Tackling the Mental Health Crisis Among Young People—One Intern at a Time

New child and adolescent psychology internship builds the clinician pipeline

June 18, 2023

You need only turn on the nightly news to be reminded of the mental health crisis facing today’s young people. According to Daniel P. Dickstein, MD, FAAP, chief of McLean’s Nancy and Richard Simches Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, providing access to care in an efficient, affordable, and equitable way is one of the most pressing issues in child and adolescent mental health.

“There are simply not enough clinicians available to work with young people at a time when children and adolescents need mental health support the most,” he said.

That’s why McLean recently launched three new doctoral internship tracks in child and adolescent clinical psychology within its well-established and highly competitive psychology internship program.

The program offers a final year of training prior to obtaining a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and offers six adult general mental health tracks and one track for adults with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Although the current program offers rotations in a child and adolescent unit, the 2023-2024 training year will be the first time interns can focus their entire training experience on this demographic.

The three tracks—the anxiety/mood disorders track; the general psychopathology track; and the emotion dysregulation and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) track—provide a full year exclusively within child and adolescent clinical programs, primarily for clinical training, but also research.

According to Matthew Schrock, PhD, co-director of Psychology Training, education and training have always been a “pillar of McLean’s mission. And now, more than ever, it’s vitally important to get these new clinicians out into the workplace to alleviate the stress on our mental health system.”

Courtney Beard, PhD, co-director of Psychology Training, agrees. “Our field needs more child-focused clinicians who have been trained at top hospitals. With McLean’s incredible programming and long-standing commitment to training, it makes sense that we should be preparing the next generation of clinicians to work with young people,” she said.

Mentor and fellow walk outside past trees, bricks

Fairlee C. Fabrett, PhD, meets with incoming intern Michael O’Brien

The new tracks will provide more focused and immersive training than prior clinical rotations have offered.

“So many of McLean’s child and adolescent clinical programs are nationally recognized for offering gold-standard care, which means our interns will get the most up-to-date clinical training in the world,” said Fairlee C. Fabrett, PhD, coordinator of the child and adolescent track and director of the Post-Baccalaureate Child and Adolescent Clinical Fellowship Program.

The interns themselves have a lot to offer McLean, as they will bring newly minted knowledge to the hospital.

“These trainees are at the forefront of clinical training and research,” said Schrock. In addition, many interns stay on at McLean as clinicians, which infuses the hospital’s programs with the most advanced thinking in the field.

Yet feeding this pipeline is a costly endeavor because private insurance does not yet reimburse for psychology trainees’ time. Also, while supervisors are vital to the interns’ experience, they participate as “volunteers.” That’s why philanthropic support for the program is so critical.

“Everyone agrees this type of training is essential, but it is difficult to find the funds to make it work,” Schrock said.

Philanthropy also helps McLean develop a more diverse pool of interns, including people of color, first-generation Americans, international students, and individuals from diverse family and socioeconomic situations.

According to Fabrett, “We have made a firm commitment to select interns from a range of backgrounds. If donors choose to put their money here, they can be assured they are supporting trainees who have been very mindfully selected,” she said.

Schrock emphasizes that “by diversifying the clinicians we train and send into the field, we can better serve a diverse patient population.” In particular, he hopes the interns selected for the new child and adolescent tracks will help meet the needs of young people in places where mental health resources are slim.

Dickstein agrees.

“It takes a long time to ‘grow’ a clinician, but there is no better time than right now to invest in the future of child mental health by recruiting and training the best and brightest child psychology interns who can become the next generation of clinical and research leaders,” he said.

Meet McLean’s First Class of Child and Adolescent Interns

Rebecca Wolenski will be joining McLean in the anxiety and mood disorders track. Wolenski is currently a doctoral student in the clinical science program at Florida International University and is interested in metacognitive and media-influenced factors that may contribute to depression and anxiety in youth.

Michael O’Brien is a doctoral student at Boston College studying counseling psychology. He currently works part-time with the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. O’Brien will be McLean’s first intern in McLean SouthEast’s adolescent inpatient, residential, and partial hospital programs.

Genesis Vergara will be joining McLean from Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, where she is a doctoral student in clinical psychology and works in the school’s Suicide Prevention Lab. Vergara will be filling the child/adolescent emotion dysregulation and dialectical behavior therapy intern position. Her work primarily will be with McLean’s 3East DBT continuum.

If you would like to support professional training opportunities like this one, please contact Jen Meyers.

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