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1: What This Book is About and How to Use It

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    The Need (for a Student-Oriented, Low-Cost, Effective Handbook for First-Time Internships)

    This book was written over a 10-year period for, and with, university students taking a clinically-oriented practice course in a number of human services settings, broadly defined. As such, the text may be useful to counseling, psychology, social work, criminal justice, and other types of human services majors taking their first experientially-based internship, practicum, or "service learning" class. Of course, we realize that there are differences between the course structure for internship and practicum courses that depend on such things as major, college, and state requirements. Therefore, it is helpful to begin by defining how we are using these and other terms and concepts that are important in this book.

    Despite differences concerning such issues as the number of clinical hours involved, the degree of supervision required, the type of duties, and so on, the internship and practicum learning formats share many common features. Since the most important ones include being situated in a real-world setting, experiencing a lack of professional experience, and dealing with active clinical supervision, we have chosen to use the terms internship and practicum interchangeably in this text. In order to reduce repetition, we tend to employ the word internship more often. Similarly, because universities are collections of colleges, we will also use these two terms interchangeably, although we also recognize there are differences.

    In any case, the focus of this text is to help students who are just beginning to step into the clinical or professional world by giving them a sense of what to expect, when to expect it, and how to handle an internship, from finding one to completing one. In other words, the book is something of an experiential roadmap for beginners. This map was created with two perspectives in mind, that of the instructor and that of students who have "been there and done that," which gives the book a unique tone. As such, the material is best read at the beginning of an internship. Occasionally, it is even useful to make it available to students before the class begins, especially if students must find their own placement sites, as many universities require.

    The other terms or concepts that need clarification at the beginning concern what we mean by human services and human service majors. In this book, human services is a general terms that describes any service, agency, or discipline whose primary focus is on facilitating the well-being of individuals and/or the communities in which they live. Since different majors can work in those settings, the phrase human services majors is used as a general rather than a degree-specific term. Consequently, those in human services, as broadly defined, are covered by this term. In other words, the internships discussed in this book are for majors interested in the helping professions in general.

    What makes this look at internships different than others may be that it was designed and drafted by those who were going through their first internship experiences. Although they were always guided by a seasoned clinician who has taught a variety of psychology, social work, criminal justice, and counseling courses, the book is written in the students' voice, often in their own words. "Succeeding at Your Internship," then, really is "an experiential handbook written for and with students," but always in conjunction with their clinician-professor.

    The Problem

    What follows in this introduction could be placed in a preface to the book instead of an introductory chapter. Some of us, especially academics, look forward to the preface for at least two reasons. First, it prepares the mind for what follows, something akin to creating a rough, cognitive map that provides readers with an outline of what to expect as they move through the pages. Second, the preface often presents information not found elsewhere in the book, such as why the book was written, the needs it attempts to address, its intended audience, the author's background, and so on.

    Unfortunately, we have found that many students, and sometimes even instructors, simply bypass the preface. Doing so with this book is a mistake because it is necessary to understand what makes it unique before evaluating its merits, either as a student or an instructor. Most accredited human services programs include an experientially- oriented course. I have been teaching them for over 30 years and, like most instructors, have found that they teach me things as well.

    For example, the first-time students take one of these courses, they are usually excited and anxious. As an instructor, I count on the excitement these majors have for their disciplines because that healthy enthusiasm, and the idealism on which it is often based, is necessary for success in the course and beyond. These individuals care about others enough to learn about helping them, and they usually look forward to what is often their first exposure to human services agencies, those who work in them, and the people they serve. Without this idealism and altruism, I suspect few people would enter these fields, given the type of salaries and stress these occupations often entail.

    Nevertheless, these anticipatory feelings are accompanied by unpleasant ones, such as anxiety over not knowing what to expect, a feeling of being in over one's head, or even a fear of failure. This dimension of starting an internship is important too. Its positive side is that these students recognize that they are about to touch the lives of others in special ways and are concerned about doing it in a professional manner. However, anxiety is also painful because it can evoke worries about inadequacy, rejection, or failure, especially if a college (or university) requires students to find a suitable site for the class or experience on their own. In addition to creating some pain, this anxiety can manifest itself in terms of practical problems, such as delays in finding internships because of procrastination, self-doubt, which can hinder the development of competence, and worry, something that often impairs the learning process.

