For Saniya Maka and Areana Amin, 2 high school seniors from Dozier-Libbey Medical High School in Antioch, observing Kaiser Permanente mental health therapists this past summer widened their view of possible careers in mental health care.
Maka and Amin were summer interns through Kaiser Permanente’s KP Launch program, which offers young adults paid internships at its Oakland headquarters and medical offices across Northern California.
The program introduces high school and college students who have been historically underrepresented in the health care workforce to careers in health care. This past summer, 278 interns took part in the program now celebrating its 54th year.
Five students from Dozier-Libbey, including Maka and Amin, participated in a KP Launch pilot program at Kaiser Permanente Antioch that focused on careers in mental health. It was created to help high school students understand the opportunities available to them in the field of mental health and give them the chance to observe first-hand what it is like to be a therapist.
“We’re working to expand the pathways into mental health and increase the diversity of our mental health workforce,” said Kathryn Wetzler, PsyD, regional director of the Mental Health Residency Program for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. Dr. Wetzler oversees the master’s and doctorate-level mental health trainees within Kaiser Permanente who mentored and supervised the KP Launch interns.
“Your mental health shapes so many things about your life. I enjoy helping people. So, maybe being a therapist is what I want to do.” –Saniya Maka
The interns worked closely with their mentors and were exposed to what therapists do on a day-to-day basis. They observed their mentors in action, discussed treatment strategies to improve mental health, and they learned about the range of mental health services available within Kaiser Permanente. They also experienced the value of compassionate patient care as a Kaiser Permanente staff member.
“Your mental health shapes so many things about your life,” said Maka. “I enjoy helping people. So, maybe being a therapist is what I want to do.”
With a shortage of mental health care professionals around the country, Pam Ulmer, director of Operations and Strategy for Kaiser Permanente Northern California External and Community Affairs, said it’s important to talk to young people about the field.
“While their peers from more economically advantaged families get a lot of exposure to careers and pathways, our interns often do not,” said Ulmer. “That’s why we talk to them about the steps they need to take to move into these careers, including classes, and then we show them what it’s like to work in a clinical setting.”
Ulmer added that the relationship between the interns and the master’s and doctoral level mental health trainees made the experience unique.
For Amin, this internship was her first job in a professional environment, and her exposure to patient care sparked a significant interest in the mental health field.
“I’ve learned that mental health is a part of every aspect of the medical field,” said Amin. “This internship opened a lot of doors for me.”
Learn more about KP Launch.