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Should you stay or should you go?

April brings showers, visions of spring, and the beginning of the end of your field year experience. What are the benefits to staying or saying good bye? Here are some things to consider as you begin the process of winding down your field experience.

“Should I stay or should I go…” ~ The Clash

Termination
Go: While it may seem counterintuitive to begin with the end in mind, this is precisely what fieldwork students should be thinking. A large part of the learning process during the internship experience is learning how to terminate with your clients. Clients will (and should) move on. Knowing how to say goodbye and prepare them for either your departure is just as important as the very first session.

Stay: Even if you decide to stay, termination is one of those phases of treatment that is inevitable and unavoidable. Stay tuned for tips on how to terminate with clients.

New Faces, New Spaces
Go: Experience a different environment, coworkers, supervisors, client population. Building and growing your skill set is an important part of your career. You can use the end of your internship to explore a different side of yourself while practicing and enhancing your skills as a counselor.

Stay: If you decide to stay, be sure to make clear your new role as a professional. Perhaps there are new responsibilities you can add or change so that you are not continuing in the same role that you were in as an intern.

Taking Time Off
Go: If you’re graduating and completing internship concurrently, it might be a good time to take a much needed break. Processing doesn’t stop just because there’s no professor after you for that reflection journal. Taking a break allows you to process your whole experience and the experience of being a graduate. Journal, dream, meet and greet other professionals. You can still be productive in your career outside of the office.

Stay: If you decide to stay, be sure that you’re building in self-care and discuss new work schedule options with your agency.

“If I go there will be trouble…”

Staying On

They love you and they want you to stay. Congratulations! Use the “Stay” strategies above to really define yourself as a professional counselor in your new role. Seek opportunities to grow within your position. You’re in a prime position to help new interns acclimate to the fieldwork experience. Utilize your skills, share what you know, and please do not forget to schedule your first vacation!

“If I stay there will be double…”

Saying Goodbye

Remember to always give a clear ending date and remind your supervisors and colleagues at least two weeks before you end. Treat it like a job, put in your notice and make time to wrap up loose ends before you depart. Maintain the partnership once the internship comes to an end. Connect on your social media and professional networks. YOu can stay up to date with them and they with you. As you job hunt, they may even endorse some of your skills. It never hurts.

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When the going gets tough…what can you do?

We’ve all experienced it. It’s that moment after the adrenaline of beginning your internship has worn off, the novelty of your coworkers and fellow interns is becoming rote, and your readings and papers for school are creeping up fast and furiously. Some of you may also hold a part-time or full-time job while juggling school and the internship. Your rose-colored glasses get darker and suddenly, you can’t remember the last time you smiled, laughed or ate something. Welcome to the Dark Days.

I only mildly exaggerate but there will come a point in time when things feel completely overwhelming. I wish there were a salve to rid us all of these days but this post exists to remind you that a) it’s normal and b) make time for self-care.

If you’re in the middle of it now, you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, what does she know? Trust me, I know! I was a full-time professional and student with a caseload of clients that demanded an immense amount of time and energy…I know what it feels like to not have the time to breathe. I also know that when you are experiencing exhaustion and the first signs of burnout, not only are you not doing any good for yourself but your work in the field may also suffer. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of self-care. It’s not just a concept in your textbook; it’s an important aspect of your development as a professional.

Self-care doesn’t always mean a two week stay at a beach resort with a Bahama-Mama at your side (though it sounds great!). It could mean taking 30 minutes in your day to do something for you. Stretch, journal, watch an episode of a funny show. Engage in anything that helps you reconnect to you and your interests outside of the counseling realm. (For more ideas, see this post featuring Shawn Achor)

Lastly, for those of us based in NY and surrounding states, Sandy has disrupted many of our lives. There are a number of resources available to help you and your clients address stress and trauma related to the storm.


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Work the Cube: multidimensional cultural competency

I am looking at you,
You at him,
Kabir asks, how to solve
This puzzle —
You, he and I?

Kabir
(Philosopher, 1440-1518)


 

I’m trying to write a post about my multicultural experience during my internship and I’m finding that I don’t know where to begin.  This is not surprising.  I think it’s fairly common “not to know where to begin” when dealing with these issues of culture, the -isms, and clients.

I walked into the agency armed with my Multiculturalism in Counseling Resources and an abstract understanding of what might take place in the room.  I also walked in feeling worried that I might say something silly, or worse yet, insulting.  I’d had many classes that provoked thought, required self-reflective journaling and processing, demanded experiential activities, and imbued the theories of identify formation and multicultural counseling competencies – but putting it all together in a new environment with real clients was something entirely more challenging.