    We have at least two tools at our disposal to help with this higher-level teaching and learning challenge. One depends on the instructor and involves supervising the students in a group or one-to-one setting. I have done both, but more often my undergraduate version of the course is based on a group format. Here students are placed in various mental health, social service, and criminal justice sites where they are required to work a given number of hours per week and then meet with me as a group. The group is where they share their concerns, successes, and where they turn to support from their colleagues and me. My upper-level graduate internships tend to be more individually oriented, which creates a different learning environment. Either way, our supervision and support facilitate the success in which we are all interested. The other tool usually comes in the form of books for the class, and there are several from which to choose. Some emphasize a particular theory or specific approach, while others are more eclectic. Some are more practically oriented and include many exercises and activities, while others are more scholarly or academic. However, they often seem to have two limitations that we want to address in this book. First, standard texts often fail to focus on the student’s lived experience of the internship enough to help them feel that they are going about things reasonably well in this new and sometimes scary learning environment. Second, textbooks are typically expensive. For example, I recall one small paperback that had just under 100 pages of print, yet cost over $100. That was a decade ago, and the cost of books has now become one more financial burden for the student. The need for an inexpensive, experientially-oriented book is what prompted me to look for a reasonable alternative for students and instructors.

    A Solution

    A largely serendipitous event happened at the time I reached this point and became the first step in developing this book. A student in one of the internship classes I was teaching did not want or need a new field placement because he was already working at a human services agency that satisfied his career goals. Instead, this individual simply wanted a degree to earn a promotion and higher income within the same organization. He also expressed an interest in becoming an author. That combination created a unique opportunity at a fortuitous time, so I could not turn it down. Instead of burdening the student by requiring him to find or pick a placement at a new setting, I offered an alternative that ended up laying the foundation for this book.

    Having authored a significant number of articles and books in clinically-related areas (Mruk 2013), I suggested that he could consider a different type of internship, one that focused on learning how to write a prospectus for a book. The idea was to create a description of what a low-cost, practically-oriented, student-friendly handbook for human services students taking their first practicum or internship experience might look like. He said “yes,” and we agreed on a plan. By the end of that semester, he would write a 10-page overview of such a potential book. The final project would consist of, among other things, annotated chapter headings and crucial themes that students would likely encounter in an experientially-oriented human services internship or service-learning course.

    The next step concerned addressing another problem, namely, the need for a good handbook for these courses. What defined good for us? Two things. First, the book had to be usable for different majors working in different settings. Since most undergraduates with interests in human services work must take a practicum or internship course, the book had to address themes that were common to all these majors. In contrast to most of the existing books designed to accompany these courses, this goal forced us to keep the academic diversity of students in mind. Rather than focus on a particular orientation, such as social work, or a general set of therapeutic techniques, such as cognitive therapy, we wanted the book to help beginners in general because they must also deal with more basic, practical, and concrete issues regardless of academic discipline or major.

    This goal was met in a way that many of our colleagues might find interesting from a pedagogical perspective. Time and again, it was clear that the “real” student concerns went beyond learning about theory and practice. They also involved considerations such as knowing how to go about finding a practicum if the institution does not provide placement sites, preparing for the interview for such a position, cultivating positive relationships with both colleagues and clients at the site, appreciating diversity, knowing about ethics, using supervision effectively, acquiring a beginner’s level of employable competence, and leaving the placement in ways that create a bridge to the future. Since we already had a loose outline for a book written from a student perspective, it occurred to me that it could serve as the foundation for a practicum or internship handbook by sharing it with students and allowing them to add to it over time.

    Consequently, as part of their course work, I began to have students write two-page papers on one of the themes in the prospectus. Then they would share their drafts with their colleagues, who would make suggestions for revision. Finally, the student would re-write the pages to the satisfaction of both the group and the instructor. Ten years later, students have expanded this “living book,” as we began to call it, by turning themes into chapters and adding more information to it. Each chapter is based on student experience, but each one also includes practical suggestions and specific activities to help ensure success and illustrate the material. Students could choose whether they wanted their drafts to be considered for inclusion. Moreover, material that was submitted was modified by those who came after them and, of course, the editors. In this way, student confidentiality and instructor professionalism were appropriately honored. After following this process, we compiled chapter drafts into a manuscript and “tested” it as the main text for the course.

    After reviewing the material with students in the practicum, we asked them when they would find the material most helpful in addition to, of course, using it during the semester. They said that sending them chapter two electronically well before the semester begins would help the most. This chapter deals with finding an internship site, preparing for the first interview, and reducing the anxiety often associated with these fundamental tasks. Having a guide to help students deal with these tasks before the semester has two advantages: Students have more time to find a site and the class does not need nearly as much time to get everyone up to speed at the beginning of the semester, which leaves more time for learning.

