I was really lucky that I had the internship experience that I did. Even though I struggled at times, I learned so much about myself as a person and as a therapist. I wish I had more resources available to me at that time so I could understand what internship was truly like. I’ve been reflecting on my internship recently and thinking about how I could have improved my experience with the mindset that I have now as a professional. Here are some things that I wish I knew before internship. Hopefully, this will help you have the best internship experience possible!
Spontaneity and Flexibility are Key
I cannot stress this one enough. As someone who tends more towards Type A than Type B, I always felt that I needed to write out exactly what I was going to say and do, and then follow that plan to a T. While it’s definitely important to have detailed session plans in school (how else are you going to learn?) what I came to realize is that people are totally unpredictable! Many times I would go into a session with a plan and find that they weren’t in the space I thought they would be, and had different needs. What I came to realize is that it’s more important to have the tools in your toolbox that you can pull out at any time. Tools can include songs, interventions, understanding how music can achieve certain goals, different chord progressions, etc. I felt that having a plan was CRUCIAL, but really I was just scared of it “falling apart”. Luckily, by taking that risk in internship you’re giving yourself and your clients an opportunity to explore how and why in a safe, controlled environment.
Money, Money, Money
If you have the ability and the means to save as much money as you can before internship, then DO IT! I wish I had been able to save more. I had thought about getting a part-time job on the weekends or weeknights, but between all the charting, practicing, clinical work and planning I could barely find time for self-care! If you were able to work during internship then I admire you, please tell me your secrets.
You also never know what could happen during that 6-month unpaid internship. I ended up taking a 3-month break, turning it into a 9-month internship experience. I definitely wasn’t planning on that. Keep in mind, because internship technically only counts as one credit, you won’t qualify for financial aid or student loans.
Learning in School is Different than Real Life
This one goes hand-in-hand with my first point. Real-life is so unpredictable, and nothing is every how your textbooks say it should. I was lucky that I had an opportunity to work with all different populations because I felt ready to handle whatever was thrown at me. When you get to do what you love day in, day out, you really begin to hone your craft. Internship really showed me how much of an influence we can have on someone’s journey. While this terrified me initially (to the point where I was scared to even do anything!) it made me understand that being as authentic and honest as I can in my sessions will always help others do the same.
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