From the beginning, when searching for a summer experience, don’t hold back. Persistence and enthusiasm can only help you.

Name: Marah Wilson
Major: Double major in dance and psychology (concentration in dance therapy)
Internship: Luke-Dorf, Inc.
Location: Portland, OR

Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
Luke-Dorf’s Healing Community is a private, nonprofit agency. Rooted in evidence-based practice, Luke-Dorf helps people with severe mental illness. More specifically, the agency provides residential treatment facilities and mental health treatment and recovery through case management and group-based therapy. As an intern for Luke-Dorf, I worked both as a residential counselor within the supported housing, as well as a dance therapy intern at the treatment services location. As a residential counselor, I worked within the treatment housing, interacting and aiding individuals in need as they worked to create routines and set goals. I administered medications, prepared meals, and created daily structure in the patients’ lives. Dissimilar from my assistance as a residential counselor, within the treatment services site, I was able to somewhat abandon my place as authority and take on a learning position. The day consisted of group-based therapies in dance, art, and socialization, among others. Primarily, I shadowed my mentor and site supervisor, dance therapist Beth Lucchi. Through participation and personal initiative, I was an active contributor in the circle created for all group-based therapy sessions. As both intern and residential counselor, I felt the weight and responsibility for creating consistency and close exchange with my clients on both the one-on-one and group basis.

How did you find your internship?
During the fall of my sophomore year I decided I to find direct exposure in the field of psychology. Most preferably, I wanted to look for an experience in dance therapy, within my home state of Oregon. After searching the Internet for practicing dance therapists, I e-mailed the most prominent names, telling of my goal to learn about movement-based therapy. Following my letters of interest, I began to develop a relationship with my soon-to-be site supervisor, Beth Lucchi. We found a connection in our mutual enthusiasm for the field, leading to my work with Luke-Dorf.

What resources did you find particularly helpful in your internship search?
The Career Development Office helped to create a résumé that I was proud of and, therefore, eager to share with possible employers. Having an account of my relevant and influential past experience in résumé form provided a basis that launched me into the researching process. In addition, I consistently communicated my persistence and enthusiasm to the agency, eventually leading to my employment. The Internet proved to be my most helpful database. I started with organizations; however, I found the most luck when actually researching practicing dance therapists. If I was able to find out enough about these individuals’ paths and stories in a therapeutic setting, then I felt inspired to share my own motivations as a student.

Why did you choose your internship? What factored into your search and applying?
Initially, all I knew was my own aspiration to experience a therapeutic environment first hand. I saw the summer as a chance to incorporate all that I was learning at Goucher, amidst the Dance and Psychology departments. While dance movement therapy is on the rise, it exists currently in a transitional period. The creative arts therapies are making their way into most hospital and clinic settings. Luke-Dorf is one of few locations in Oregon to integrate the creative art therapies into its group-based dynamics. For this reason, the agency was ideal. In addition, the deeper I reached into the application process, the further certainty I found. I experienced a need to relate all that I had learned in the classroom setting to a real direct introduction to mental health. My ambition was to find a place where I could not only be exposed, but also take on the responsibility of direct contact and individual support.

What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
I had no experience working with the mental health population, whatsoever. Indeed, on an academic level, I felt highly confident because the professors at Goucher have challenged me extensively and taught me a lot about the field of psychology. Yet, there is no comparison of leaving the theoretical to learn and directly approach the population face to face. Due to my age, I was very apprehensive about acting as an authority figure in adult-based group housing; I would be assisting people with greater life experience than I had. My trepidation was limited in a sense because I truly had no idea of what to expect.

What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
I was pursuing exposure to a therapeutic setting. My essential hope was to learn all I could from those surrounding me. I was aware of the significant and fascinating path my mentor Beth Lucchi had experienced in the field. My hope was to learn all I could from this wealth of knowledge. In addition, I was determined to ask all my questions. While my presence at Luke-Dorf would be to help and learn responsibly, I concurrently was aware of my own personal intention of cultivating knowledge. Within client relationships I anticipated my introduction to a range of mental illness. I wanted to affect and be affected. My learning would be endless.

How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
My internship was a direct field placement in my major domain. In acquiring my position at Luke-Dorf, I was able to gain exposure to the line of work and aid I am so drawn to at this point in my life. I have always been aware of my interest and love for working with people. My summer allowed for time to experience my effect on people with severe mental illness. It was striking to feel such confirmation in my own adherence to the population. Such interest evolved into a known path I yearn to follow in the field of psychology, most specifically in dance movement therapy.

What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
What was most challenging in this experience was ultimately the most rewarding. Entering the treatment facility at the start of each day, I was immediately conscious of the weight of my position in the patients’ lives. The individuals’ presence and needs were consistently and significantly affecting for me. Yet, so often the immensity of what clients go through remains hard to set aside when your shift comes to an end.

Any funny/embarrassing things happen during your internship?
Inevitably there were innumerable hilarious moments and situations where reality and delusion would meet. I must say that in the beginning I found myself overloaded with information; consequently, I was met with embarrassment more than once (as one should be). With far too many clients in need, medicine to be administered, and a breakfast to be made by 7a.m., I approached an individual to give words of reassurance and lend my help with their medications, when this patient was, in fact, actually my co-worker.

How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
The influence of those I was surrounded by throughout this summer left such an immense affect on me. I feel extremely fortunate to have been exposed and immersed in the work of Luke-Dorf’s Healing Community.

What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
From the beginning, when searching for a summer experience, don’t hold back. Persistence and enthusiasm can only help you.

Marah Wilson