How Do I Really Know?

January 18, 2009

As a component of my social work grad program, I have the requirement of logging 720 hours at a professional internship on MWF and then attending classes on T&Th. There are some details of the internship that include needing to have a supervisor that has a certain level degree and experience, somewhat intensive regular review and supervision, as well as work with individual clients and groups. The traditional way in doing this is to have an internship for the whole nine months of the school year. The benefits of this allows the intern to see a client potentially the whole way through their service as well as see projects, grants, groups go from planning to termination.

I was at an agency this fall that ran support groups for families who had lost a spouse/parent or a child/sibling. We broke the families down into age groups of the children and then types of loss for the adults. While the services provided by the agency (which I don’t feel comfortable naming) are really amazing, the integrity of the agency is quite low. The director was very aggressive and hostile and had a hard time keeping staff. The woman who was my supervisor, and who quit while I was there, was the fourth person in that position in three years. Without listing all of the multitude of other weaknesses of the agency and internship, I swallowed hard and stood up for myself and acknowledged it wasn’t a good learning environment and decided to be done at semester.

While I am really proud of myself for taking ownership of my experience, I unfortunately am having to put myself back into the interview process. Although Chicago is large, internships get quite competitive with there being twelve professional social work schools in and around the city. To make it even more difficult on myself, I am looking in the middle of the school year for a placement that is normally set for nine months.

Over the past couple of weeks myself and the internship coordinator at Loyola have been placing a multitude of calls and sending emails trying to find an agency that would take me for a shorter placement yet would provide a true educational experience.

The process has been more overwhelming than I anticipated. Making the calls and going on the interviews haven’t been horrible, it’s more the realization that this internship will be my last concrete learning opportunity before I am supposedly qualified to be a legit MSW therapist. As new openings present themselves and new calls need to be made, the internship coordinator will ask, “How does this one sound?” or “Does this seem interesting?”. Good and Yes!

The beauty and curse of social work is that it includes everything! I am a very new social worker and while I keep saying I want to work with families on behalf of the children, I find myself wondering if this really is true. I have had to choose a specialization in my program and I chose Child and Family but I sit here wondering if I have a secret passion in Mental Health or what if I was supposed to go into schools? Should I have learned Spanish and work in immigration? Would my skills better suit me in medical social work?

I am working hard at staying calm and take each interview and connection as they come. I have to remember that I am a very young 24 year old and that I will have hopefully many opportunities before my long career is over. One thing that is nice about going into a licensed career is that I will have continuing ed requirement throughout my career. Who knows, someday I could pull a 180 and do something completely different.

Keep your fingers crossed for me that I can get all this internship stuff sorted out and that I can find a place that is perfect for me.

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