By Noha El Toukhy ’22
Funding Source: Primary Care Pre-Medical Internship
My summer internship was split up into three main parts: (1) SPSS, (2) CBT skills and (3) Virtual Therapy Sessions. When I first found out that my internship was going to be virtual, I was certain that this new virtual experience would not meet my expectations for the summer internship. However, immediately on my second day, I noticed that perhaps this virtual option was a great blessing in disguise. Had I met with my colleagues in person, perhaps I would not have been able to dive into the SPSS program in as much detail as I was able to do this summer. SPSS, which stands for Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, is an online program used for complex statistical data analysis. Through this internship, I learned how to transpose information in Excel to paste the cell contents in SPSS. I also learned a lot about Anova, T- and F-Tests, as well as comparing means functions. These tests are so interesting to work with.
Furthermore, my internship allowed me to learn the various Cognitive Behavioral Skills, which are based on Martha Lillian’s CBT handbook. I spent many hours learning about Emotional Regulation Skills, and their effects on the orbital prefrontal cortex of the brain. Meditation, Art Therapy, and Yoga are all examples of emotional regulation skills, and seeing their effects on FMRI scans was incredibly interesting. Learning about these skills is essential to my career goal of becoming a clinical psychologist. After learning about SPSS, and educating myself on the various CBT skills, I started to virtually join some psychologists’ therapy sessions.
This was by far the most interesting part of my internship. The patients were Egyptian, which helped me learn about the cultural differences with psychological disorders in the Arab world. The most memorable session that I was able to attend was the therapy session on Body Dysmorphic Disorder. My mentor allowed me to join the virtual session, in which he gave a workshop on this rare disorder. I learned that Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a severe psychiatric disorder that many people do not know about. This disorder can take on many different forms and affects both males and females equally. The disorder refers to when individuals are obsessed with their bodies in a way which interferes with their ability to function and complete everyday tasks. People who suffer from BDD can spend hours obsessing over a flaw that is grossly exaggerated or imagined. Many patients fear and lack social interaction due to their fear of already being under the impression of their body being deformed. Additionally, these patients often have unrealistic expectations about their desired cosmetic procedures and are insistent on getting surgeries, refusing to compromise, or refusing to allow their physicians to convince them otherwise. Ultimately, reports have proven that the level of distress in the patient around his or her flaw is the most reliable measure of body dysmorphic disorder. Screening these patients and checking if any of these signs are evident is beneficial, for there are numerous tests and assessments that can guide physicians to refer these patients to mental health institutions (e.g BDD questionnaire and DCQ assessments). Most importantly, I learned that this disorder affects many Arab women, especially when compared to women in the west. As a psychology major, I was not aware of the various cultural differences in my field, however, this internship certainly helped me understand this point. I am very thankful for this opportunity, for I hope to continue using SPSS and CBT skills in my career as a psychologist.