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Antonia is a first-year student in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences majoring in psychology and minoring in music cognition. She participated in the 2018 Northwestern Externship Program (NEXT) and spent a day job shadowing a Northwestern alumnus at The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center in Schaumburg, IL.Job shadowing at The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center as part of the Northwestern Externship Program.

I applied for NEXT because I wanted to gain more specific knowledge on clinical psychology. Although I have learned a lot about psychology in general, I have not been formally taught about clinical psychology. All I really know is that clinical psychology focuses on the treatment of patients with emotional and mental disorders.

In April, I shadowed Edward Oriole at the Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center. Lighthouse offers individual, family, and couples therapy, and they gear their services toward the improvement of one’s mental and emotional health. Edward pursued both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Northwestern University, majoring in psychology and clinical psychology, respectively. His work mostly involves the use of Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy, encouraging active thinking and changes in one’s belief system regarding others’ intentions. He also works with patients that have suffered from drug addictions with the same methods. I was intrigued by Edward because his education followed the same path that I have planned.

Throughout the externship, I observed the environment of the lobby and offices. Although I could not observe any of Edward’s therapy sessions due to confidentiality and comfort levels, I still gained knowledge about what is effective in a clinical psychologist’s workplace. I frequently heard white noise and saw calming imagery such as fish and warm yellow walls. The comfortable, intimate environment of Lighthouse benefits the emotional well-being of a patient before they visit their therapist.

My biggest takeaway from this externship is that the main goal of clinical psychologists is to put mental health first. When Edward conducts couples therapy, his goal is not to keep couples together at all costs; he wants what makes each member of the couple happy. In general, the main goal of therapy is to advocate for positive mental health, not keep people in one’s life.

Finally, Edward offered one important piece of advice that I had not previously thought of: the more you relate to your patient, the more they will prefer you and stick with you. Patients want to feel confident in their therapists, and they want to feel an intimate connection. They need someone in their life that will listen to them and know how to help them because they have lacked that figure for most of their life.