Preparing the Next Generation of Compassionate Clinicians

Maine Behavioral Healthcare

Maine Behavioral Healthcare’s internship program prepares graduate students to be successful clinicians by providing valuable clinical experience. “When I graduated, I was very prepared to see clients right away,” said Jessica Pao, a licensed master social worker (LMSW) with a two-year conditional license at the Westbrook outpatient office. Jessica interned for nine months at the Lancaster Street, Portland, office where she treated 20 clients who lacked health insurance.

The clients ranged from a young man with the early stages of schizophrenia to a man with legal trouble and post-traumatic stress disorder to a young female refugee with body dysmorphia and anxiety. Jessica also treated many women in their late 40s to early 60s who suffered from depression, PTSD and anxiety, and were ineligible for MaineCare.

“I never thought I wanted to work with middle- aged women with depression, but now I love that population and seeing their transformation,” said Jessica. “One woman had a significant eating disorder, binge eating once a week. I used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and mindfulness, and she dropped to binge eating once a month and then went almost three months without bingeing.”

Interns work with experienced clinician mentors who help them with challenging situations. Jessica was mentored in motivational interviewing, developing techniques to encourage people to identify reasons why they should stop a behavior or anything they are contemplating. She also participated in peer support meetings where clinicians discussed cases and learned from each other. “Hearing seasoned clinicians talk about challenges, bouncing ideas off one another, was invaluable to my training,” she said.

Maine Behavioral Healthcare accepts about 15 interns each year to work in outpatient locations from York County to Knox County, treating approximately
200 uninsured clients. At the Lancaster Street office, five or six interns train approximately 20 hours a week as a requirement to complete their masters’ degrees. Many clients are from the refugee and immigrant community and the Preble Street shelter.

Jessica recalls working with a woman in her 50s struggling with cocaine addiction, depression, anxiety and PTSD. “We used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy skills and Emotionally Focused Therapy. She made great progress and broke through the distortion about herself, and completed a treatment episode of 12 sessions.” Today she is back for another treatment episode and has praised Jessica for her break- through.

Working at the Westbrook office today, Jessica sees every client as a new challenge. “These internships set the stage for doing this work,” she said. “This is something you can’t learn in a classroom.”

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