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Strawberry Fields, Inc.
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Shou-En Chen

Major: Psychology
Hometown: Taiwan

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this enrichment experience through my friend I knew from Centre Help. She introduced this great experience to me and I have been working with this organization since December, 2016. During my work, I heard from an other colleague that there are other sites in State College who also work with different mental disorders. In order to gain more diverse experience, I talked to my supervisor and she agreed to cross-train me to other sites.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I started working as a Psychiatric Direct Support Specialist in December, 2016. I enjoy being a Psychiatric Direct Support in different sites because it relates to what I want to be doing in the future, which is a clinical psychologist. The spirit of Strawberry Fields Inc. is to empower individuals with physical and mental disabilities through assisting them in their daily life. This can be achieved by setting goals based on the ability of different consumers. Different from the the patients who live in a psychiatric hospital, the consumers at the Bellefonte site are allowed to live at their own house and each have their own schedule tailored to their ability. On the other hand, the consumers at the State College site are living in a townhouse and they are expected to live their only 6 months, up to 3 years. The duty of a psychiatric direct support specialist is to provide emotional support and assist daily living of people with mental illness. We also need to bring the consumers to doctor appointments or daytime programs, administrate medication, assist with cooking and exercising, and other daily tasks. Based on the ability of the consumers, there are other activities that they can engage in such as watching movies and going to the Berkeley Creamery.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience impacted my academics by allowing me to apply the theories I learn from advanced abnormal psychology class and observe those symptoms in an outpatient setting. This is a valuable experience because you cannot have this experience through reading a textbook. I also observed and learned skills which are rarely mentioned in the textbook. Through working here, I not only learned more but was able to apply it in a clinical setting. Moreover, it elicits new questions that I had never thought of in class. This job makes me realize that I genuinely love interacting with people. This experience has strengthened my aspiration that I want to be a practitioner instead of being a professor. After the training is done, I will have more opportunity to interact with people with other mental illnesses such as PTSD, Schizoaffective, Antisocial Personality Disorder... just to name a few. I am really excited because I did not have any experience interacting with people with those mental diagnoses.

This experience has strengthened my aspiration that I want to be a practitioner...

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I am planning to get a PhD degree in clinical psychology and become a licensed clinical psychologist. I hope eventually, I will be able to open my own practice or have my own research lab. Through working as a psychiatric direct support specialist at the Bellefonte and State College sites and interacting with different consumers, I learned how to communicate and encourage people with mental illness. Moreover, this experience taught me how to think through their perspective. By engaging in their daily life, I learned and witnessed some of the struggles and challenges people with mental health illness encounter everyday in their daily life. Working as a Psychiatric Direct Support Specialist also prepared me to work with more severe mental illnesses in a mental health hospital.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I highly recommend this experience for students who want hand-on experience with mental illness. I would also recommend it to people who want to pursue career in human services. It is crucial to get some clinical experiences before applying for graduate school.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.

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