Building Therapeutic Relationships

Shayna Cole, an LICSW clinician at CHD’s Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic in Easthampton, said she went into social work to help people who are struggling to help themselves through difficult times. “I wanted to be a social worker to be a support for others while they make the changes to improve their lives,” she said. “On a larger scale, I wanted to do something meaningful without the sole purpose being to enrich those at the top.”

When Cole interned at our Easthampton clinic in 2020-2021 while earning her MSW at Springfield College, she said the experience was great preparation for her current role at CHD as because it introduced her to clinical work and all the pieces that are involved, including building therapeutic relationships, applying principles from different therapy models, and practicing healthy boundaries. “It was such a positive internship experience because of all the support I received,” said Cole. “Having the support of my direct supervisor, more experienced colleagues, and having various opportunities to consult with others on cases really made the steep learning curve much more manageable.”

She said that having direct contact with the individuals she served in her internship was invaluable, pointing out that there is no better experience than meeting such a variety of people who are dealing with a whole range of issues and learning how to individualize her approach to what they need. “Learning how to navigate the relationship with clients was much more complex than I originally thought, but with all the direct experience, I definitely got a chance to hone my style during my internship,” she said.

Her favorite part of her job is “when I see things start to ‘click’ for clients where they begin to recognize unhealthy patterns and start to treat themselves differently,” she said. In particular, Cole recalled one of the individuals she treated in therapy who had originally come into the clinic in crisis and had found it difficult to function in everyday life. “Now she’s applying to law school,” she said. “She made spectacular progress.”