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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Psychology

Psychology Matters

Major Matters

hdBy Jill Holm-Denoma, PhD
Clinical Professor



Recently, increased attention has been paid to children's mental health, and for good reason! According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, about 20% of teens live with mental illness, and 50% of all cases of mental illness begin by age 14. Undergraduates enrolled in Dr. Jill Holm-Denoma's Field Experiences (FE) in Psychology class learn how to identify, prevent, and intervene upon emerging mental illness among youth by completing internships with various community organizations.

Through experiential learning at hospitals, community mental health centers, and non-profit agencies, students in FE come to appreciate the complex factors that impact youth mental health. For instance, while working in the Children's Hospital Colorado's Psychiatric Day Treatment Unit, Ambrosia Owen ('18) learned about how third party payment companies impact youth's length of treatment and also how important good collaboration between treatment providers, parents, and schools is. Students also gain hands-on experience with providing evidence-based treatment. During his time at Firefly Autism, recent graduate Brian Bowen ('18) learned to help his clients decrease dangerous behaviors such as head-banging and increase their prosocial behaviors such as making eye-contact by administering individualized behavior modification protocols.

The experiences FE students accrue during their internships often fundamentally impact their future plans. For instance, as Jahla Obsorne ('18) observed assessments with children who have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities during her internship at the Developmental Neuropsychology Clinic, she became more invested in pursuing doctoral-level education that will allow her to evaluate similar clients during her career.

Many FE students remark on how accruing actual clinical exposure to children affected by mental health conditions has helped them develop a more nuanced understanding of the myriad ways at-risk children fail to get identified and/or matched with appropriate services; consequently, they become quite motivated to find innovative ways to address the current systems' short-comings. FE gives these curious, determined students a jump-start on their careers and also helps to develop a talented next generation of youth mental health care professionals.