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Practicum I Reflection Valerie N. Griffith Western Washington University


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Practicum was the beginning of my road to becoming a substance abuse counselor and I couldnt have been more excited to finally get to this stage. Before we were even forced to start looking, I was spending hours on the computer researching different organizations and learning what was out there. I sent a lot of emails and made many phone calls to potential placement sites in hopes of hearing back from them. At first, I didnt want to intern where everybody else was, I wanted my own experience. I found a place called Advanced Choices. Advanced Choices is a five minute walk from my apartment and they specialize in adolescent substance abuse. I couldnt have felt more fulfilled in that moment find such a perfect placement for me. Unfortunately, I never heard back from Advanced Choices. The other places I called and emailed either never got back to me or said they dont take on interns. At this point I was frustrated and felt as if I was not going to get the placement I have been looking forward to. Sweitzer and King (2011) state, it helps a great deal to keep your mind open to the way things really are, as opposed to the way you wish they were or thought they might be (The Successful Internship, 2011). After reading this, I had to reflect on why I came into the field of human services, which was to help adolescents with chemical dependency issues. I started to feel less frustrated and started to compile a strategy where I could go about doing this, just not directly. The internship fair was the beginning of me opening my mind to the different fields within human services. I visited a lot of the booths with an open mind. I was really drawn to Catholic Community Services and Cascade Middle School in Sedro Woolley. I set up informational interviews with each organization and was starting to feel like I was headed in the right direction. My first informational interview was at the Cascade Middle School in Sedro Woolley. I chose to have an informational interview there so that I could work with adolescents. I also want


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to start my own high school one day so this would be good insight on how schools work. I was prepared for the interview with questions and was excited to be wanted. The interview went great and I learned that I would be working with individual students and help them to get organized, make study plans, help them study, counsel them and just get to know them. It felt right to me. He also interviewed me to intern at the Evergreen Elementary School for another quarter. I, keeping an open mind, agreed to his proposition. At the elementary school, I will be tutoring the children for math and English, which are my two favorite subjects. I agreed to this internship as well because, I want to participate in Teach for America and this would be a great opportunity to see what age groups I would work better with. I also, just have the want to help children succeed in life. Im doing this internship next fall and winter quarters. Next, I had an informational interview at Catholic Community Services, or CCS. I was more nervous about this interview because this was closer to the goal of my career choice. I walked in and we started talking. My future supervisor was interested in my story and he seemed excited to have me as an intern. I felt really good. I told him that I wanted to work with adolescents and he mentioned that there were already two other people also interested. He said hell either stick me in the adolescent group or the womens group. He called me the next day and told me that he was going to stick me in the womens group. I was disappointed because all I wanted to do was work with adolescents in the chemical dependency field, and that shot was shut down. I was down a few days but then realized that I need to enjoy and learn from my experience, and hey I might even enjoy working with women more than adolescents. I then created a learning contract. According to Sweitzer and King (2011), the learning contract will clarify your role and responsibilities and will give you the opportunity to make sure that your work is meaningful to you and the site (The Successful Internship, 2011).


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After finding both of my placements for internship, I am feeling pretty good. I then went to meet with my instructor to talk about where I was and what I still needed to accomplish. She didnt seem too worried about me so the meeting went fine. After all my informational interviews and paperwork meeting with CCS, I still needed six hours of getting out into the community. Sweitzer and King (2011) found regardless of where you are interning and what profession you hope to enter, learning about the community is an important part of your personal, professional and civic development (The Successful Internship, 2011). As a new member of Whatcom County, I found it extremely important to get out and discover the community as well. I started off by attending a discussion panel which featured directors from different nonprofit organizations in our community. This was very informative on the structure of non- profits and how we as interns will fit into the scheme of things. Next, I attended the Vagina Memoirs. The Vagina Memoirs is a chance for women to get up to tell their personal stories. This experience was very entertaining and it fit perfectly with my internship placement. I also volunteered at The Max Higbee Center. Here, I got to interact with people who have developmental disabilities. This had nothing to do with my internship, but I wanted to get out and experience something different and get to know my community better. I really enjoyed The Max Higbee Center and would love to volunteer there again in the future. Now, as the quarter is coming to an end, I am confident in myself and am prepared for this crucial learning experience. Sweitzer and King (2011) describe the first stage of an internship as, the what- if? Stage because interns wonder about things (The Successful Internship, 2011). I am definitely in this stage. I am wondering if I made the right choice, if Im going to like it, if they are going to like me and if I will enjoy this field all together. These


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questions cant be answered until next quarter, but I am anticipating a memorable experience and hope to gain the knowledge and skills to be successful in human services.


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Sweitzer, F. H., & King, M. A. (2011). The successful internship; personal, professional, and civic development. Connecticut: Brook/Cole, Cengage Learning.