Internships should be the time in our education/career to have new experiences. These experiences should make us uncomfortable so that we have the opportunity to fail with support and hopefully use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
I have to be honest, it was really hard to find something positive to write about. I was extremely disappointed in my 2nd-year internship. I felt opportunities for me to be challenged and pushed to experience something new were few and far between.
As most of you know, I have been working in this field since I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in 2015. I think since then, that internship had been one of my most challenging experiences.
See, the internship I did for my 2nd year was as a Mental Health Specialist working with youth facilitating day treatment groups and providing individual therapy to who needed it.
When I got this internship I was excited to have the opportunity to learn and grow my skills in providing individual therapy. Sadly, this was not the case. As many employment/internship opportunities in social services, I received NO training.
Don’t get me wrong. There were PROS that went with the CONS of my internship. I am thankful for the time I spent there and the things I was able to learn. I am thankful for my coworkers and the support I had throughout my internship and finishing my last year of Grad school.
The PROS and CONS of my internship
- Opportunity to do therapy
- Learned group facilitating skills
- Received experience working directly with youth
- Loving and supportive coworkers
- Enjoyed working with the kids
- Little to no training
- Did not receive any individual supervision or feedback about work performance
- Unhealthy work/life boundaries
- Toxic work environment created by supervisor
In supervision, provided outside of my internship, I spent a lot of time attempting to, productively, discuss how miserable my experience was. I discussed my disappointment in the lack of supervision and feedback from my supervisor.
I spent so much of that year talking to peers about how miserable I was and how I did not feel passionate about the work I was doing. I did not feel challenged or like I was growing in the position. All the ways I did feel I had improved and grown over that year were related to the work I was doing in school and outside supervision.
I had had numerous people tell me to “quit” and “find another job.” I keep telling everyone soon as I finish my internship I was out of there. But deep down I knew that I was not going to do that. I had a deep sense of loyalty to the kids and my other coworkers. I couldn’t get hired and once I achieved my goal of obtaining my Master’s Degree, I up and leave.
During my supervision, My MSW supervisor (provided by my university), had to continuously remind me that some jobs/internships are opportunities to understand what you do not want to do again. At this point I realized I had a decision to make. I could continue to complain or I could spend the rest of the year learning from my experiences.
But like most of us, I was not used to or comfortable with putting myself first. I keep thinking about what they were going to think and say about me. I keep asking myself “does this mean I am a failure.” I think about the kids that I have formed these bonds with. Those kids have all experienced severe trauma and the last thing they needed was another person abandoning them.
Then it hit me. Right in the middle of me giving my partner advice about making a career change from teaching. I was regurgitating what I have heard professors and other mental health professionals say so many times, “you’re replaceable.”
I was not so amazing that I was the only one capable of helping the kids I was working with. Yes, it was correct, that there would never be another Miss LaParis. But staying at an agency while I was burned out and miserable was not helping the kids.
If anything, I was taking away the opportunity for them to find another staff that would be a perfect fit for that agency. Someone who will be enthused about the work they were doing and will have the passion and capability to really help those kids.
What I learned during my MSW Internship
- You HAVE to take care of your mental health. The work we do is so important but it gets hard. We have to make sure we practice selfcare because burnout is REAL. Do the things you love, spend time with the people you love, go to therapy, etc.
- Sometimes you have to put yourself first. As said before, you have to take care of yourself before you take care of others. If your boss asks you to do something you’re uncomfortable with say no. If you hate the job leave.
- You can learn from unfavorable experiences. You might not like all parts of your job, your coworkers, your boss, etc. but do not let that ruin your whole job.
- It is important to surround yourself with a great community. Sometimes this job is hard.. but what makes it better is having people you can talk to. I love my social work and counselor friends. People to complain to about work and people to encourage me when I’m down on myself.
My internship was a very eye-opening year for me. Over the career, I have realized how correlated my mental health is to my being passionate about what I do. There will be plenty of jobs I get hired for that do not work out. I am grateful because that opportunity only makes the next time easier to do what is best for me.
I am glad that I had the support of my peers, professors, and MSW supervisor that helped me through that time. I did my best to learn from my experience and I will hopefully be able to use that information going forward in my social work career.
Please like & follow me on Pinterest