ACA Blog

Apr 23, 2012

Reflections on 530 Hours

[caption id="attachment_4859" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Jennifer Bingaman"][/caption]

The first half of my internship is over. The 900 hours staring at me 12 weeks ago has now been sliced in less than half. It feels unreal. I’m three months away from finishing my master’s degree. When I was a little girl, all I wanted to do was go to college. That’s as far as I ever looked. Now, I have gone to college. I’ve gone twice. I’ve figured out (mostly) what I want to do with my life. With the realization about what I want to do with my life, I’ve also realized what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to work solely in addictions treatment.

I love working with addictions. I find this population fascinating. I enjoy my clients, despite their brutish natures on occasion. I feel challenged every day because while I have a pretty good grip on the whole theoretical approach of addictions treatment, there’s so much to add in. Family struggles, financial struggles, and many other compounding issues. When you work with addicts, you are guaranteed to always have a job. Relapse is incredibly common. I’ve already seen people leave treatment clean only to come back weeks later, seeking the elusive life of sobriety.

That’s one of the reasons I don’t want to specialize in addictions. I want my clients to get better. While I know every time a client leaves my internship site, they likely leave with greater knowledge and more self-awareness, there is no guarantee they will get better. In fact, it’s probable they might get worse. They could die. You must accept that reality when working with addiction.

I also don’t want to work with addiction because no one else wants to work with addiction. It’s not glamorous. The pay is horrible. The hours are weird. I’m not looking for diamonds and caviar, here. Remember, I did go into mental health. I had no false hopes. At the same time, this population is underrepresented and underserved. I don’t want to be the responsible party for working to make it something the rest of the world cares about. I’ve discovered I’m not passionate about it that way.

I’ve realized that I want to work with addictions along with other issues. I’m a woman who enjoys novelty. Giving clients the same treatment plan day-in and day-out wears on me. I also want more time. Thirty to 60 days just isn’t enough time. I feel irresponsible sending clients out into the wilderness after 60 days. Clients need more time than they are often provided in addictions treatment. It’s not a timeline I am comfortable working in. I need more from my job.

This is why internship is crucial. I’ve learned so much already. In 530 hours, I’ve discovered what I want to do for work in the future and what I don’t want to do. I’ve discovered the reality of addictions treatment. Maybe it’s different elsewhere, but this is my experience and I’m not enamored. So as I work through these final 370 hours, I will continue to search for what I want. I will make note of what I enjoy and what I don’t enjoy, because I’ve also learned that I’m happiest when I love my job. I love my internship, but I don’t want addictions treatment to be my career. I’m thankful that I’ve learned this much so far.



Jennifer Bingaman is a counselor-in-training and freelance writer. She blogs about her experiences as a client and a counselor with a few life musings thrown into the mix at The Pursuit of Sassiness

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