What was and is the continuing value of my internship experience? The New York Times is asking this question in the article, Are Media Interns Merely Eploited Labor?
I answered the question based on my experience as a prelicensed clinician working with a young psychotic population and thought it might be of interest to you.
I'm a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles, California. To qualify for my MFT license (I got it in 1981) I served as an intern within qualified organizations. I worked for free (in terms of dollars) and got supervision to meet the 3000 supervised hours licensing requirement.
Many of those hours I received from working long days almost every day at a half way house that housed and treated young psychotics, aged 18 - 30. They suffered from schizophrenia and were either on their way into a hospital or just coming out of a hospital and not ready or able to function on their own in life.
This was the most gratifying and educational aspects of my training and has held me in good stead over the 30 years I've been practicing.
I learned first hand what I could never learn from a book or classroom. My supervisors, fellow interns and visiting licensed clinicians were all in the milieu therapy environment together with the patients. We learned to know, respect and be generous with each other. We learned to recognize triggers in patients as well as fears and doubts in ourselves.
We learned to grow more healthy, strong and empathic as we worked with this vulnerable and wonderful population of people struggling to understand a world they couldn't fathom while living in an internal world we could only glimpse.
I remember speaking for an hour with one young man. At the near close of the time I asked him if anything had happened during our session that I didn't know about. I learned to ask this question with him and often have asked it since, with people who are not psychotics.
He answered, "I thought you were strong and brave when the floor opened up at our feet and the fire erupted so close to your chair. You remained calm and steady as if it didn't bother you at all. That's why I trust you so much." (hallucination)
I treasure the almost two years I spent with these remarkable people. Yes, some got well enough to function on their own. Some didn't. But all of them are with me in my heart as teachers. I'll never forget them.
So, yes, I treasure this aspect of my "work for free" internship.
My resume reads:
1978-1979 *Beverlywood Aftercare Center
M.F.C.C. intern, did supervised psychotherapy and counseling with severely disturbed and psychotic young adults. worked in both individual and group contexts. Led a poetry therapy program. Conducted in service training programs on therapy techniques and guided imagery.