How does a student learn to develop “thick skin?” For Jana Nieman and Maureen Duguid, both graduate students in mental health counseling, it was their shared experience of working with survivors — and perpetrators, of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
Through an internship at JBWS in Morris County, New Jersey, a nonprofit organization providing support services and solutions that bring balance and renewal to their clients, Nieman and Duguid were face to face with the depths of pain and suffering caused by sexual abuse and violence.
Duguid provided survivors of abuse with individual and group counseling, helped clients prepare for legal counsel and accompanied them on visits to the Morris County Justice Center. Nieman co-facilitated group and individual counseling sessions and coordinated the intake process with perpetrators –“a challenging population,” she says. These experiences helped her focus on “finding the good in people.” Since she had never imagined herself working with those populations, the experience was both eye opening and mind broadening.
Juli Harpell-Elam, director of abuse prevention at JBWS, says that since 2015, the staff of her organization has welcomed Caldwell’s mental health counseling student interns. Coming into their internships, she says, these students evidence proper foundational training. Harpell-Elam supervised Nieman and was impressed with her ability to remain calm while creating a safe, supportive environment for her clients. Nieman worked with “mostly mandated clients” who were “feeling judged, feeling punished,” and not necessarily coming into the program on their terms, explained Harpell-Elam.
“Caldwell equips its students,” says Marianne McCrone, director of the Morris Family Justice Center, who was Duguid’s supervisor. “They arrive with a “big knowledge base and good clinical skill set, which translates into hands-on here at the site,” she added. She described Duguid as an empathic “team player” who is calm in a crisis, committed to the safety of her clients, and professional in her interactions with police officers, attorneys, judges, and court staff.
On May 19, Nieman and Duguid each received a Master of Arts degree in mental health counseling. They are grateful to their supervisors and the faculty members in Caldwell’s Psychology Department. “I could always go to my professors for help and feedback,” said Duguid. The Caldwell professors were “highly resourceful,” and there was “great supervision,” said Nieman.
Dr. Emma Kendrick, the coordinator of the graduate programs in counseling, takes pride in all that Caldwell’s mental health interns contribute to valuable community programs like JBWS. “Even before graduating, our students can start serving the needs of a diverse population within the local community. The work that the interns are doing is beneficial not only to the clients but to their ongoing professional development as counselors.”
The fieldwork at JBWS has prepared Nieman and Duguid for their next career steps. After all, “You don’t learn how to be a counselor from a textbook,” said Nieman.