Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA
Prior to my internship at the Mental Health Association (MHA), I had absolutely no experience in the field. I graduated from Clarion University with half of an education degree and aside from my own personal family experiences; I knew nothing about mental health. When I enrolled in the Social Work graduate program at Edinboro University, I knew I would learn the knowledge necessary to become an effective social worker; however I by no means thought I could learn so much in such a short period of time, the 6 or so months I interned at the MHA. As a first year graduate social work student, I had to work 400 hours in the field. This number seems pretty intimidating (just wait until the second year when you must intern 500 hours!), but once you are at your placement and working to make a difference, time flies. Generally, I was at the MHA two days a week and never was there a dull moment. Whether I was helping Rita with writing a grant or planning for a musical celebration, I was busy.
Aside from fulfilling program requirements, be sure to familiarize yourself with the community in which the agency is located, the population you are serving – adults with mental diagnoses, and mental health recovery. The nature of the drop-in center itself revolves around the recovery model and managing symptoms while leading a meaningful and satisfying life. Not only will this information be crucial to your involvement within the agency, but it will also help out immensely when it comes to class assignments. Make your way down to the Consumer Center to mingle with members and staff frequently. You cannot possibly serve a population without knowing them. Find out their wants and needs and start there.
Capitalize on your own strengths as well. If you love to paint, start an art group. If your singing is comparable to that of (insert favorite singer here), well then by golly, sing! My personal passion is music. Taking advantage of my strengths, I organized a tremendously successful open mic event during the fall semester and had weekly beginner guitar and piano lessons all throughout the spring. The other interns and I held an event at the end of the spring semester to celebrate the new talents and achievements of members who participated in the lessons. Not only can they now showcase their skills, but research indicates they can also use those skills to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, and express their feelings.
So I leave you with this: know the community, know the population, and know yourself. Make the most of your internship experience and have fun.
Best wishes in all that you do,
MSW Student, Edinboro University
2009 - 2010