Finding the Right Fit for Field Placement
The most rewarding, yet challenging, experience in the MSW curriculum is the practicum. Initially, I was concerned about finding an internship that met the requirements and fit into my schedule. Especially since there is not a large Hispanic population where I live. I researched online and began calling different agencies to see if they would take an intern and met the basic requirements of the program. I also networked among acquaintances and coworkers in hopes of finding the ideal agency. At first I didn't get any good leads or responses, but didn’t give up.
Fortunately, OLLU has dedicated Field Education Specialists to help students find the right placement. By using the established agency list provided to me by OLLU, I was able to identify an agency within a decent distance. Even though I didn't need to submit the paperwork for four more months, I didn’t wait to talk to the director. Not procrastinating paid off. I spent the next few months stress free while finalizing the practicum with the school and agency. If I had waited until the month before the deadline, it would have been near impossible to do all the legwork of finding the ideal internship.
Even though searching for an internship was stressful, my field experience has been very rewarding. I run group therapy almost every day and am also doing individual counseling. The principles taught in the courses leading up to field placement are very applicable. The classes helped build the necessary foundation for working with individuals, families, and communities. I use the skills that I learned in class with the clients that I work with.
One experience I have had at my internship involves individual counseling. I was nervous and felt inadequate to do individual counseling having never done it before. I talked about these fears with my supervisor. Her main advice was “start where the client is.” I did just that and individual counseling isn't scary like I thought it would be.
Also, I have learned to start where the client is in each and every meeting, not just the first time. Just recently I had a client come into my office early to talk about a serious investment decision he was considering. I wanted to teach him a principle, but if I had then his main concern would have been ignored. I wouldn’t have been able to help out with his worries. I waited until the end of the session when he didn’t have any further concerns to teach the principle. This helped to establish rapport and the client-worker relationship.
The field practicum is challenging to do along with a full-time job, but I am learning and applying social work theories and principles and becoming a constant learner. It has been well-worth the effort.