A Spotlight on SAY’s MFT Traineeship and Internship Program
Jennifer Kennedy, MFT trainee with SAY
For over 43 years, SAY has focused on three things: housing, counseling and jobs.Counseling is at the foundation of many of our programs here, from on-site counselors at Tamayo Village, to 24-hour crisis intervention staff at the Coffee House Teen Shelter, at schools throughout the region, and at our Counseling Clinic here in Santa Rosa.
Our Counseling Department offers therapy to young people ages 5-25 and their families who are eligible for Medi-Cal. Our staff of Therapists, Interns and Trainees works with over 250 families each year.
Before becoming licensed, Marriage and Family Therapists have to complete 3,000 hours of service. Our robust training program allows therapists who are working towards their licensure the opportunity to gain that experience in a supportive and collaborative environment.
Our MFT Traineeship and Internship program is available to both trainees who are concurrently enrolled in a psychology program and interns who have graduated from a certified university program.
Interns and trainees work with a case-load of 8-10 clients, about 16-20 hours each week. Balancing the workload can be tough, but our staff offer ongoing training and support.Jennifer Kennedy, a recently hired trainee and student at Dominican University of California, appreciated that level of guidance from the start. “It’s a very organized, very supportive environment to work in,” she said. “I don’t feel lost. I feel like I know what I’m doing because there is so much support.”
That support includes weekly trainings, assessments and group meetings led by Dr. Marian Marioni, who supervises the program. For Jennifer, that translates to a smooth learning curve that allows her to go at her own pace while she gets comfortable with the work. She currently sees one client, will be adding two more after completing assessments, and plans to stay with SAY at least until she graduates next year. In the future, she hopes to work with women and children who have survived domestic violence, and she looks forward to helping children in their healing process here at SAY.
Karie Klim has been an intern at SAY for nearly two years. She currently works with 11 clients, and, for her younger clients especially, Karie has found success in using the clinic’s specialized therapy rooms during her sessions. “The very first and most important thing is that they feel comfortable with me, so the first part of therapy is establishing a relationship with them,” she explained. For a young child who may not want to speak to her, that relationship takes form in the expression Karie observes during her sessions in our Art Therapy Room, Play Room or Sand Tray Room.
Our Sand Tray Room in particular, with its walls full of figurines for clients to arrange in a central tray of sand, has been home to breakthrough moments of connection for Karie. As she observes the scenes her clients create in the sand, Karie watches for patterns to emerge and engages with simple questions like, “Is this what you are trying to tell me?” The technique aims to show her clients that she can be trusted, and it has proven to be a powerful one. She recalled a session in which her efforts to understand a scene of violence and anger prompted the child to say tearfully, “You listen to me, will you teach my mom how to listen?”
Tracy Williams has been an intern with SAY for the past two and a half years and has completed over 2,000 hours. Tracy takes a more verbal approach to counseling and enjoys working with youth from ages 12 and up. “I work from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focus, so I look at people’s thought patterns and help my clients to identify irrational thought patterns and replace them with more adaptive ones,” she explained. She feels that her sessions offer clients a safe, confidential environment to speak freely about themselves and empty whatever emotional pain they may be carrying.
SAY’s integrated family therapy has been a great resource for Tracy. “I find that a lot of the problems my clients come with don’t involve just them; they are part of a family dynamic, a family system. So I often work with the entire family.” Tracy pointed out the benefits of the many resources offered by SAY’s clinic, including opportunities for family therapy as well as psychiatric consultation for medical prescriptions, but she also highlighted an additional benefit unique to SAY: “Because we are a Medi-Cal clinic we attract so many different people because of the accessibility. That opportunity to work with so many different people has kept me here.”
It is no stretch to say that counseling is the backbone of SAY, and the numbers can attest to its effectiveness. Since just last July, our child and teen clients showed a 50% decrease in trauma-related symptoms, anxiety, and negative social behavior. In the last three months alone, those clients also showed a 75% decrease in Risk Behaviors, which include suicide, self-harm, and runaway tendencies. Additionally, 94% of our youth in crisis therapy were successfully reunited with their families. Of course, none of those numbers would be possible without the biggest one of them all: 15,000: the number of service hours provided by counseling interns and trainees each year. For more information about our traineeship and internship program, click here.