From the moment I started seeing clients, my internship experience accelerated from 0 to 60 faster than I can say "self-care." Between learning agency norms, to deciphering Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) acronyms, to absorbing how to document clinical sessions (writing progress notes), to staying present in 8 hour trainings, I feel as though I'm in a constant state of playing catch-up. Someone important to me recently made an analogy that, in several ways, captures how I feel on a day-to-day basis at my internship. In describing his own experience at a new and very demanding job, he said that, "It often feels like I"m drinking from a fire hose." I too, feel as though information is gushing my way at a tremendous speed. Part of me questions how viable it is for an intern, who only works 20 hours a week, is supposed to absorb all the non-clinical information, all while trying to deliver mental health therapy sessions to a caseload of 7-10 clients?
Despite feeling behind most days, working in a CMH setting is tremendously fulfilling and has validated my decision to transition from the corporate sector to the humanity sector. On the not so great days, I always remember what a privilege it is to provide services to struggling individuals. And while the business of relationships is exhausting, it certainly is worthwhile.
Because I am a big fan of lists, below is a brief list of the great, and not so great things about interning in CMH.
Not So Great:
- The ungodly amount of paperwork
- Frequent client cancellations
- Shortage/lack of resources (includes offices to conduct therapy sessions, office supplies, broken bathrooms, etc.)
- Being at the mercy of the Department of Mental Health
- Shortage of trained translation staff
- Clinically fascinating cases
- Tremendous support from other agency employees (psychiatrists, nurses, other therapists, interns, directors, coordinators, administrative staff, etc.)
- Client diversity (culture, religion, diagnosis, family dynamics, immigration status, etc.)
- Number of hours of supervision (5 hours/week or 25% of my time is spent in supervision!)
- Ongoing learning opportunities (primarily through continuing education seminars and group supervision)