By: Tina Landeen Panos, LCSW
I was so excited to get my first intern. My mind was busy ticking off the valuable bits of wisdom and knowledge I could impart to her. The years of schooling, the papers, the internships, the field experience, the naked clients (that’s a story for another article)—I could share them all. I had been through so much, learned so much, and knew so much. This was going to be my chance to give back. I wasn’t prepared for some of the lessons I would learn from her.
#1: Question authority.
This sounds almost silly coming from me, as I tend to pride myself as being somewhat of a rebel, but after so many years in the field, it’s safe to say that some of the “shiny” has worn off. Why we do some of the things we do doesn’t always cross my mind. The paperwork, forms, and protocols seem to run into each other like a stream that tumbles from here to there. When presented with questions from my intern, I was forced to take notice of the processes I go through. I took some time to examine my work and either reaffirm its value or get rid of it. Mindful practice has always been a goal of mine, and until I was really questioned about it, I thought I was doing it. I learned that continued questioning keeps the fidelity to one’s practice.
#2: Keep learning.
In finding some of the weaknesses in my intern’s knowledge, I dutifully sought opportunities for trainings she could attend. Tagging along to these trainings that I always seemed too busy for previously gave some fresh light on practices I was currently using, as well as opening my eyes to new possibilities. Again, sometimes we are on such automatic pilot dealing with our day-to-day operations that we lose sight of the power of learning from each other. Isolating ourselves in our practice doesn’t benefit us as clinicians or our clients. This leads me to my next lesson.
#3: Appreciate your knowledge.
Have you ever had this moment? You’re talking, and all of a sudden, you are outside of yourself listening and thinking, “Damn, I really sound like I know what I’m talking about.” I really hope I’m not the only one that’s ever thought that, but seriously, until I had my intern eagerly looking to me for answers, I hadn’t realized just how much knowledge I had. Not to say that I know it all, but there is a lot that I do know. Another benefit—now I won’t be so bitter writing that student loan check. This brings me to my final lesson.
After all those classes, that interning, those lectures and clients, the way I see the world has really changed. How things look when you’re an “expert” is vastly different from how they looked before all the experience. This is helpful to remember when your client isn’t seeing things as they so obviously are to you...like when I’m imparting nuggets of wisdom to clients. Now I’ll work harder to put it in a more palatable way for them.
“So, what’s so hard about changing those negative thought patterns and distorted cognitions so that you can function with less maladaptive schemas?” Huh? Of course, this is a gross exaggeration for comedic effect. I would never talk like this to my clients. Besides, I work with teenagers, and they already know everything.
I’ve learned so much with my first intern. It’s an experience I’ve enjoyed immensely and would recommend to other professionals interested in illuminating the minds of future social workers. This especially goes for other professionals who don’t mind learning a thing or two themselves.
Tina Landeen Panos is a licensed clinical social worker with a certification in child welfare. Currently, she is the clinical director at the Center for Brain Training in Jupiter, FL, a center providing neurofeedback therapy to clients.
This article appeared in The New Social Worker, Summer 2012, Vol. 19, No. 3. All rights reserved. Please contact Linda Grobman for permission to reprint.