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How Interning at Encore Benefits Patients, Staff, and Interns

clinical intern - Internship Program

Written by: Mary Kate Murray and Hanna Kuehn

As interns at Encore, we have a remarkable opportunity to practice our profession under the supervision of and in partnership with experienced, compassionate therapists and coaches. But this opportunity doesn’t benefit only us, it also benefits our supervisors and Encore staff as a whole as well as patients and their families.

Encore’s Internship Program

Interns at Encore are graduate students in a master’s program for social work, counseling, psychology, or marriage and family therapy. All of the interns have an interest in learning more about working in the behavioral health field and becoming psychotherapists. Most master’s programs require internships that last anywhere from one semester to a full calendar year, so there is ample opportunity for the clinical interns to learn and grow while being at Encore.

As with treatment, Encore’s approach to its internship program is individualized and flexible to meet each intern’s needs. Interns discuss and set goals with supervisory staff that allow them to achieve what they had planned for their internship, and their supervisors have a clear understanding of how best to utilize interns’ capabilities and support them throughout their time at Encore.

The close supervision provided during the clinical internship at Encore means that interns have boundaries and a path for increasing responsibility that ensures patients’ needs always come first. Supervisors carefully plan the progression of each internship program so that interns take on increasing responsibility as their skills and knowledge progress.

What Do the Clinical Interns at Encore Do?

While it varies according to each intern’s goals for the internship as well as their plans for the work they will do after graduating, interns gain practical experience in therapy generally and substance use disorder treatment specifically.

For example, Mary Kate Murray, a marriage and family therapy intern at Encore, will graduate with her master’s degree after she completes her internship. Her time at Encore is spent facilitating weekly family groups and providing family therapy. In addition, she co-facilitates group therapy with Encore patients. Mary Kate is also passionate about diversity and inclusivity and advocated to create a space for the Encore team to learn and share about concepts and ideas related to diversity. She now coordinates a monthly diversity salon for the entire Encore team.

Hanna Kuehn is finishing up the first year of her master’s program in clinical social work. Her internship at Encore has allowed her develop her knowledge and skills through both observation and practice. For example, after observing group therapy for several weeks, she has been co-facilitating those sessions with a staff therapist. Hanna also co-facilitates the weekly Encore family group, which is a psychoeducational support group, guiding family members through the treatment process and educating them about substance use disorder, its effects, co-occurring disorders, and recovery.

Graduate students working in Internship Program at Encore Outpatient Services

Benefit of Interns for Encore Patients and Staff

Internships are an incredible asset to the Encore team and can provide tremendous value to the experience of patients and their families. Given that Encore’s clinical interns are enrolled in accredited master’s programs and are under the supervision of highly qualified professors, they have knowledge of the most current research and evidence-based practices related to addiction, co-occurring disorders, and trauma.

Interns can also expand Encore’s capabilities. Mary Kate, for example, is specializing in marriage and family so she can offer family therapy and group support for family members, expanding the reach of Encore’s services.  

What Interns Learn at Encore

First and foremost, this internship allows us to put into practice what we have learned academically. We gain practical, hands-on professional experience, building a foundation of knowledge and skill that will have a great influence on our future professional practice. We see firsthand the damage that addiction wreaks on the individual and family members and observe how the therapeutic modalities we have learned provide healing and a way forward to healthy recovery.

We work with patients who come from all kinds of backgrounds and a range of life experiences, learning how to give each patient and family what they need. What modalities of treatment will best work for this patient? How do I achieve therapeutic goals in a group therapy session with this mix of patients? What should the therapeutic goals be for this session? It’s a constant balance of understanding patient needs in the moment and long term in order to give each patient what they need to heal and move forward with their own recovery process.

We learn about addiction treatment from experts with years of experience in the field. We begin to understand how addiction affects patients and their families in real life, rather than as case studies, seeing how addiction plays out for the individual and the family system as a whole We see how co-occurring disorders, like trauma, depression, and anxiety, interact with addiction and learn about the best ways to treat those co-occurring disorders. It’s one thing to read about co-occurring disorders and what to do about them, it’s another to see therapists actually treating patients and watching the transformations, small and large, that result.

The Value of Internships

Internships provide value for everyone involved. For us, our internships have been an invaluable learning experience that builds a foundation for our careers, providing knowledge and practice that are not available in a classroom. For Encore staff, we share the work and offer current knowledge from our classwork. We also bring enthusiasm and eagerness to our work, perhaps giving the practicing therapists a renewed appreciation for the work they do and why they do it. For patients and families, interns like us expand the expertise and resources of the organization. We bring a fresh perspective and new ways of providing therapy and other treatment. Because we are closely supervised, there is also an assurance that we will meet Encore’s quality standards for treatment.

To be at Encore and get this inside look at the work therapists do and begin building our own experience has been an important part of our education. We see the concepts and situations we have learned about in class play out in real life, giving us a real-world knowledge of what this work entails.

If you are interested in learning more about Encore’s clinical internship program, contact Encore’s clinical director. 

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