Each year, our counseling psychology students spread out across the Greater Seattle Area—and in some cases, the world—to intern at a variety of organizations. It’s one of the first opportunities for students to step into their future vocation. We recently sat down with students who are interning this quarter to learn not only what it looks like to be an intern from a more practical standpoint, but also how their stories and experiences in the classroom prepared them to step into the role of counselor.

Here, Minjoo Bayers, a fourth-year counseling student, shares about her experience as a Mental Health Intern at Kentucky Refugee Ministries and the driving force behind her journey to the field of mental health.

What initially drew you to attend The Seattle School?

I had attended workshops and conferences from The Allender Center. These were life-changing for me and I wanted more.

How has the focus on theology as well as psychology impacted your studies?

I have always wanted to study theology, so I really enjoyed those classes. New Testament with Dr. Parker, Old Testament with Dr. Kang, and God & Persons (and others) with Dr. Stearns were deeply formative for me, not just as a practitioner, but as a human being on this Earth. The undoing of the bad theology I grew up with was important for my own personal freedom and is also important for my work with other Image Bearers. Having the combination of theology and psychology courses helped solidify my foundation as a future therapist who desires to sit with clients holding Love (attunement or unconditional positive regard or jeong or any other name) and Hope for them. Seeking out therapy is an endeavor full of hope because it is based on believing our future can be better. I think this is one of the things that makes me an “Allenderist” – that my foundation as a therapist is based on love and hope.

In what ways has your story shaped or inspired your work?

I learned from the intersection of my stories and my studies. I often found my story, my heart, my soul dissected open in the personal papers we wrote and in our Practicum I class (now appropriately called “listening labs”). It feels like something akin to a med student being asked to practice surgery on their own organs. Certainly, not everyone’s journey here has to be that painful, but I think it would be a lost opportunity if you walked away from The Seattle School without being deeply changed. I believe the personal story work aspect of my studies will make me a more impactful and understanding therapist.

What breaks your heart, and how are you informed by that kind of shattering?

Children and families separated and detained at the borders of our country breaks my heart. North Korean refugees who risk everything to escape their homes breaks my heart. Just a few miles north of my home country of South Korea, there are prison camps where people who should be my neighbors are treated inhumanely by their own government (although women in North Korean prison camps have been reported to get maternity leave unlike this country). I desire to keep working with refugees because it brings relief to my shattered soul.

Can you describe your current internship, including your title and daily activities?

I am a Mental Health Intern at Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM). KRM is a local resettlement agency providing many services for refugees whose new homes are in Louisville, Kentucky. In my position I mainly provide individual sessions for those who have been identified as having a need for therapy. With KRM I also have the opportunity to teach English to the preliterate elderly. I really enjoy my internship and I like that I am able to do therapy and teach language skills as well as collaborate and learn from my supervisor and other caseworkers at KRM.

Why did you choose to intern at Kentucky Refugee Ministries?

My mother-in-law had told me she heard about there being some North Korean refugees in Louisville. I googled around and found KRM. I was able to apply for their internship program online and they offered me a position.

a photo of a group of refugees at Kentucky Refugee MinistriesA group from Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

How has your time at The Seattle School prepared you for this internship?

The things that I unlearned and learned at The Seattle School about who I am, who God might be, freed me (at least in part) from the bondage of patriarchy, misogyny, white supremacy, and other bad theology. I have always been an empath, but it was a bit unbounded and chaotic. My time at The Seattle School taught me about boundaries and that it is okay to care for myself. Not only is it okay, but it is necessary to care for yourself in order to be able to care for others. I also use the giant portfolio from Psychopathology and what we learned in Ethics class to keep myself tethered and grounded.

What are your hopes, dreams, and desires as they relate to your future vocation?

I have this feeling that I have no idea how awesome my future is going to be. I want to keep volunteering at KRM after my internship is over. I hope that throughout my career I will be working with marginalized communities. I haven’t gotten to work with North Korean refugees yet (or with South Korean people), but I hope to. I have this dream of starting group therapy with an organization in California called Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), who rescues North Korean refugees.

Taught by Dr. Dwight Friesen, this elective online course invites participants to develop a practical spirituality for following Christ by loving God through loving their neighbors amidst COVID19.

“I believe that our field is one that puts out Love into the world.

I want to be a part of that—being a Love-monger.”

-Minjoo Bayers