Emily Dolegowski, who helped me partner with the program, and Dr. Kim Andringa who has been my supervisor at Horizons and has warmly welcomed me onto the team.
As an intern at Horizons, I have had the opportunity to attend a wide scope of group therapy sessions ranging from Parenting Process to Women’s Way Through Recovery. In attending group sessions, I have learned how to take group notes utilizing stigma free language. The therapists and case managers use these notes to help keep track of interventions they use in group and women’s recovery processes. Further, attending groups has allowed me to directly observe how therapists facilitate therapy and provide support. Most importantly, the women in these groups have allowed me to truly learn about what the processes of treatment and recovery are like and the unique struggles women face during these processes. I am very grateful for the women in treatment allowing me to join group sessions and trusting me to listen to their stories. Their resilience and strength of working the process of recovery is deeply inspiring to me.
I have also had the opportunity to work on a quality improvement project where I am looking at surveys and focus group reports from the past decade. These help us get a better understanding of what the women like about the program and what they dislike about the program. This project has been very valuable to me in learning about the process of QI projects, and further laying a foundation for what sort of things I can do in the future to be most helpful and supportive as a midwife.
Further, I have had the opportunity to meet with a wide range of professionals at UNC Horizons, and shadow in the prenatal clinic under Dr. Elisabeth Johnson. I am very grateful for all of the people at UNC Horizons who have taken the time to meet with me, and teach me more about the work they do.
Overall, my wonderful experience working as a Gil intern could not be possible without all of the support from Emily Dolegowski, Dr. Buzinski, Dr. Kim Andringa, the rest of the staff at UNC Horizons, the fellow Gil Interns this semester, and all of the incredible women in the treatment program. For this support and for this opportunity I am so grateful, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with UNC Horizons for the rest of the semester.