Name: Sukhandeep Kaur
Class Year: 2019
Hometown: Faridkot, Punjab (India)
Internship Placement: Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), Philadelphia
Job Title: Sexual Assault Counselor/Crisis Intern
What’s happening at your internship?
WOAR has three different departments: Crisis and Counseling Office, Education Office and Community Outreach Office. I interned at the Crisis Office and primarily handled the Hotline calls. WOAR hotline is a 24-hour service and victim survivors call in for various reasons: Seeking phone counseling, scheduling intake appointments to meet with therapists, sharing their often difficult stories with a trained professional, looking for referrals and resources like medical exams, legal services or shelters and navigating traumatic (and sometimes suicidal) experiences. As an advocate, I make sure that I am present, listening, believing and supporting the callers with their needs. It is often challenging to hit the balance of being emotionally present and yet be effectively resourceful, and that is where the skillsets that I have acquired over time at my internship come in.
Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?
There are certainly numerous subtle skillsets that I have honed during my internship, which I have yet to discover for myself. The most evident ones, though, include effective communication, counseling, compassionate presence and holistic perspective. I have learnt to be present in the moment when I am taking a call, and not constantly thinking about what my response is going to be. This helps me get a much better understanding of the situation the caller is in, and inherently improves the quality of my response. I have also strengthened the ability to communicate my needs to my supervisors, and in fact that has played a role in strengthening our bonds. Also, I no longer hesitate asking a fellow intern or supervisor about information that I am unaware of but may benefit the caller. The need to be a good presenter has taken the form of the desire to be a resourceful counselor. Not to mention how drastically the internship has refined my counseling skills. I can handle the “tougher” calls in a calmer way now and can help the caller deescalate and be in a position to make best choices for themselves.
Why did you apply for this internship?
I applied for this internship because I see value in trauma informed counseling services to support victim/survivors navigate their experiences. I wanted to play my tiny part in this initiative and that is precisely the reason why I applied.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge for me was to keep myself sensitive to people’s stories. And quite frankly, it is sometimes hard to do that when you are also the one trying to find them resources. Emotional breakdown is not on the table for you! And often times, I saw my defense mechanism kick in when someone disclosed their experience. I guess, that is in certain sense being professional but at the same time I found it almost painful that I could not feel the gravity of each individual’s story.