The Family Institute at Northwestern University: Week One


With my first week completed at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, I step back to reflect upon my experience thus far. With the exception of a lengthy, traffic-packed commute, I now realize that I could not have been blessed with a better position, institution to work for, and co-workers with whom to share the experience. I am more excited than ever for the next seven weeks, and to soak in all the knowledge and adventure I can during my short stay in Evanston!

Overall, The Family Institute is a counseling and therapy center determined to help families through clinical service, research, and education. The Institute believes that the family is an important factor influencing all individuals, and thus treatment and counseling services should always include the familial system. The specific project on which I work is entitled the Depression, Anxiety, and Couples project. My mentor and the principal investigator of the project, Dr. Lynne Knobloch-Fedders, Ph.D., proposes the study of interpersonal interactions of couples in which one partner suffers from anxiety or depression in attempts to produce improved assessment and intervention models. Thus, my work this summer will include analysis of interpersonal interactions between a sample of these aforementioned couples.

My first day on the job was Monday June 9th, during which I and my fellow interns became acquainted with one another, the mission of The Family Institute, Northwestern’s campus, and our individual projects and responsibilities. Our orientation day began with ice-breaker activities allowing me to mingle with the other five students assigned to my project, as well as two other students working on another assignment. I was blown away to learn about the diversity of backgrounds, interests, and skills of the other students. Each one of us came from a different home university, all scattered around the United States. I am intrigued to investigate the multidisciplinary viewpoints and perspectives of my team throughout the next several weeks! Halfway through the day, The Institute provided a lunch for the interns, and also invited working counselors to come chat with us. The president of the institute even dropped in to welcome us to the team! The day concluded with a tour of Northwestern’s Evanston campus. We investigated the Norris Student Center, the Library, and even received Northwestern “Wildcards” to allow us access into certain academic buildings throughout the summer. I was amazed at the beauty of the campus, sitting right on the shore of Lake Michigan!

The real work began on the second day, beginning with training of video transcription. Throughout the day, I learned how to transcribe a sample couple’s interaction–including both verbal and nonverbal cues. I was taken aback at how lengthy the process of transcribing can be–it took me nearly seven hours to transcribe two, six-minute videos! I continued my transcribing assignments into Wednesday. Also, my schedule on Wednesday included an hour discussion with Dr. Lynne Knobloch-Fedders, about her own educational and career trajectory. I learned much about the process of applying for graduate school in clinical psychology, which I know will surely be of use in the future. Thursday included an organized lunch in downtown Evanston for all of the interns, and it was refreshing to be able to converse with the other students outside of a work environment. I’m hoping to build strong relationships with each and every one of them! Thursday afternoon I was trained in SASB coding–a particular coding system used to code the interpersonal conversations I had already learned how to transcribe. Finally, Friday concluded the week with Kappa training, and the entire day I was trained in how to compute the statistic Kappa–a value used to describe inter-rater reliability between two distinct SASB coders after they have completed the coding process.

I could not have fathomed a better internship for the Summer 2014. It’s difficult to think that the internship search process I began in December of 2013 has culminated in the experience of a lifetime. Although I can tell the work will be challenging, I am excited to grow personally and intellectually throughout the process. I look forward to the memories and knowledge to come, and I will be sure to update everyone on my latest advancements!


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