What I Learned Interning at Vibrant
By Paige Danehy, Intern, Summer 2019
Vicarious trauma. Something that I was not aware of before I started my internship at Vibrant Emotional Health, yet something I am so glad I was able to become familiar with. On my first day interning, I participated in a vicarious trauma training and learned its true meaning and importance. Vicarious trauma is the emotional exposure that counselors experience as they work with people, listening to their stories, becoming witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured. Sometimes the stories that these counselors and social workers are exposed to go home with them at the end of the night, and can slowly start to impact their lives outside of work.
As I rotated throughout the different programs at Vibrant Emotional Health, I kept my vicarious trauma training in the back of my head. During my internship, I spent time in the Center for Policy, Advocacy & Education, the Harlem Bay Network Personalized Recovery Oriented Services, the Circle of Security Parent Coaching Department, the Here2Help Contact Center, and the Marketing and Communications Department. I also participated in an ASIST training.
In each of these different departments, I did a variety of things. From reading proposals and testimonies, to looking at ways education can be improved in New York, to shadowing a crisis counselor and helping facilitate classes for patients at the rehabilitation and clinical service program. Each department and program I visited was different, yet everyone shared common goals and passions. Each Vibrant staff member wants to help people, by educating and supporting them during all phases of life. Whether it is teaching caregivers in the COS program how to care for their children and build healthy and long-lasting relationships, or just being an ear to listen to on the other side of the crisis hotline, someone is always there, ready to help.
I noticed that all of the employees at Vibrant value helping others but also recognize the importance of “self-care.” From my first day of work to my last, I was consistently reminded of my vicarious trauma training by almost everyone I met. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others is a lesson that I learned here, and a motto that I think everyone should live by.
My experience at Vibrant Emotional Health has inspired me to want to make a difference and help people who have experienced trauma or have a hard time dealing with their mental health. As a country, we need to work to get rid of the stigma that is associated with mental health and open our doors to people in need, the way Vibrant does, rather than close them. When I was at PROS in Harlem, I was enlightened when someone said to me, “No matter your skin color, how old you are or where you are from, trauma and mental health can have an impact on anyone at any time. We should never judge others or ourselves because we all have a lot more in common than some may think.”
I want to thank everyone at Vibrant Emotional Health for my experience here this summer. I feel honored to have been able to see and be a part of what you guys do, it is truly incredible. I cannot wait to watch this organization change the mental health world and get rid of the stigma that is associated with mental health.