I went into both my first-year and my second-year internships SUPER nervous. I felt like I didn’t know anything.
Every organization is different and each supervisor is different. Beyond that variability, it is also clear that each intern prefers different things. Some prefer to be thrown-in and learn-as-you-go, while others like more guidance.
Still, I learned to try my best, ask questions, and seek out different perspectives.
What I wish I knew
Be nice to everyone. Introduce yourself to others, even if they are not your immediate team member. If you work in a school, learn the office staff’s names. Make conversation when appropriate. Be kind, and help where you can. The social work world is small. Let people learn your name!
Trust your gut, but be eager to learn. (Try your best.) There are many right ways to do something. But even when you feel like you know what you’re doing, check in with your clients to see how they’re feeling. Just in case it’s not working for them.
Consult and ask questions. There will be times when the best thing you can do is to consult. Maybe you need to call DCFS and ask for a consult, maybe you find the nearest supervisor or hired social worker. Be confident in what you think, but do not be afraid to consult when you’re not sure (ie ethical issues).
Look for outside trainings. There are trainings and other informational resources available, some free and some not. Think: TF-CBT training or maybe your school gives you access to something like psychotherapy.net. Not only can you put certain trainings on your resume, but they will provide you with many different ideas to use with clients.
Self-reflection will be key. Sometimes, you will have a colleague use a tone you don’t like or someone will say something that might offend you. Remember that the other person has their own perspective, and you can always be careful with your words.
You’re expected to be learning. I can’t speak for all supervisors, but I have spoken with a few different supervisors. In my experience, they have said that they are ready to teach their interns and answer questions, even when their style is to quickly put interns to work. (There is value in that style!)
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