Robyn Offenbach, AM '11
Robyn Offenbach, AM candidate ’11,a clinical student in the School of Social Service Administration’s Family Support Program, completed her second-year field placement in clinical and counseling services at UCAN, a Chicago agency that helps young people who are dealing with trauma. Her work at UCAN was focused in two areas. The first is UCAN’s 360° Model and the second area is individual therapy with clients who are either in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) system or are foster kids who have experienced violence. She was mentored by field instructor and SSA alumnus, Jacob Dancer, A.B. ’89, A.M. ’04. “Jacob encourages his interns to maintain an open-minded, friendly environment and to respect each coworker’s innovative therapeutic ideas,” says Robyn. “I also admire how Jacob utilized a strengths-based perspective in order to enhance clients’ emotional development.”
Through UCAN’s 360° Model, Robyn worked at Collins Academy High School and provided therapy to clients who have experienced trauma. Collins is one of six Chicago Public Schools that use the 360° Model – a range of services provided by UCAN clinicians who offer violence prevention and self-esteem workshops, individual and group mentorship programs, teacher training, and trauma and dropout intervention.
Robyn also provided clinical services through UCAN’s FamilyWorks program during home visits throughout Chicago’s south side neighborhood of Riverdale and its Altgeld-Murray Homes. FamilyWorks is an on-site case management program for Chicago Housing Authority residents that assesses, supports, and transitions families in their efforts to achieve economic and social self-sufficiency.
Through her field placement, Robyn created a griefsupport group for adolescent girls on Chicago’s west side who have experienced the loss of a family member. Robyn co-facilitated it with another intern from UCAN and incorporated different psychoeducational information for the girls along with art therapy, journaling, and other creative projects.
Robyn describes her field placement as a transformative experience. “I enjoyed my internship at UCAN immensely through my diverse experiences providing therapy for youth and families. I learned the importance of individualizing treatment based on my clients’ interests and needs, as I utilized psychodynamic, cognitive, and behavioral theories along with music and art therapy.” Most importantly she adds, “After hearing what seems like the most devastating stories, I learned to focus on the positive and see the beauty within each individual, no matter his or her circumstances.”
Robyn was prepared for her UCAN experience through a combination of her Core classes and her first-year field placement with Alternatives Inc., a youth and family agency located in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. There, she worked at Alternatives’ after-school hip-hop program called Connect Force, which provides tutoring and life skills lessons to participants who range in age from 8 to 18 years old.
The kids were given time to explore graffiti art, breakdancing, deejaying, and rapping as a means to escape from the violence in their neighborhoods and to explore the arts in a safe environment. They also learned about various academic subjects and life skills such as respecting people no matter their background, conflict resolution, and healthy lifestyle choices.
Through Alternatives’ “All Stars” program, Robyn also co-facilitated drug and alcohol prevention classes for 6th and 7th graders at the Chicago Mathematics and Science Academy – a Chicago Public School.
Robyn did her undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and majored in Psychology. She plans to eventually open a private practice. Robyn enjoyed taking lecturer Jeff Levy’s class Advanced Seminar on Violence and Trauma because “it was applicable to the population I worked with at my internship, and Jeff was recommended as an exceptional teacher. His reputation precedes him,” she says.
Robyn describes the class Social Intervention: Direct Practice, taught byDean and Mose & Sylvia Firestone Professor Neil Guterman, as a “valuable, hands-on class that was not only helpful in preparing me for my field placement, but also for my career.” Robyn appreciated how Dean Guterman “taught us how to conduct ourselves with clients and to ‘meet them where they’re at’ – and to be responsive and supportive of their needs. But most of all, he taught us how to be compassionate.”