An Inside Look at CHAC
Ever wonder how CHAC is able to provide services to more than 11,000 people each year? In the article below, Executive Assistant Sally Schuman offers an inside look at CHAC’s popular internship program and it’s wonderful clinical supervisors.
If CHAC is a tree, it’s one with deep roots, a strong trunk, and many branches bearing wonderful fruit. Like a tree, every part of the CHAC “organism” – administration, the finance and development people, support staff, clinical staff, interns, and donors from the community – is essential to its success. All these parts work together to produce CHAC’s finished product – high-quality counseling, therapy, and educational/support services to children, teens, and families of our community. And when you hear, as I do, so many stories of people helped and lives improved through CHAC’s work, you realize that, at this little agency on Church Street, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.
Recently a gentleman who preferred to remain anonymous walked through CHAC’s front door and handed the receptionist a large donation! Executive Director Monique Kane, after she caught her breath, told the staff: “This is the first time this has happened – it is a reflection of CHAC’s wonderful reputation here in Silicon Valley, and that is a credit to all your work.” We are deeply grateful.
CHAC also has a strong reputation among MFT and Ph.D. students who are looking for internship sites to continue their training. CHAC is a training site for Marriage and Family Therapists, LCSWs, and Ph.D. Psychologists, and nearly all of our direct services to clients are provided by these interns, under the supervision of our clinical staff. Our clinical directors and supervisors are just now in the midst of the intern selection process for next year, and Stewart Kiritz, Ph.D., reports that he received 90 applications for the eight Ph.D. track spots. Associate Clinical Director Betty Mackey, LMFT, says the numbers for MFT internship spots are equally competitive, and choosing among the many highly qualified applicants is itself a difficult task. What is it about CHAC that makes these students want to come here?
Three reasons are always mentioned: First, there is the diverse experience our program offers – both in-house at the clinic on Church Street and on campus (our interns now work at 31 elementary, middle, and high schools), working with children and teens, families, individuals, and couples. The opportunity to help run CHAC’s longstanding school-based programs, such as Just for Kids, a group for 3rd graders teaching healthy coping and problem-solving skills, or Teen Talk!, a support group for adolescents focusing on issues such as stress, peer pressure, drugs, sexual behavior, and depression. They have a chance to work with parents in CHAC’s Parent Education classes, or to bring their clinical skills to help Outlet serve its LGBTQ clients. They even have the flexibility to start new groups or programs that fit their interests.
They also mention the didactic trainings offered every Thursday. Experts in a wide variety of relevant subjects – family systems, narrative and art therapies, grief counseling, early diagnosis of psychosis, DBT, Child Protective Services, role of medications, and more – share their expertise and offer experiential opportunities for learning as well as discussion. These two-hour trainings are an essential part of an intern’s professional education.
Third, interns and applicants cite the quality of clinical supervision. Every intern receives weekly individual and group supervision all year, with a licensed MFT or Ph.D. clinical supervisor. Supervision includes discussion of cases, feedback, problem-solving, audio and video review of sessions, and more. Interns hone their clinical skills through working with their supervisor, and their supervised hours are counted toward their licensing requirements – at least 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work are required before an applicant can take the licensing exam. CHAC’s excellent clinical supervision makes for a group of skilled interns who go on to provide the quality services for which CHAC is known.
Recently an intern left a thank-you card for the supervisors in the Village Well (our kitchen). It showed a Victorian-style ballerina balancing on a tightrope. On it the intern wrote: “Can clinical supervisors walk tightropes?” And inside: “Yes, CHAC clinical supervisors can! And they cook good food, and they give good parties, and . . . . .” This intern had not failed to notice how many things the clinical supervisors juggle in the course of providing supervision to their trainees, and how gracefully they do it. They care about the interns not just as students but as people.
In August the new interns will arrive at CHAC to begin their training year. The supervisors prepare an information-packed and welcoming three-day orientation to get them launched. “Fasten your seatbelts,” Betty Mackey writes on her letter of welcome, because she knows the year ahead will be challenging, fun, stressful, and exhilarating — just what the interns need to become the skilled counselors and therapists who represent CHAC so ably in the community.
And now (with visions of the fruitful tree, the tightrope walker, and the roller coaster jumbled in your head), you know a bit more about CHAC and some of the folks who make it what it is.