Over the course of her chaplaincy internship at The Menninger Clinic, Lacey Brunner, LCDC, LPC-A, LMFT-A, covered all the bases — and more — of providing spiritual care to people. She led support groups, counseled patients, conducted chapel services across faiths and delved into spiritual struggles individuals face. When Lacey emerged from her all-immersive training experience, she had a much better understanding of how to support people living with mental illness, both in a hospital setting and in the world at large.
“In addition to understanding spiritual struggles, I am more proficient in recognizing anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, personality disorders, mood disorders, and suicidal ideation (thinking),” Lacey says. “I can also help patients discern what hurdles they are facing and assist them in getting to a place of hope and healing. I cannot imagine a better opportunity than the one I have had with Menninger’s chaplaincy department.”

Partnering with Texas Methodist Foundation

In January, the Texas Methodist Foundation granted Menninger $15,000 to support the chaplaincy internship program and interns like Lacey. The internship offers a semester-long experience tailored for students pursuing ministry-related degrees and considering chaplaincy as a career.
Throughout the internship, chaplaincy trainees work with interdisciplinary teams to provide spiritual care to patients and families. This hands-on experience sharpens their abilities and strengthens their individual belief systems for a career in professional chaplaincy.
dsc0145The Texas Methodist Foundation’s grant also enables a modest stipend for interns, offsetting living expenses. The stipend “demonstrates to interns how invested we are in their training, and in the quality of our programs here,” says Menninger Chaplain Salvador Del Mundo, Jr, pictured right with Lacey.
Del Mundo adds that in the face of rising mental health challenges, chaplains play a crucial part in health care teams, providing comfort and hope in crisis. A 2019 survey found that 21% of Americans had interacted with chaplains, often in health care settings. The visibility of chaplains increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as they aided patients and families. Supporting chaplain internships, like Menninger's, ensures more chaplains can provide spiritual assistance in our communities.

A Lasting Impact

Lacey thrived as a Menninger chaplaincy intern, earning praise from both staff and patients for her warmth and professionalism, while developing the skills and compassion to provide quality care to individuals with complex mental health needs. Along the way, she acquired licenses as a professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, and chemical dependency counselor. Together these experiences helped Lacey develop into a well-rounded mental health professional, and a valuable member of the chaplaincy team. Lacey concluded her internship in June, poised to continue her contributions to the mental health field. She has started working at a private practice in the Memorial area, and says she looks forward to using the skills she learned at Menninger in the chaplaincy department. 
With the Texas Methodist Foundation as our partner, we look forward to welcoming another dedicated intern, like Lacey, in the upcoming months.