A DAY IN THE LIFE: CDU

So I realized that I haven’t done one of these posts in a long time and wanted to share a new day since I switched rotations. For my second rotation as a psychology resident, I completed training on the Chemical Dependency Unit and worked with women struggling with substance abuse. Working in substance abuse can be such a rewarding experience, but also completely exhausting at the same time.

6:30am: I crawl out of bed after hitting the SNOOZE button for the umpteenth time and hop in the shower.

7:45am: I make it to work with a little time to spare to check my email.

8:00am: I head downstairs for morning meeting. During this time, we learn about anything major that happened on the unit the night before (e.g. discharges, illnesses, interpersonal issues between patients (this comes up a lot)). This is also an opportunity for the treatment team to discuss important things that are happening that day or that are coming up within the week. If there are any new admissions on the unit, the  team has an opportunity to meet the new patient’s during this time as well.

9:00am: I co-facilitate my first group of the day which focuses on helping my patients to work through the 12-step program.

11:00am:  I’ll meet with one of my patient’s for individual therapy and help her work through some tough issues!

12:00pm: Lunch time. I stuff my face with carbs and power up on coffee before heading into my afternoon groups (therapy can take a lot out of you).

1:30pm: I co-facilitate my second group of the day which focuses on trauma and healing.

3:00pm: I co-facilitate my last group of the day which is a psycho-educational class that teaches our patient’s about Dialectical Behavior Therapy and how to implement some of the core components in their lives.

4:00pm: I meet with another patient for individual therapy – we decide to take a walk in the nice spring weather as we have our session.

4:50pm: I rush back to my office to write my progress notes before heading out for the day.

5:30pm: I make it home and change into my workout clothes and head to yoga class.

7:45pm: Yoga was awesome! I grab a quick bite to eat before heading home and getting lost in reality TV.

9:30pm: After a quick shower, I climb in bed and watch Netflix until I fall asleep.

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DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PSYCHOLOGY INTERN

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.

What Is Forensic Psychology?

I get this question a lot and it’s usually followed by, “Oh, like CSI!”

Many people confuse the field of Forensic Psychology with Forensic Science. Let me be the first to tell you…they are not the same!

For those of you considering a career in Forensic Psychology, it is important to know the differences. Broadly, Forensic Psychology deals with the application of psychological science to aspects of the legal system. More specifically, we help the court to understand various psychological matters (such as, mental illness, a person’s ability to give consent, is an individual equipped to be an effective parent) and their role within a particular legal case.

Forensic Psychology can be applied to civil and criminal proceedings (which tends to be the most popular realm), involve special populations (like juveniles or sex offenders), and allows psychologists to serve as expert witnesses in court. Forensic psychologists can be found in private practice, working in psychiatric hospitals or correctional facilities, on college campuses or even within business corporations. One of the best things about this field is that there are a vast amount of sectors and populations within which a person can work. You can never get bored!

As a Forensic Psychologist you will mostly conduct psychological and/or forensic-oriented assessments for court and provide treatment in the form of therapy (individual or group).

Civil Proceedings: In civil court (unlike criminal court), claims are usually brought upon by an individual person, group of people, or corporation against another person or group of people. (Think: Judge Judy). In civil courts forensic psychologists are useful for personal injury or child custody evaluations to name a few. In personal injury cases, the psychologist may be retained to evaluate the person who has been harmed (usually physically – like in an auto accident) and claims a mental health injury (i.e.suffering from PTSD or depression after being hit by a truck).

In a child custody evaluation (which can get pretty dramatic and messy!) the psychologist may be retained to evaluate one or both parents to determine who is the “better” fit to raise the child or children. In this example, the role of the forensic psychologist is to help the court to have a better understanding of the individual as a whole and any psychological problems that may be present. And, if there are psychological problems present, will they be a hinderance to raising the child or children in question.

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Criminal Proceedings: In criminal court, claims are usually brought upon by the state or the federal government and usually end with the defendant serving time in jail or prison (Think: Adnan Syed v. The State of Maryland). In criminal court, forensic psychologists are usually retained (by either defense or prosecution) to evaluate defendants. The two most popular evaluations are Competency to Stand Trial (CST) evals and Criminal Responsibility (Insanity) evals.

To put it simply, for each type of evaluation, there are certain state “rules” that must be considered when evaluating the person and each state differs on the types of “rules” that defendants must meet in order to qualify. CST evaluations help the court to determine if a defendant has an ability to aid in their own defense and consult with their lawyer. Someone who suffers from a serious psychological disability may have trouble answering certain questions about their case or may be unable to hold a conversation with their attorney. If this is true, the person must be psychiatrically treated and stable before they can proceed in court.

In insanity evaluations, the court is trying to determine if an individual was of “sound mind and body” when they committed a particular crime or if they were suffering from a serious mental disorder at the time that the crime was committed. Just like civil proceedings, the role of the psychologist is to help the court to understand the defendant and any psychological issues that may be at play.

