April 2, 2024

Kayla Bergmann


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Finding the Right Fit: Internship Award Helps Psychology Major Test-drive a Career

Kayla Bergmann ’23 wants to assist others. A summer internship helped her choose the right avenue for her altruism.

Kayla Bergmann ’23 is undecided. She knows she wants to help others in her career, but she’s still working out what shape that help should take. The York College of Pennsylvania senior tried pre-med, but biology wasn’t for her. Speech pathology wasn’t the right fit, either.

A summer internship with Arrow Counseling Services gave her the opportunity to test-drive another potential career: psychology.

As the 2022 recipient of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) York-Adams Counties PA Internship Award, Kayla received a stipend to help ensure that she could pursue mental health experiential-learning opportunities during the summer.

Weighing her options

Kayla switched her major to Psychology when she was a sophomore.

“I just think it’s so interesting how your life experience can lead to different things, different disorders,” she says.

Her experience nurtured her interest in the field. Growing up in Portage, Pennsylvania, she saw her cousin experience trauma. By the time Kayla was 14, her parents had adopted her cousin, and Kayla got to see the social work system up close—what worked and what didn’t.

“My experience growing up,” she says, “it made me want to help other people.”

Support on all fronts

For Kayla, college has been an opportunity to try on various hats to see which fits best.

“I’ve changed my mind with what exactly I want to do so many times,” she says. In each case, her advisor, Dr. Jennifer Engler, Chair of the Psychology Department, has helped her to explore further. “She helped me find the resources to learn about each career path and what I would need to pursue each one.”

A month before the spring semester ended, Kayla brought the idea of a summer internship to another advisor, Dr. Carla Strassle, Professor of Psychology and Director of Experiential Learning, Internships, and Practica in the School of Behavioral Sciences and Education, who helped her apply for the internship award.

“The Psych Department staff here have just been absolutely wonderful,” she says. “You can tell the professors actually care about you.”

The NAMI York-Adams Counties PA mission is to provide advocacy, education, support, and public awareness so that individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives.

“We are excited to partner with York College of Pennsylvania to offer the NAMI York-Adams Internship Award to the Behavioral Sciences and Education students pursuing a career in the mental health field,” says Executive Director Desiree Irvin. “Through this award, students will be able to combine their in-classroom education with on-hands experience to help others in our community.”

Being in the room

At the beginning of her internship, Kayla mostly was a fly on the wall, listening in during sessions between psychologists and their clients. It was an opportunity to test her knowledge.

“It’s crazy to listen and be able to apply what I’ve learned and communicate with the psychologist about what they’re doing and have some understanding of what they’re saying,” she says.

While in her internship, Kayla learned how to write case notes, a practice that isn’t common in the classroom. She also had training in a modality of therapy called Internal Family Systems, a type of therapy that believes we are all made up of several parts of sub-personalities, an experience she believes will impact her future career.

Kayla still is weighing whether to pursue social work or a career in psychology. But this internship helped her make an informed decision about what’s right for her. Whichever path she chooses, she’ll be using her degree to help others.

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