The key thing I made myself remember during my internship was that it’s a learning experience.  As a mental health counseling intern, I was there to grow, to contribute, to practice the skills and begin to make the transition from theory to practice.  Becoming a culturally competent counselor follows a similar path.

A few weeks into the internship, I returned to the Cube (see below).   I’d had an array of clients at that point – many with cultural norms, religious beliefs, and race, class, and educational experiences that differed from my own.  The Cube served the same purposes then as it does for me now.

The Cube reminds me of the interlocking components that lead to the development of cultural competence.  Using the Cube, I can determine which component (skills, awareness, knowledge) I need to focus on, for which group, and at what level.  Working the Cube reminds me that acquiring cultural competency is an ongoing and proactive process.

So, while honing your interviewing skills, learning the fine art of identifying discrepancies and mastering interventions, take some time to Work the Cube and flex that cultural competency muscle.  As counseling goes global and our society continues to evolve (Counseling Today, Aug 2012) we need to be equipped to deal with with clients and colleagues from all walks of life.

A multidimensional model of developing cultural competence (Sue, 2001)

An edited version of this blog appears on CounselingInternships.com


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Track Your Time

Internship hours account for the bulk of the final year in a Counseling or Social Work program.  Most of us need to complete anywhere from 600 – 1500 hours of counseling hours, supervision, and indirect service (reports, paperwork, etc).  As if seeing clients, writing reports, finding your place at your agency, and finding an orientation that “fits” isn’t enough, your school will most likely ask you to turn in a break down of your time.  This type of paperwork can be time consuming and frustrating if you wait until the last minute to get it done.

I’m loving the TimetoTrack website which helps clinicians easily track hours and provides a handy printout sheet.  They also post a blog series that’s extremely useful to newbies in the field.  Check out their latest here: Internship Application Season has Begun!

If you decide not use their service (1 year costs $36.95 but they offer a free trial), you can choose the DIY approach.  Excel is extremely handy and you can personalize the columns and let the sheet do the tally.  Here’s a sample of what you can do: Hours_Blank  (If you like the template, feel free to email me and I’ll help you customize it).

Developing a quick and efficient system of tracking your internship hours will help

you when you are working towards your hours for your license.  Remember, you’re responsible for tracking those – not your job, supervisor, and certainly not the state!

Good luck!!


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Make the most of your internship experience

The process of finding an internship can be daunting.  Perhaps you had to find one on your own, or maybe you were assigned a site by your school.  In my case, I had to find my own internship and I needed it to coordinate with my full-time work hours.  Hard?  Yes!  Impossible?  Not at all.

Reflecting back on the internship experience brings me to this series of posts.  Check out tips on securing your internship, and once you’ve secured one, here are some ways that you can make the best of your experience.

Try It On: Internships are not just a degree requirement; they’re a great way to try on your new role as a Mental Health Counselor.  Convinced you want to work with adolescents?  Try it on for size in your internship.  Internship sites might have a defined role for you, but there’s no harm done in citing your interests.  Conversely, try challenging yourself by working with a population you are not familiar with.  Not only will you broaden your skill-set but working with a different population may open you up to new interests and aspirations.

Do the Prep: When I learned that I got the internship I wanted, the first thing I did was yelp with joy and relief.   Hooray, I get to counsel offenders.  Ummm…what does that mean exactly?  I trotted right on over to my school’s library and checked out a few books/ articles on exactly that subject.  Preparing is not about mastering a subject before you start it (and if you think you’ll master anything during your internship, think again!); instead it’s about coming to the table with a level of understanding that will ultimately help you better comprehend what you learn at your site and help you better facilitate conversations with the site’s staff and supervisor.  It also does a world of good in relieving the first client jitters.

Fill the Gaps: Want to make an impression?  Good interns follow the rules and do their work well.  Great interns do all of that and find ways to enhance the agency.  Are you good at organizing?  Maybe you can recommend a new filing system that will help staff and other interns do their work more effectively.  Or create a new orientation manual to help future interns begin their work at the agency.  Or create a library where articles and books are readily available for interns and staff.  Many of my fellow classmates started brand new groups and workshops for clients.  They recognized a gap, a need, and took initiative to create something new (I should also mention that many of those classmates were offered positions post-graduation.)

Ask Away: Wherever you are, don’t forget that you are there to learn.  What better way to learn than to ASK QUESTIONS.  Ask them of your supervisor, of your peers, and of the site staff.  As an intern, I was full of questions.  At least 30% of my supervision consisted of me rattling off a list I’d prepared.  What I found was that I started to get answers and a deeper understanding of the work of counseling.  I also found that other interns had the same questions (and those that are less vocal appreciate when their unasked question gets answered!)  Be fearless – ask away.

What are some ways other interns have enhanced their internship experience?

Stay tuned for more on the topic of internships…