Teresa (not her real name) came to Victor Community Support Services in Lake Elsinore as an intern working toward her Masters in Social Work (MSW). For her very first client, she was introduced to a four-year-old girl who refused to speak to anyone who wasn’t her immediate family. The child had been attending Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten for two years by the time she met Teresa and started receiving services.
Discovering the Cause of Silence
Our 4-year-old, Marisol (not her real name) only spoke to the family that lived in her home, and would not speak at all to extended family, teachers, or her peers. Because her silence was isolating, at 4 years old Marisol had no friends. To make matters more difficult, most adults perceived her behavior as being defiant and oppositional. The consensus was that Marisol was just stubborn. Teresa’s case offered additional challenges as it’s not a common one – especially in the Zero-Five program. This was new territory even for Teresa’ supervisor!
Teresa had her work cut out for her, but she was determined to provide the best care for her client. She dove into the research and spent time working through workbooks on related topics trying to better understand the cause of why Marisol refused to speak. Through her hard work, she discovered Marisol had “selective mutism” and that her silence was not a form of defiant behavior but actually rooted in anxiety.
Marisol started making enough progress to speak with Teresa. Teresa was the first person outside of her home that Marisol had ever spoken to! She told Teresa, “You’re my first grownup friend.” From there she started speaking to some of her peers at school, then her teacher, and her extended family. It took just under two years to complete services and for Marisol to learn to use her voice and make friends!
Marisol’s character shone through as she gained her ability to speak. There was a situation at her school where she saw one of her classmates crying in the girl’s bathroom. She asked her classmate if she was okay, and she said that her head hurt. Marisol encouraged her to go to the office and her classmate responded saying that she was scared to tell them.
“No, you need help. You need to use your voice because you need help,” she said.
Marisol even walked with her classmate to the office. She took the next steps from learning how to speak herself to encouraging others to use their voice.
Paying it forward and advocacy seem to run in the family, as Marisol’s mom has become a success story of her own. Since her daughter received services that identified the root of her challenges, Marisol’s mom has become involved in the PTA and other committees at the school and was granted the opportunity to come in and educate teachers on speech and behavioral conditions like her daughter’s. Through the work she’s been doing, the school identified a 5th grade student who hasn’t spoken in school for six years! They are now working to help the child get services.
She’s even gone beyond just her daughter’s school. She is working to normalize mental health, especially within the Hispanic community, and advocating for any children district-wide who have selective mutism and may be struggling.
Rising to the Challenge
Teresa came to VCSS Lake Elsinore as an intern to complete the requirements to earn her degree and serve clients, but her impact went far beyond one person to an entire school district. She was handed a hard case and instead of being defeated by it she took an open-minded approach with a willingness to learn. She collaborated with her supervisor to find out what was possible for Marisol and they talked about resources and learned together.
The client’s teacher, like many others, had misunderstood Marisol for having defiance issues so their responses weren’t effective to correct the behavior. Teresa was able to work with the teacher to help her understand selective mutism was anxiety based and work to make the appropriate modifications. She suggested during classroom exercises requiring interaction and talking that the teacher or an aid could pull Marisol out so there wouldn’t be other people and lessen the pressure of speaking in front of others.
Valuing Our Interns with Ongoing Opportunities
Once Teresa’s internship was completed, Victor was able to hire her as a part-time Family Support Counselor until she graduated, received her registration number, and could be promoted to a Clinician. Throughout her time, she reported that she received high quality supervision while working directly with clients. At Victor our goal is to create access for interns to their supervisors with a focus on being invested in their growth.
Truly, it doesn’t matter what your position at Victor, from office support staff to clinicians and even management and leadership, we believe in providing consistent and excellent supervision. It’s a standard. It’s a time to get quality attention, ask questions, and learn from a supervisor.
Victor’s interns have the added benefit of Victor’s resources and organizational structure. There are few barriers to getting the hours they need while serving clients and entire families.
Victor interns are able to do what they need to help the entire family and are exposed to many different types of services. This means their internship can include working with the entire family, their specific child, psychiatry, schools, a treatment team, and behavioral support persons or parent partners.
Introducing Victor’s New Paid Internship Program
Like many social work interns before her, Teresa was working towards completing her experience hours to earn her MSW. This can be a challenging road for students because they are going to school and working at an internship that is typically unpaid. Therefore, they are also having to work a full-time job or a few part-time jobs to make ends meet.
Victor is hoping to change all that by offering paid internships.
The work that MSW and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMF) interns perform is real and makes an impact directly with clients. The hours they gain on a volunteer intern basis are required for them to graduate or be licensed. By helping to alleviate some of the financial burden, our hope is the interns will be able to better focus more of their time learning their craft and client care.
If you are looking for an internship or know of someone who needs an internship, visit our website to learn more about our Internship Program and how to apply online.
Teresa’s client success story and her internship experience is just one example of what we believe in and live out here at Victor. We care about our people, our clients, and living out our mission. If you want to know more about us and current positions we have available we encourage you to click the link below.