5 things I learned in my first semester of Practicum!

Updated: Jul 22, 2020


I hope you guys have had a great start to the new year and youre getting back into the swing of things. Im getting myself organized and trying to remove myself from vacation mode (im struggling, but hey who isn’t?).

If you guys recall, I mentioned im in school earning my Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. While ive been getting ready to transition back into school and internship mode, it caused me to reflect on my previous semester. Last semester was one of the most trying & stressful semesters ive had to this date. Between balancing photography sessions, classes with numerous projects and assignments, sorority duties, personal obligations, events and beginning my first semester of practicum, its safe to assume I was beat down. I had never been so tired and stressed in my life. However, within this time frame I certainly learned a lot. I actively made sure I was a sponge everyday. I asked questions, made mistakes, and unfortunately I sometimes even entertained false beliefs (FEAR). During this time, of self reflection I decided to share with you the top 5 things that I learned during my first semester of practicum.

1. Its ok to be scared shitless!

That honestly sums it up if im going to be honest. I had never worked in a hospital setting before, this was my first time with REAL clients, other than my peers, and not only that, they were KIDS! All the techniques and theories we had learned and practiced in classes were all just jibberish in my head on the first day. Its like everything I learned ran toward the nearest exit and said “see ya, good luck!”. Ive worked with kids all my life in various capacities like camp counselor and babysitter so I HAD experience but for some reason with this particular population ( children with severe behavioral disorders, mental illnesses, trauma, etc.) I felt extremely unfit for the job! (Woosah!). What I realized though, amongst all of these rushing thoughts, was that ITS OK! It was ok for me to be nervous, scared, anxious and even feeling like I wanted to turn around and race right out the door (Lol). All of those feelings were natural in an unfamiliar environment and they would eventually help me to be more curious and receptive to knowledge once I got my bearings. After all, I didn’t have experience with this population but I knew I was capabale and equipped to learn and be who God ultimately called me to be. Personally, I know he wouldn’t have brought me this far to leave me (and he didn’t!).

2. A reminder: Asking Questions Is Key!

Ive always been a pretty curious person. I find myself always inquiring about different topics, things going on in the world and what they mean so this wasn’t necessarily too hard for me. This is more so a reminder that asking those questions is GOOD! Obviously there is a time and place for certain questions and there are some things that aren’t appropriate to ask at all ( this may not be obvious lol- common sense isn’t always common). Gaining a better understanding of whats happening and how things will work is important when starting a new venture (especially for Type A personalities like me!). I always like to be clear on whats going on and how things will run, so I always make sure to ask if there is something I don’t know. Sometimes I do get nervous to ask certain questions because I don’t want to seem incompetent but personally I always try to preface my questions by saying, “Im not really sure if im understanding and this may sound silly but..” and then continue with the question. I believe that people respect honest inquiries as long as they are done tactfully and with curiosity vs. judgement. Ive become much more confident with question asking overall, silly or not because theyre so important when you need/want clarity.

3. Be Yourself-Death to Comparison!

At my site, I work alongside one of my classmates. While we get along relatively well and she is very sweet, I often times find myself comparing my habits at work to hers. If she gets off work earlier than me, if she was being more sociable with other staff, or even if she seemed to be putting in more work with clients, are just a few thoughts that I found myself having and beginning to even gauge my behavior off of. I really found myself subconsciously focusing on these things more than I should. It took a little practice, but I really had to intentionally stop myself from creating these types of thoughts in my head. I had to tell myself (and I often still do) that I was more than capable of doing the work that we do, I was there for a reason and that I should focus on and be confident in my abilities. Now yes, like I said, I do find it difficult sometimes to keep my thoughts from drifting back to comparisons, but overall I try to remind myself of my own abilities and that my progress depends on me and the great work I do and not someone else.

4. Be kind to everyone you meet!

At my internship site, I work with children and their families. When you think of children, often times you may think of innocence and light hearted, fun experiences and it’s only a small amount of the time where you think of children in terms of difficult situations that many adults go through. While that is the picture that many of us have, that picture changed a lot for me this past semester. My whole one sided idea of what a child “should” look like and behave like drastically reformed. Most of the children I work with have extreme circumstances that have negatively affected their lives and behavior and they are usually sent to us in a situation of great crisis. When I started meeting 5 & 6 year olds that were contemplating suicide or had severe deformities due to abuse and neglect, things got real. Many times, the problems these children face, ive always considered to be “adult problems” and I never imagined a child having such a burden on their life. While ive seen stories like these all the time on television, they are usually less frequent but at my internship we typically admit a new child everyday that has some sort of crisis situation that often times could have killed them. I say all of this to say, YOU HAVE NO IDEA, what people (yes, including children) are going through. Because of that, it is so important to treat everyone with the kindness that you would want to receive. While this wasn’t a new lesson to me, it definitely made me take a closer look at how I personally treat others and how I can continue to better my interactions with others in the future. One thing you say or do could make a world of difference in someone’s life, let that impact be positive.

5. Never stop seeking knowledge!

If theres nothing that ive done more this semester, its absorb knowledge! By having new clients everyday, theres always a new question or new information that’s being added into the equation. I find myself becoming constantly alert in order to take notes and hear every piece of information that is being shared with me or around me. Im constantly jotting down acronymns, phrases and names of resources so that I can look them up on my own later. I have so many notes in my phone dedicated to knowledge that ive gained from somone else. I always think that if I miss information then im not going to be fully equipped to do my job. Throughout this semester I have learned so much and it is because I have put myself in a position of constant active listening. Ive been someone who seeks knowledge for as long as I can remember and this semester heightened that skill even more. It is so important to learn things and grab onto knowledge for yourself, so that when it is time someone else can learn from you.



(Written Fall 2018)

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