Have you ever had an intern?
If not, I know you remember being one. Well, now is the time when the applications start rolling in.
I remember so clearly my intern experience. There was so much I didn’t know and I had this sincere desire to really do a good job. I am grateful for those that shaped my professional development early on. See my other blog, Let The Ink Dry, for a bit more perspective.
Being a field instructor provides each of us an opportunity to pay it forward. If you are new to being an instructor, or just want to step up your game with regards to guiding interns, here are a few considerations:
1. Start by getting clear about your intentions. Be thoughtful about what you want them to gain from the experience. Ask yourself…
What knowledge and skills do I want my interns to walk away with?
What kind of students stand to benefit the most from being in my setting?
What kind of time and energy can I realistically and consistently provide to support their process?
The more thoughtful you are from the beginning the better able you are to structure the internship in a way that works for both you and the student. When they reflect back, what would you want them to say about their time learning from you? This is your chance to shape the future of our field.
2. Make it your mission to provide clinical experience that gets interns out of the books and into the real world. Immerse your students in their practicum early on and prepare them to engage in session. For very green interns try role playing to build confidence. Having trouble finding clients for your interns? Try partnering with a local pro-bono program.
3. Expose them to the day to day realities of your role. This provides them a real perspective of what work in our field will be like. For me, that means exposing them to the business side of private practice. I love having interns shadow me as I train, teach, and supervise. It gives them access to a point-of-view not often explored in internships.
4. Give your interns a head start in career mapping. Provide a broad view of the options that are available in our field, emphasizing the importance of discovering and connecting with their passion. Encourage your students to identify their strengths and explore the way they will make unique contributions to the field.
5. Encourage them to commit to a “no burnout” philosophy in all of their professional choices Promote self-awareness and illustrate the value of purposeful decision-making. Professional choices should resonate with a student’s values, personality and plan for their career. Ultimately, interns are best served when we can help them determine where they fit in our field and how to make the choices along the way to get there.
6. Aim to engender a love for the field and a desire to show up with excellence, integrity, and compassion. Doing so means that we bring our best to the field, taking personal responsibility for creating maximum positive impact. Lead by example. Be a living example that when we show up with excellence and professionalism, we shape public perception and the future of our field.
7. Emphasize character development. Behavioral health can be messy, dynamic work that challenges us on so many levels. We learn boundaries and how to channel our compassion into healthy helping. We challenge our values until we become proficient experts in the art of being without judgment. Help interns embrace the process of personal growth, they will need it to be their best.
8. We don’t turn widgets we change lives! Clinical work forces us learn to peacefully sit with the fresh emotional pain of our clients. We are given the responsibility of creating a quiet space for our clients to emote, process, and reflect. We get the privilege of being there as our clients take on healthier perspectives and develop wisdom and insight. Our ability to do this all starts with our learning experience as interns. So if you’re considering taking on an intern or two, remember that, and truly commit yourself to their long-term success.
Are you considering working with an intern? What are your concerns or fears? Have you had previous experience working with budding professionals? Share your experience. Comment below or continue the conversation on Facebook.