headshot of Amy Aranda, The Empowerment Center's intern from the University of Nevada Reno School of Social Work

Our Partnership with the UNR School of Social Work

The Empowerment Center is proud to partner with the University of Nevada Reno (UNR) School of Social Work’s Field Education program. Since 2022, we’ve been working with interns pursuing both Masters and Bachelors degrees. Each student is given a list of local organizations to choose from and applies for positions matching their values and interests. This past semester, we’ve been grateful for Amy Aranda’s and Brianna Bedient’s help as they’ve completed their internships with us.

We love our social work interns. They work so hard and the women we serve really benefit from having them here,” says TEC Executive Director Roxanne DeCarlo. “It is always sad when the semester is over, but I know they are moving on to greater things. Thank you UNR for a great 2023! We look forward to another year working with you.”

Amy Aranda headshot

Meet Amy Aranda

Amy is in UNR’s online Masters Program. Her background is in healthcare – she has an MBA in healthcare management and has worked in billing and administration at several facilities. She’s currently in utilization review at an eating disorder treatment center, submitting clinical information to insurance companies to get the necessary level of care authorized, for regular outpatient, intensive outpatient, and partial hospitalization programs. Aranda’s “slowly been switching to the more clinical side of working directly with clients and patients,” which has motivated her to earn a Masters in Social Work.

Amy has a history of substance abuse in her family and her passion for working with people struggling with addiction stems from there. She “thinks the cross between eating disorders and substance abuse is very similar, except you can’t stop eating. There’s no abstinence from that drug of choice so treatment is a little bit different.” Yet, she explains, “the two disorders are often connected.” When someone stops using a substance, they can have a transfer addiction that leads to an eating disorder, their substance of choice may have been related to wanting to be thin, or they may struggle with weight gain while recovering from addiction.

In her internship, Aranda works about 16 hours a week for The Empowerment Center. She works with Karen McKinney, TEC’s Mental Health Counselor, on social work competencies, groups, treatment plans, and interventions. Amy created and implemented a needs assessment survey to help TEC staff gain insights into how their program is going. And, she helps advocate for clients at medical appointments. Also – bringing her experience working with Eating Disorder Recovery to TEC, she’s been teaching nutrition, mindful movement, and even Zumba classes!

From her work at The Empowerment Center, Amy now knows she definitely “wants to work with this population and continue working with people who are in recovery from substances, tying that together with my eating disorder, nutrition, movement knowledge, and all of that in the future.” She’s learned a lot, had a great experience working with clients and staff, and “looks forward to meeting and inspiring new ones as they come in on their journeys.” She plans to continue to volunteer and help out at TEC. Says Karen, “I really enjoyed supervising Amy and watching her build rapport with clients while implementing case management and leading a Zumba group.”

sarah verdugo in nature facing sideways with sun in background

Meet Brianna Bedient

Brianna Bedient is a senior in her UNR Bachelors program, a Social Work major, and in recovery from Substance Use Disorder. She came to TEC as an intern with a huge leg-up in understanding of our organization. After all, she’s an Empowerment Center graduate herself! She completed our program in 2017, after her release from prison.

“From a client’s perspective, The Empowerment Center helped me build a foundation for my recovery. Everyone who worked here was very supportive and very welcoming,” Brianna explains. Her experience at The Empowerment Center inspired her to find a career where she could use her experience to help others seeking recovery from addiction.  After she completes her Bachelors, she plans to earn her Masters in Social Work before attending medical school to study psychiatry.

As an intern, Bedient is observing and facilitating group therapy sessions in topics ranging from relapse prevention to CBT, attachment styles, healthy choices, coping strategies, and conflict resolution. She’s also available to help answer client questions. Her favorite part “is when clients are excited about a group that I do” because she understands the difficult position they’re in firsthand.

Through her work, Brianna has realized how much goes into planning and facilitating successful groups. She notes, “I think this internship is a great opportunity for experience! I appreciate that The Empowerment Center gives you a bit of autonomy in what you want to do.” When Brianna’s had ideas for groups she’d like to plan, she’s run them by Karen, then worked alongside Karen to develop them further, before facilitating them. Brianna has learned a lot from her coursework, and has enjoyed the opportunity to implement her knowledge through in internship and see its impact on women in recovery at TEC. She looks forward to continuing to intern at TEC in her Winter 2024 semester.

“Substance abuse treatment is Brianna’s chosen population,” Karen notes. “It was fun to watch her work autonomously with clients. By the end of her internship, she had built rapport with many clients and was even facilitating fun groups, like jeopardy!”