Knoxville Behavioral and Mental Health Services, Knoxville, TN
This summer, I had the pleasure to intern with Karen Swanay, a licensed mental health counselor at Knoxville Behavioral and Mental Health Services, a private mental health practice with numerous psychologists who offer therapy for various ages and disorders. Karen specializes in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder. Furthermore, she is especially passionate about providing care for the LGBTQIA+ community. It was incredibly comforting working with a mental health care provider whose office is a safe and affirming place for patients of any sexual or gender identity. It was an eye-opening experience seeing how a provider can create a welcoming environment for the clients, which made me realize how even the simplest things, such as office decoration, can strengthen the patient-doctor relationship.
One of the first projects I worked on was researching the groundwork for the creation of an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder support group. A sentiment echoed by many of the psychologists I met throughout my internship was that there is an incredibly high demand for mental health care providers. This belief was especially insightful in enabling me to see the numerous ways counselors go above and beyond in trying to provide as much treatment as possible for as many people as possible. Support groups are a popular way for counselors to provide a safe place for individuals who are not actively involved in treatment but still require help maintaining a healthy state of mind. I had to research how previous OCD support groups have worked in the past to create an outline for how we wanted this support group to function. From forming group guidelines to designing an advertisement for the group, it was incredibly inspiring to see how community-driven the mental health care field is.
The majority of my projects were concerned with providing the research and information needed to conduct patients’ treatments. For example, I researched numerous exposure protocols for the various phobias of Karen’s clients, which was insightful in realizing how much counselors learn from one another and how much creativity is involved in the treatment process. Furthermore, frequently, I had to spend hours researching evidence to validate a client’s workplace accommodation needs. For example, one patient needed a workplace accommodation letter to establish the existence and hardship of Autism meltdowns. It was very frustrating to see how hard it is for patients to receive the understanding they deserve, which made me feel even more empathetic to all the patients.
My internship this summer made me even more confident of my passion and love for the mental health care field. After talking to different clinical psychologists, I am even more confident that I will continue my education in psychology to one day receive my Ph.D. in clinical psychology. It was incredibly rewarding to experience a little bit of the life of a mental health care provider and learn more about the field. My internship gave me so much excitement about my future to come as working as a clinical psychologist. I want to thank the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for giving me this amazing opportunity.