Student Spotlight: CaRynn Harris

April 4, 2024

Tell us about yourself.

My name is CaRynn, and I am a clinical MSW student graduating in Spring 2024. I am originally from Idaho where I got my bachelor’s degree in humanities. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, photography, cooking or baking, and painting.


Why did you choose to get your Masters of Social Work (MSW) at Michigan State University (MSU)?

Prior to starting at MSU, I had many experiences working with vulnerable populations, and I quickly understood the importance of trauma-informed work and the difference it could make in someone’s life. When I was exploring MSW programs, I only applied to programs that had a trauma certificate as part of the program. MSU was one of those programs. I also simultaneously was applying for graduate assistantship(GA)  positions in order to pay for school. I was accepted for the MSW program and offered a GA as Assistant Community Director for Residence Education & Housing Services.  I am so happy I chose Michigan State University.


What have been the highlights of completing the Evidence Based Trauma Treatment Certificate as part of your degree?

The classes I took as part of the trauma certificate were the most directly applicable and interesting classes that I took in this program. As social workers, we work with clients who very often have a history of trauma, and I think it is essential to be able to identify trauma reactions and be able to help client’s work through trauma using evidence-based methods. I know I want to do therapy with children in the future, so learning Trauma Focused - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) so early in my career has enabled me to help my clients more effectively. The resources I have received as a part of this certificate and the incredible support network I have created as part of this certificate will contribute to my future success.


What has your experience been like learning Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)?

I have seen the effectiveness of TF-CBT as I have used it with children with significate trauma symptoms at my field placement. Their trauma assessment scores have decreased as I have implemented the model. I like that this model provides a research backed approach for helping children while also allowing you to customize the intervention to your client’s specific needs.


Where is your field placement and what was your experience like there?

My field placement is at LACASA in Howell, MI where I am  implementing TF-CBT with children and adolescents who have experiences of domestic violence, child abuse, and/or sexual violence. I am there 15-20 hours a week and have a caseload of 7 children ages 4-18. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had in my fieldwork to gain experience with challenging cases with access to supportive supervisors and colleagues when needed.


What other opportunities have you had as a result of being a part of the MSW program at MSU?

During my final year I applied to be a Research Scholar with the School of Social Work and College of Social Science.  Through this opportunity I have been able to engage in applied research projects for the MSU Trauma Services and Training Network (TSTN) under the mentorship of a social work faculty. I have been able to work with the TSTN Steering Committee and participate in the Learning Community and contribute to work that is using an evidence-based model, Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR), to support the MSU community following the mass shooting. This work has included creating a number of resources related to SPR for the MSU community.


If you could offer advice to someone entering the MSW program at MSU, what would you tell them?

Reach for the stars. It can be scary entering the mental health world as a student, but every opportunity is going to provide you with valuable learning experiences. Take every chance to challenge yourself and advocate for the education and experience that you deserve.