During an internship at Sheppard Pratt, Keita Christophe ’17 saw firsthand the challenges faced by people battling both drug addiction and mental health issues.
Ever since he was a youngster, Keita Christophe ’17 was inculcated with the idea that he should help people, whatever career he chose. When he came to Washington College, he became a psychology major in the clinical counseling track, but he also added minors in philosophy and sociology.
“I think philosophy is a lot about the individual and how they see the world… how one is in the world and how your thoughts about that dictate everything else. So it’s really individualistic,” he says. “And then sociology is really about the systems in which people live and how the systems impact the individual. And I thought those were good additions to psychology, because you have to acknowledge the systems that impact the individual, and then the individual still has a lot of power within that society.”
Christophe was able to see those ideas play out this summer during an internship at Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore, where he worked 15 hours a week in the Co-Occurring Disorders Unit.
“This is for people who might have a psychiatric diagnosis like bipolar or depression, and they might have drug abuse issues,” Christophe says. “Some are voluntary, some are remanded there by the court.” He worked directly with patients, helping them where needed and sitting in on group sessions covering coping skills, medication, education, and daily goal setting. He applied for the internship after learning about it from Lauren Littlefield, associate professor of psychology.
“The turnover is about a week, so I saw a ton of people throughout the summer,” he says. “What struck me is when some people would come in for a week and it would seem like they wanted to get help and they were benefitting, and then they would be released, and then a month later they would come back. That was hard to deal with. It was kind of sad, because a lot of them really go want to get help, but it’s so hard to overcome addiction and mental health problems.”
Christophe says working in the highly clinical setting pumped his interest in a career in clinical counseling or therapy and also helped him realize that he’d rather pursue that goal outside of a hospital setting.
A member of the College’s lacrosse team, Christophe was named to the 2015 Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll. A Hodson Trust Scholar, he was the recipient of the first Kevin L. Coveney Hodson Trust Scholarship. He’s also a member of the Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows and a participant in Relay for Life.