I’m not going to try to convince you to choose UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work. I didn’t choose UNC. The school chose me and I’ve thrived each day of the last three years steeped in immeasurable gratitude. Do everything you can to put yourself into a position for the school to choose you. Thank me later.
I want to share what I’ve learned about field placements. You are a UNC Chapel Hill MSW student, and you bring life experience to the table, and you will become a leader for social justice in North Carolina. Be appropriately confident of your potential and humbly mindful of your inexperience. Yes, listen to your field supervisors, fulfill the needs of the organization, and be as helpful as possible. No, your job is not to file, shred, organize, babysit, clean, make coffee, or do windows.
My second year clinical internship began in line with my expectations. I wanted to be a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist, so my first semester saw me sitting in on and eventually facilitating SAIOP groups. My whole year could have gone like that, and that would have been just fine. I wanted more so I asked for more. This field placement also had a Behavior Health Outpatient wing with an ACT Team. I asked them to put me on the team and they did. My second semester found me driving to the homes of persons living with serious and persistent mental illness, engaging in individual therapy. In one year, I got to experience two distinct career paths in social work… because I asked. I loved them both but I still wanted more.
The summer after my second year I changed my concentration to communities, management, and policy practice. I found a recovery community organization with no established UNC field placement, so I wrote an ad hoc proposal to make one. Recovery Communities of North Carolina (RCNC) is now a concentration field placement site. That’s what’s up.
My macro internship with RCNC has been nothing short of epic.
- Attended the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO) Executive Director Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA and met with recovery advocacy leaders from across the country.
- Organized North Carolina’s attendance at UNITE to Face Addiction, a national recovery advocacy event in Washington DC.
- Became Chairperson for The Capital Area Rally for Recovery, a major leadership position within the organization.
- Advised The Governor’s Task Force’s Opioid Workgroup – invited to provide input and feedback on their legislative proposals.
- Created and maintained RCNC’s social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Constant Contact Email, and The RCNC Recovery Podcast.
- Facilitated The Anonymous People Screenings and Recovery Community Messaging Trainings.
- Provided advocacy coaching to individuals experiencing discrimination based upon their recovery status.
- Represented RCNC at community and coalition meetings.
- Invited by the Substance Use Disorder Federation to meet with legislators in the NC General Assembly.
Your field supervisors have the weight of the world on their shoulders because they’re busy saving lives. They want your experience to be fulfilling, but they’re not there to hold your hand. Dive in. Figure out what you want to be when you get big. Make their jobs easier and start telling them what you want to do and make it happen. Trust me – they will thank you. If you need the moon, ask for the moon. This is Donald McDonald, signing off from the moon. I hope to see you in the fall.