As I approached my first year in the MSW program my biggest concern was surrounding the idea of practicum. I dreamt up a million different versions of what my practicum experience might look like and it caused me a lot of unnecessary stress. So, I thought I'd provide a few words of advice and tips for students that are preparing for the unknown... I promise, practicum isn't as scary as you might think!
Tip #1: Utilize your Practicum Field Liaison
- Field liaisons are a huge part of the practicum experience and it's something that I wish I utilized more throughout my time at SU. The practicum liaisons job is to support and guide the student throughout the entirety of their time at the agency or organization. This often looks like quarterly check in meetings with your liaison and PI to discuss strengths, challenges, areas of improvement, learning styles etc. One thing I would encourage you to do during these meetings is review your education plan and ensure that your competencies are being met. Often times macro competencies can go under the radar and it can be helpful to use liaisons as a sounding board to brainstorm ways to achieve competencies that are more challenging to accomplish at your site.
Tip #2: Be Intentional about Supervision
Practicum supervision can look vastly different depending on your agency, however, it's a requirement that students have at least an hour of undivided supervision time with their PI each week. This is an extremely valuable part of the practicum experience and a huge part of your growth often stems from supervision feedback or discussion. However, there isn't a set way to approach supervision and this can cause a lot of stress for students who may be unfamiliar with the process. So, my two main rules of thumb for supervision is to come prepared and use your time wisely.
- Being prepared for supervision often entails going into the meeting with a set agenda or checklist to discuss. I find this to be very useful because it allows me to effectively use my time to my best ability. I included an example of my supervision agenda and although it's specific to the medical setting it can provide an outline for students that may need a reference.
- Example: Supervision Agenda
Tip #3: Practice Process Recordings
- A huge part of the practicum experience is building your self-awareness and reflecting on how certain situations may trigger your interactions with clients or patients you are working with. A great way to work on this is by using process recordings to analyze the difficult interactions you may encounter. Although these process recordings can be very tedious, it’s a great way to assess your communication skills and address areas of improvement. Process recordings will definitely be a topic of discussion in your classes, however, I included an example outline to reference.
- Example: Process Recording Sample
These tools and resources provided me with an immense amount of relief during my practicum experience. However, these tools take practice so don't expect perfection by any means. Supervision and self-reflection can look different depending on what works for you, but I encourage you to find ways to implement these tools early on in your practice. Being able to look back at my old agendas and process recordings has shown the immense amount of growth I've had throughout the past two years. Overall, this program prepares you well in advance for what to expect going into your practicum but these tips can also provide a guide going into your first year.