What does the intern think? Ever wonder what it is like to be an intern at Advantage Treatment Centers? We sat down with Tim, an intern at the Alamosa Colorado facility to ask him a few questions and get to know him better. Read below for Tim’s answers to many questions including what is the most fun part about his role at Advantage Treatment Centers.
Why did you decide to get into the field of therapy?
I have always enjoyed ‘being a therapist,’ no matter what else I was doing professionally. I’ve always made learning about and helping others a significant part of my life. Why?… I guess because I find people terribly interesting (no matter who they are or what they’re doing), and helping others makes me feel good. I’ve always had an extensive range of friends, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
What attracted you to ATC as your internship site?
It’s the coolest site going. I get to work with inpatient clients, which means I see them as a whole instead of just how they’re able to present themselves in a 50-minute session and needing to guess at the rest. There’s not even a 50-minute standard; I work with clients for whatever time meets the occasion. The clients have criminal records that are unfolding RIGHT NOW, which means they have a lot riding on THIS MOMENT. And that raises the stakes: clients at ATC aren’t afforded the luxury of being able to draw out change.
What has the largest challenge been for you personally during this process?
(1) There is an incredible amount to know, even outside the realm of mental health and substance use counseling. Clients are extremely limited in their ability to take care of worldly business while in the program, so staff members need the skill set to step in as competent liaisons.
(2) The size of group therapy sessions. I really enjoy leading group therapy, but the large group sizes make it feel more like a classroom… a classroom filled with the worst set of behaviorally-challenged 7th graders imaginable.
What skills do you feel you are developing through your field experience?
Understanding the limitations of what one person can do for another. I’m not a codependent person by any means, but I think we all have a strong inclination to step in and carry others’ burdens when we don’t think they’ll get stuff done on their own. But that savior mentality doesn’t hold much water here. For one thing, success in the program is almost equally attainable for all clients because they’re temporarily freed from most outside obligations, making program completion their sole responsibility. And secondly, the objectives of the program are artificial, and their only purpose is to make the clients healthier. It’s easy to see that “saving these clients” would really harm them on the outside.
How would you describe the work environment?
With fellow staff members: Friendly, caring, nurturing, and forgiving.
With clients, it varies. It can be rewarding, disappointing, and humbling.
The facility, the hours: Great. I like my office. And I appreciate the freedom the inpatient clientele provides. I can meet with clients based on my schedule, and they’re usually always happy to meet.
What specific skills or classes have you taken that best prepared you for your field experience?
There was a class called Pre-practicum that we had to take our first semester. The whole class was built around what were referred to as “fish bowls.” For those, two students would sit facing one another while surrounded by fellow students and a professor and have to perform therapy on one another. And the therapy was real!… it was us with our real issues. It was terrifying to share my personal stuff in front of others. And even worse knowing that stuff was being talked about by the staff afterward. But that class helped me better understand what I’d later be asking of my clients, and my right and role in doing so.
I majored in philosophy for my bachelor’s degree, and I’ve carried those lessons into almost everything I’ve done since. Being able to dive into and accept radically different worldviews is a skill. And it’s incredibly conducive to building connections with new clients.
What is the most fun part of your internship?
Serious answer: Witnessing clients change and knowing I played a small role.
What advice would you give to students looking to get the most out of their practicum/ internship?
Shop around. I shopped around for my practicum internship last year and my full internship this year, and it’s really paid off both times. I can say that with confidence because of the lackluster reports I hear from my classmates. No matter what someone’s ‘perfect site’ looks like, they’re much more likely to land an internship working there through investigation than they are through a first impression or preemptive offer from a current job.