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Forensic psychology also deals with special populations such as juvenile offenders and sex offenders. In addition, some forensic psychologists are trained to conduct specialized evaluations such as threat assessments and Fitness for Duty evaluations.

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This is just a small taste of the field of Forensic Psychology. There are many other roles and opportunities available. I’ll be exploring other aspects of the field in future posts!

WEDNESDAY WELLNESS!

Happy Wednesday Folks! Today is the first post in my Wednesday Wellness Series! These posts will feature content related to helping you maintain your sanity, especially in graduate school!

LIFE HACKS FOR MAINTAINING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

  • CONNECT WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE

Perhaps one of the best things about starting graduate school is having the opportunity to surround yourself with people who are just as passionate about your field as you are. Like-minded people help to encourage, motivate, and even challenge you to do things that you may have previously thought were impossible. Surrounding yourself with people who share your same interests helps to build and maintain positive and professional networks, in addition to bringing great benefits and rewards.

  • KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO

Graduate school is stressful! There is no doubt about this! Knowing your own limits and knowing when to say “no” will save you a lot of anxiety, worry, and headaches. Grad school can get insanely competitive. Some people feel the need to have the best grades, and the top research, and the most clinical hours when compared to the rest of their peers. It can be very intimidating and you may feel the need to do everything that everyone else is doing in order to keep up (trust me: these people don’t matter). However, is all of this really worth your own mental health? How useful can you be to clients and colleagues if you are stressed, burnt out, and highly anxious because you have too many projects going on at once? Always remember: there are MANY opportunites in grad school. Saying no to one thing to focus on yourself is not the end of the world. A new opportunity will present itself very soon.

  • STAY IN THE PRESENT

This is something that I struggled with a lot during the beginning of my academic career, and also something that I am still learning to manage. I am a future-oriented person by nature. I am always thinking weeks, months, and even years in advance. I am always setting various goals for myself. However, graduate school flies by! It may not seem like it, but it does. Just as undergrad and highschool flew by. While you may have different goals for yourself, it is also important to enjoy being a student and to enjoy the process of learning and growing. Not many people will have the opportunity to study and work in your field. But, you do! Don’t take that privilege lightly.

  • IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP 

This can include former and current professors, family members, friends, and even a therapist. Yes, therapists have therapists too! Knowing your limits and being able to reach out for help when you’re stressed is crucial in grad school. No one makes it through alone! Perhaps the most surprising thing during my graduate school journey was finding myself stressed about things that did not phase me in undergrad. This included giving presentations, having  a ton of chapters to read in a super short amount of time, or even having several papers to write over a weekend. Graduate school is an entirely different animal and you may find yourself surprised by things you can and cannot handle on your own. So, never be afraid to reach out for assistance!

  • ALWAYS MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF 

I cannot stress this enough, SELF-CARE IS VERY IMPORTANT! Especially in graduate school and even more crucial when you enter the professional field. As psychologists, we often put ourselves after our clients/patients, family, and even friends. As helpers we are used to caring for another person’s needs before we tend to our own. However, this can quickly become detrimental and lead to burnout no matter what field or population you work in. Self-care can include exercising on a regular basis, journaling, yoga, daily meditation, and my all-time favorite, sleeping! Whatever your vice, be sure to incorporate some daily self-care. Yes, this can be difficult when life gets the better of us and we become busy in our daily routines. But, your mental health will thank you for it!

 

WHY A BLOG?

Welcome!! – You found me!

My name is Tiffany and I am a fifth-year doctoral student studying Clinical Forensic Psychology. I started this blog for a number of different reasons.

First, I do not consider myself a creative person by any means, but, I did want to create a platform where I could showcase all of the things that I love and that make me who I am. This blog will feature my love of food, fitness, photography, and natural hair amongst other things.

Second (and a small dose of self disclosure), I spend a large portion of my time “in my own head.” I often find myself daydreaming, thinking, wondering, wishing, and pondering. This blog will serve as an outlet for me to put my ideas down on paper (or screen in this sense).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I wanted to create a platform for emerging clinicians of color, undergraduate and graduate students of color in psychology, and other individuals of color considering a career in mental health.

As an African American woman I often find myself living and learning in mostly “white” spaces and my journey through graduate school was a reflection of this. Now, as I am nearing the end of my academic and clinical training, I will be entering a field (psychology) that is dominated by white women and a subfield (forensic psychology) that is dominated by older white men. It is very hard to see myself represented in certain places unless I actively seek out certain people, networks and connections.

When I first decided to go to graduate school and began my search for different programs, I sought out blogs and youtube channels in hopes that there were Black women documenting their journeys. I was hoping to gain an understanding of graduate school in hopes that I would be better prepared for the journey. However, I didn’t find any. I started toying around with the idea of starting my own blog a few years ago, but convinced myself that no one would read it (more on not carrying what people think at a later date), and thus, I never started one.

Until now.

This blog will serve to discuss current events regarding psychology and mental health, the field of forensic psychology in general, my journey through graduate school, and the pros and cons of being a Black woman in a white space.

Follow me through this thing called life.