Family Service Bureau Honors Interns
Hellen Gontijo says she felt terror the first time that she walked into the New Community Family Service Bureau as an intern—and that feeling didn’t immediately fade.
“I remember the first few weeks I was petrified,” Gontijo, a 30-year-old Nyack College student who began interning in May 2013, said.
With a year’s experience under her belt, Gontijo and her cohort of 35 interns reflected on the lessons they learned while working with clients seeking behavioral and mental health services. The interns, both graduate and undergraduate students studying social work and counseling, receive academic credit for internships but also gain crucial hands-on experience.
“We give them real life application rather than theories that you learn in schools,” Arti Kakkar, Executive Director of the Family Service Bureau, said. The department, located at 274 South Orange Ave. in Newark and 379 Kearny Ave. in Kearny, serves 950 to 1,000 clients a month.
Students and their supervisors feasted on a buffet of pasta, pizza and cake at a luncheon but before the meal, each intern shared what they have learned. Also, their supervisors shared insights into how each student has grown both professionally and personally.
Many interns get overwhelmed at first, said Mary Jenkins, a Supervisor and Program Manager.
“They see so much going on and they wonder, ‘Can I do this?’” said Jenkins, at the Family Service Bureau.
But they meet weekly with supervisors and receive training on everything from “how to say hello to a client, all the way to a treatment plan,” Kakkar said. “We invest a lot of time in them,” said Kakkar, who, like many other staff, was previously an intern there herself.
Many interns recounted difficult lessons.
“I learned how not to judge,” said Sonja Tillman, 39, who is pursuing a masters degree in mental health at Montclair State. “That was really hard for me.”
“I’ve learned patience because so many of my patients have not shown up,” said Kate Thomas, 29, whose Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy program at Seton Hall requires her to complete 500 hours at her internship.
James Woodley, Training Coordinator and Staff Clinician, hopes the interns “can apply their craft so the clients will benefit the most.”
He added, “I’m excited to hear them talk about the growth they saw in themselves.”