    The second criterion concerned price. Given such things as ever-increasing educational costs, shrinking state funding, the uncertainty of federal grant and loan programs, and the growing burden of student debt, we felt a strong need to keep the price of the book low. The development of the manuscript addressed this problem nicely, as it was free to students in the course. Over the years, however, the online educational and publishing community started to lay the foundation for copyrighting so-called “open source books” as some states, including Ohio, started pressuring academics to “do something” about the rising cost of books.

    Printed as a regular book, the manuscript would probably be about 110 pages long. Having attended many of the developmental and academic workshops Bowling Green State University consistently offers its faculty, I soon realized that a copyright and Creative Common’s license would help us reach this goal. The open-access format this organization provides makes it possible for us to offer a completely free version of the text to anyone who wants to use it. Another benefit of this approach is that, since it is in electronic form, it can be made available to the students well before the class starts. In other words, instructors could easily send students a link to the source and tell students to be sure to read Chapter 2 as early as possible so they could have help setting up an internship before class began. Of course, the handbook can stand as a main course text, or it can serve as a supplemental one for a class that uses other material. Since it is written as a handbook, the text can also be used as an elective reading for students who wish to better prepare for taking their first heavily experiential training course on their own.

    We also found it necessary to deal with two technical writing challenges that arose in the process of writing the handbook. One is the problem of voice, more specifically, the use of a formal academic voice versus personal informal voice in the book. The academic voice is more detached and professional, whereas the personal (first-person) voice is more free-flowing and familiar.

    We asked students, instructors, authors, and college librarians about their preferences. There seemed to be an equal division between those who preferred the academic approach and those who preferred the personal approach. Fortunately, one of the editors teaches English, which turned out to be advantageous in making the final decision. As a result, we took a middle path. In other words, the third person is used when we are presenting more academic information. When we are addressing students concerns or experiences, we have used both the more informal first person and second person. Although such compromises often mean pleasing no one, it does reach both intended audiences, namely the more formal concerns of an instructor and the more experiential interests of the student. In this sense, the book reflects that the “teacher-student” and “student-teacher” approach Freire (1970) found so effective for learning.

    The other issues concerned what to do with pronouns, such as he or she/his or her and the like. In order to remain “gender neutral,” we made the decision to follow what is becoming an acceptable grammatical solution: That is, to use the plural third-person pronouns they, them and their, when referring to a non-gender specific singular antecedent. For example, “The judge adjusted their robe.” Grammar purists will take exception to such “blasphemy,” but it is an effective solution that is gaining wider and wider acceptance.

    The Editors

    Chris Mruk is a professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University and has offered internships for undergraduate human services majors as well as doctoral students in psychology for some 30 years. He also had a “real job,” as his wife is fond of saying, before coming to academia when he worked as a clinical psychologist. That experience includes employment in an inpatient psychiatric unit, supervising a heroin addiction program in Detroit, working as a crisis intervention expert in one of the nation’s first two 24-hour full-service emergencies psychiatric services, being a therapist in a community mental health center, directing a college counseling service at St. Francis University (Pennsylvania), and consulting for the Firelands Regional Medical System in Sandusky, Ohio. He has written a number of clinically-oriented books, one of which is in its 4th edition, as well as some 30 chapters and articles. Chris is the recipient of a number of teaching awards, including an appointment as a Professor of Teaching Excellence at Bowling Green State University. Details concerning his background can be found at His primary duties in writing the book concerned its content and structure.

    John Moor is a Teaching Professor in the Humanities Department at Bowling Green State University, Firelands. He has been teaching composition classes at the college since 1988. Before that, he taught high school English for 6 ½ years. He received his B.A. in English at Bowling Green State University in 1977 and his M.A. in Mass Communications from the same institution in 1988. He has written for several local weekly and monthly newspapers over the years. When he’s not grading student essays, he enjoys projects such as this—revising and editing manuscripts. (Really!)

    Emily Gattozzi, MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) is the Coordinator of Scholarly Publishing at Bowling Green State University. Her steady guidance and friendly helpfulness were instrumental in guiding this book through the open publishing process. Her work was the final step in reaching our goal: Offering students and instructors lower-cost alternatives to quality education.

    This page titled 1: What This Book is About and How to Use It is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Christopher J. Mruk & John C. Moor (Bowling Green State University Libraries) .

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