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Maria Pissarra

I started my internship with Iguality in November 2023 and moved to Barcelona for the five-month internship. After familiarising myself with how Iguality works and the tools they use, with Vincent’s help, I had my first meetings with the rest of the team to get to know each other and plan our work together.

At the beginning of the internship, I was asked to write a personal development plan in which I identified goals that I wanted to achieve during my experience as a Clinical Psychology Intern at Iguality. In general, my goals were to gain more experience in providing counselling, gaining insights into working in an NGO, experiencing living outside my home country and gaining experience with awareness raising and advocacy.

On a day-to-day basis, I work partly remotely. I have fortnightly meetings with Vincent, where we discuss how the internship is going, sometimes update my personal development plan, and discuss future tasks. These meetings are very useful in guiding me through my journey, and the work I’m assigned is very flexible, depending on my availability.

Supervision by Alex, Luciana and Vincent | Picture by Iguality

At first, I was a little apprehensive about working remotely, as it was something I’d never done before and I didn’t like spending a lot of time alone or at home. However, I’ve learnt that I actually enjoy working alone sometimes, although it’s not compulsory. I often go to cafés or libraries to work, sometimes with friends who are doing their jobs, which helps me to be more productive. Another thing that has been very positive for me about working remotely is that the hours are very flexible, and it’s not compulsory to work fixed hours a day or to start and finish work at the same time every day. Funnily enough, I’m a very organised person who likes to have fixed hours and little changes to my schedule but I’ve also learnt to adapt to having different hours every day, which I think is very positive.

I also have fortnightly supervision sessions with Luciana, my clinical case supervisor. In these meetings, which are mostly face-to-face, I share the cases I’m working on and my doubts, so that she can help me to define a strategy and mode of clinical intervention. I’m also given some bibliography to read, which is great, and I’m also encouraged to read independently. So I’ve been able to read literature and learn a lot more about migrants and refugees.

Joining different events, including this music fundraiser | Picture by Beats for Relief

I’m currently following two cases, one in person and one online. The sessions are held weekly, so I have a session with each patient every week. After the session, I always fill in a summary form recording what happened in the session, indicating whether there were any safeguarding issues and writing a short description of the session, which all the volunteer therapists at Iguality also do.

As part of my internship, I also write a more detailed report for each session. In these reports (that are written without any names not to break confidentiality), I include a number of themes. I start by writing about the preparation and planning of the session, then I write about the development of the session in full, indicating whether there were any tasks to be completed by the patient, whether there were any assessment tools and what techniques were used. Finally, I reflect on how I felt during the session and on the development of the case, indicating my opinion and future approach.

Meeting with other Iguality team members | Picture by Iguality

In addition to the supervision meetings with Vincent and Luciana, Iguality also has monthly supervision meetings with the mental health team, where each volunteer therapist usually presents their case in order to get opinions and strategies from other psychologists. On the other hand, outside the Iguality context, I also attend Alex’s (co-coordinator of Iguality) weekly supervision meetings with ISEP students who also have Iguality patients.

In addition to the clinical context, I’ve also been involved in the communications work for Iguality. I have face-to-face meetings with Lucy at least once a month, where we brainstorm ideas for Instagram posts and then put them into practice. I’ve also been working on posts for the Iguality blog. So far, I have attended two events organised by other NGOs (I went to ACATHI’s 20th anniversary and Kudwa events). I’m also helping to create a Volunteer Guide, to help future Iguality volunteers. I also took part in a training course on LGBTQ+ and Diversity given by ACATHI. Finally, I also attend Iguality’s Monthly Comms, CSR & Fundraising meetings and I’ve also attended two meetings of the UNHCR mental health reference group.

The team dinner last January with the whole volunteer team | Picture by Iguality

As for my experience living outside my home country, although it’s challenging, I’m really enjoying it. The city of Barcelona is incredible and with so many international people living here, it’s relatively easy to meet new people and make friends. It’s a city where things are always happening and there’s never a shortage of new and fun plans to get to know more about and enjoy Barcelona. So far, I’ve really improved my Spanish and my ability to adapt to new situations.

So, in terms of regard to my personal development plan and my objectives at the beginning of the internship, I can say that so far they have all been met. I’ve learnt a lot and gained more experience as a clinical psychologist, I’ve gained experience in awareness raising and advocacy, I’ve learnt more about the context of working in an NGO every day and I’ve learnt more about myself and grow a lot as a person, while getting to know Barcelona and living in this amazing new city!

This post is written by Maria Pissarra

Maria is our psychology intern and offers counselling through Iguality, while working on awareness raising and other important pillars of our organisation.