Savannah Anderson spent her internship at Oxbow Academy where she worked closely with teenagers. While social work is emotionally and physically taxing, Savannah learned a few life lessons from this experience to help her cope with the stresses.
What was your experience like?
This month I performed individual sessions with and without another therapist present. I worked with boys on exploring further concerns that are not always able to be addressed during the first phase of treatment. I have been leading a DBT group and co-facilitating process group. I have seen a lot of progress in the boys ability to keep attention and to internalize what I've been teaching.
Additionally, I have, myself, become more creative in facilitating a group with adolescents, as I can only imagine how different this is than doing so with adults. I have been actively involved in activities outside of the therapy room including athletics, card games, music interventions, and a few other activities. I have seen a lot of success and a lot of trial and error. I was able to participate in a recreational therapy excursion and I saw two boys who were plummeting to Oxbow exile pull their stuff together and make great progress, developing insight and building positive relationships with peers. Unfortunately, those two boys have bounced right back in to old habits and we (the team and I) are trying to determine another approach that will reach them on a similar level.
What was the most useful thing you learned from this experience?
One thing that I've learned is extremely beneficial in my rapport with these adolescent boys, and surely with other populations, is the importance of mutually agreed-on desired outcomes. In the sessions I have came in guns a blazing, ready to work on the "next step" in the process and paid little attention to where the boy is at, less positive outcomes occur. On the flip side, the sessions where I come in with less plans, more open, are the sessions that really seem to help the boys take flight. One common occurrence in those "take flight" sessions is the involvement the boys have in their treatment. When they are granted options of what they can do, they become their own boss. They hold themselves accountable, rather than me having to do it all the time. In times where it's needed, I also can step in to aid in refocusing on the ultimate goal (to graduate the program), but it goes so much better when their desired outcomes come from within, rather than from me. I cannot do the work for the boys, they have to do it for themselves. And the best way to do this, so it seems, is to provide a menu of options and find common ground with their goals and the goals of treatment.
What skills have you acquired from this experience?
I've experienced a few challenges in my internship. For one, I have been finding it extremely difficult to not take work home. If my work day is stressful due to one of the boys not getting to where they need to be in therapy, or acting out on the residential level, I tend to take longer than the hour long car ride back home to process the events and move on. I recognize these are not my issues and I need to separate, but it's becoming more and more difficult as this job wears on me. I think what is occurring is a natural part of the social work field, however, I know it's not healthy for me to mull over work in my evenings with friends and family.
One step that I've taken to resolve this concern and rejuvenate myself is listening to church music and uplifting, spiritual songs on my drives, as well as playing it when I get home if needed. I also have tried to plug in a nice 30 minute nap on the days I just need to detach from my thoughts and start fresh.
Another challenge I've experienced is some drama between coworkers. It's not my drama and I make it a point to leave the situation, but one therapist in particular pushes a lot of buttons in the workplace and it's her way or the highway. This causes additional stress as the clashing of opinions is very evident and hostility is displayed full force. Prior to this week, I just let these incidences slide and thought, "Maybe this is a normal thing for this work environment," which was making me less eager to be here. However, something that has helped this past week has been realizing it's a one person kind of a thing rather than a whole company sort of thing. I have attributed incidents to this one therapist and haven't internalized it and connected my discomfort to the company in its entirety.
Working with the adolescent population, you are in constant motivational interviewing mode. My understanding of this modality helped me vastly when working in my internship. I also believe that the rigor of the program helped prepare me for the rigor in my internship. Things aren't always clearly laid out for you and you have to be a problem solver.
Would you recommend this experience to other students?
YES! This has been an exceptional internship because I have double the supervision as most internships and I am looked at as another therapist and a vital member of the team. They have full trust in me and I am not babied. What you get out of this internship is what you put in to it because you have essentially unlimited resources at your fingertips.