Internship typically occurs during your very last year of doctoral training. As a psychology intern your day is often busy and can vary from seeing clients/patients all day to sitting in conferences/seminars or conducting research. Your role as an intern often depends on the site/setting in which you work. Some psychology interns can be found in correctional settings, schools, private practices, or hospitals. I’m doing my internship at a large inpatient hospital where many of the patients are suffering from severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. The great thing about my internship is that I get to do various rotations within the hospital. This allows me to see many different types of patients and gives me a chance to learn and interact with people who suffer from mental illness at various stages (i.e. acute vs severe).
For my first rotation I decided to work on the forensic unit. This unit houses patients who suffer from a severe mental illness and have been involved in the legal system in some way.
So, here is a typical day in the life of a psychology intern on the forensic unit!
4am – I’m annoyed at the sound of my alarm going off and quickly reach to hit the snooze button.
4:30am – I finally decide to pull myself out of bed and throw on some clothes to head to the gym.
5am – I make it to the gym and complete a full body workout that incorporates cardio, weightlifting, and a big word called “metabolic conditioning.” (yay for Crossfit!)
6:30am – I make it back home and hop into the shower. After showering, I run around my apartment looking for something to wear, do my hair, grab my lunch and a quick breakfast to go.
8am – I make it to work and quickly settle into my office and get ready for the daily morning meeting. The morning meeting is when all of the disciplines get together (nursing, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, mental health technicians, administration, etc..) to hear a report on how the previous night shift went. We learn about which patients are on restriction, if any there were any emergencies, and what to expect for the upcoming day.
9am – The team comes together for an evaluation. Depending on our census, this can be an outpatient evaluation or we can be gearing up for an admission. Either way, everything starts with a clinical presentation. This is when everyone gets together to hear a report regarding the presenting patient’s history. Depending on how many mental health contacts the person has had, this presentation can last anywhere from one to three hours!
12pm – The presentation was pretty lengthy and took us all the way to lunch. I head back to my office, gobble down a salad and check my email. Before I know it, it’s 1pm and it’s time for the team to get together to interview our patient.
1pm – The patient is brought in and everyone on the team introduces themselves and their role. The lead clinician on the case is the one who is mostly responsible for interviewing the patient. The interview consists of asking the patient various questions regarding their background (i.e. family, medical, school) and their mental health history. Sometimes, patients may be extremely sick (read: grossly disorganized and having trouble maintaining a conversation) so the interview may be cut short. Other times, the patient can be lucid and able to carry on a conversation and remember pertinent parts of their past. It all depends.
3:30pm – The interview is over and now it’s time for group! The group that I co-lead is a competency restoration group for patients who were deemed incompetent to stand trial. In a nutshell, this means that due to a patient’s mental illness (or intellectual dysfunction) they are having trouble understanding the legal system and assisting their attorney in their case. When that happens, people are usually committed to a hospital to receive treatment before heading back to court. The competency restoration group is designed to teach patients all about the courtroom process (i.e. what does a judge do?, who decides a verdict?, what is a plea bargain?) so that they are better prepared to aid in their own defense and assist their attorney once they return to court.
4:30pm – Once group is over, I head back to my office to tie up any loose ends before leaving for the day.
6pm – I make it home and change into more comfy clothes. I start dinner (tonight is jambalaya and asparagus) and tidy up the apartment.
7pm – I watch my favorite reality shows and fart around on the computer until my eyelids get heavy.
9pm – I climb into bed and watch Netflix until I fall asleep.
So there you have it, a typical day for me on the forensic ward. Everyday is truly different and I never know what to expect, which is one of the main reasons why I love this field so much. Other days are a little more relaxed and allow me time to read or work on research.