Summer Internship Series: Community Engagement and Service

Alena Lassen ’18

OhioGuidestone, Cleveland, Ohio

My name is Alena Lassen, and I am a senior pursuing a double major in Anthropology/Sociology and Women and Gender Studies. This summer I was given the honor of interning at OhioGuidestone. I was a clinical intern able to learn from social workers and psychologists about research and working with clients struggling with mental illness and substance abuse.

OhioGuidestone is a non-profit based in Cleveland, Ohio that offers a range of services to low-income clients who are struggling with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental illness. Guidestone offers a variety of different programs and services meant to give their clients the support and guidance they require in order to live with mental illness. Through programs such as residential treatment, its charter school called Stepstone, and individual and group therapy, OhioGuidestone is known as an organization that will take on and work with any and all clients even if they have turned away by similar organizations.

I, and my fellow clinical interns, worked closely with both OhioGuidestone’s research department and charter school, as well as with a variety of social workers and psychologists conducting both group and individual therapy. I helped work on an ongoing research initiative examining the extent to which joy promotes resiliency to toxic stress in children, and also helped run a parent group at the Stepstone Academy (Guidestone’s charter school). Additionally, I was able to shadow my supervisor Yami Napoles, as she worked with individual clients, as well as other therapists as they conducted group sessions. Specifically, I was able to regularly attend an IOP group that OhioGuidestone offered. This is a support group designed to help individuals struggling with substance abuse by putting them in contact with other recovering addicts, as well as a trained therapist.

I learned an incredible amount at OhioGuidestone about what it means to engage with a variety of different clients as they are in the midst of incredibly complex struggles. By observing therapists working with both groups and individual clients, I was able to get a sense of the sorts of skills that are important for conducting therapy. Additionally I learned quite a lot about the demands that social workers and psychologists face in terms of confusing, irregular schedules and emotionally challenging jobs. My supervisor, as well as everyone else I have the privilege of working with, gave me incredible advice about ways to organize one’s time in order to be a helpful resource and confidant for future clients. Therefore my experience at OhioGuidestone definitely prepared me for my future career as a social worker.

I am so incredibly grateful for all the opportunities and learning that both Denison and OhioGuidestone offered me this summer through my internship experience. I would especially like to thank my director supervisor, Yami Napoles, as well as Rebecca Bernstein who is in charge of Guidestone’s summer internship experience, Robert Dick who ran the IOP group I shadowed, Brittany Pope from Guidestone’s research department, and everyone at Stepstone Academy for helping to enrichment my internship experience and offering me such incredible learning experiences this summer. Finally, I would like to thank Denison for its excellent advice regarding summer internships, and the donor who made it financially possible for me to consider taking this internship at all, Mr. Wallace Burke, Sherman Fairchild Foundation