Hannah Weiss ‘15 is doing plenty of filing and organizing this summer— client charts, prescription notes, co-pays, progress notes—but her internship with at Eastern Shore Psychological Services is much more than paperwork. She’s working with the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program (PRP), a unique facility in Easton, Md., that she discovered during an externship experience this spring break.
“Every psychological firm sees patients in the office for appointments and check-ups and therapy, but ESPS was one of the first places I was introduced to that had a group of staff who actually traveled around, making home visits with their clients,” she recalls. “I was very interested in this internship because I believe therapy and counseling need to exist outside of a 30-minute session in an office in order to be effective. Assisting clients in managing their behaviors and cognitions while not in the clinic is vital to lasting success.”
A clinical/counseling psychology and economics major with a minor in business, Weiss was impressed with how the program’s staff not only helps patients cope with their mental illnesses, but integrates them back into the community by making house visits three to six times a month. One of Weiss’ many responsibilities involves accompanying PRP members on these visits.
“The family advocate functions somewhat like a support system, setting goals and reviewing progress while providing encouragement and stability for each client,” she says. “Many of the patients are school-aged and don’t have much stability in their life.”
Weiss’ passion for psychology stems from a desire to help others. Her particular interest in child and development psychology began when she worked as a research assistant for psychology professor Dr. Tia Murphy’s attachment theory class.
“I think kids have a great ability to adapt and change, so I really wanted to see how a bit of support or encouragement or positivity could help reduce mental health symptoms,” she says. “Everyone is different, and individuals are healed in various ways…I’ve always liked the idea that there are multiple therapies to suit ever person’s psyche.”
Along with shadowing PRP staff and filing paperwork, Weiss helps with the summer PRP groups, which consist of about 12 young patients. This year’s theme, Get Fit Emotionally and Physically, has challenged her to plan engaging lesson plans about healthy eating and exercise to accompany the group therapy sessions.
Working with the young patients has not only been one of the most rewarding aspects of Weiss’ internship, but one of the most enlightening and difficult as well.
“The hardest part for me is to see that their behavioral issues stem mainly from their environment. It’s tough to realize that if the child could live in a different house, attend a better school, or switch parents, their behavioral issues and mental health symptoms could be drastically reduced or even eliminated,” she says. “But the job of the PRP is not to tutor these kids or teach parents how to raise their family, so sometimes the situations of our clients can be heartbreaking.”
Weiss is considering graduate school after her senior year, but in the meantime, her internship at the PRP has helped her learn what she wants from a career.
“This internship helped me figure out what I don’t want to do, which is work in administration,” she says. “This experience also made clear to me that it’s really important to love your job, otherwise you’ll be miserable all week.”