Saturday, August 18, 2012

Last Day of Work

This is what it’s all been leading up to: my last day of work for the summer.

Backstory: I’m not known for trying new things. I always make these wild plans or have brilliant ideas, but then when it comes time to making the commitment, I back out. In most cases, I think it’s because I don’t like being in situations with no ‘escape’. Example: the summer camp my mom used to work at (and my home for four fun summers) has a program where you can sign up to go on a bike trip from New Hampshire to Nova Scotia with a bunch of other teenagers. The entire trip sounds absolutely phenomenal – bonding with other high schoolers, getting in shape, seeing new places up close and personal, and of course it’s an incredible experience! However for two years in a row I got the paperwork, sat down to fill it out…and froze. It was one of the ‘commitment’-type situations that scared me. If I decided after three days that I was miserable and my legs hurt and it was all a stupid idea, there was no opting out. I was roped in for a two week experience that I had no idea if I would like and down five-thousand bucks.

Not going on that trip is something I regret, and so this summer I decided I would take a chance, and get into one of those ‘commitment’-type situations I was oh so fond of. When my aunt, who is a licensed clinical psychologist, invited me to be her personal intern for the summer, I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone. The second week of July, my parents and I loaded up the car and made the three-day drive from New Hampshire to western Texas.

And that’s where I’ve been for the last two months – and not with my parents (they basically dropped me off and left to go have their own little road trip without me…jerks). I’ve been living with my thirty-something aunt and her husband, and their psychotic Basenji. We weekended in Austin, where I got to check out the UT campus, and we went down to El Paso which is right on the Mexican border (an interesting peek at a very different culture). They even took me on a trip to Flagstaff, Arizona, where we stayed for a week. I instantly fell in love. It was such a cute college town (home to Northern Arizona University) with brick sidewalks, outdoor cafés, used bookstores, bike paths, live outdoor music, and plenty of college-aged hippies looking for a high. The even greater appeal, however, was the geography. Surrounding Flagstaff on all sides were trees and forests (just like home ), and beyond that, mountains and canyons. All the greatest things about nature were no more than twenty miles out of town. Not to mention, just a half-hour drive away was the Grand Canyon!

Okay, sorry, enough gushing about Arizona. Once the initial excitement of being away from home wore off and we settled into our basic routine of working four hours a day, followed by a dip in the pool and an evening spent lazily on the couch watching television, I realized I was painfully homesick. Getting past that was no small feat, and involved lots of video chats (thank God for FaceTime) and more than a few angsty conversations with my best friend. Luckily our weekends spent rotting on the sofa in our pajamas watching scary movies – while not at all good for my health – provided a nice escape from my worrying.

Now, it’s been eight or nine or eleven weeks of living in the Texas heat (avg daily temp – 106) and there’s only one week before I fly home. How scary is that? My experience as an intern in private practice has surpassed my expectations (not hard, seeing as I didn’t have any). Most of the work I’ve been doing involves scanning and filing patient charts and converting a mainly paper-centered office into all digital files. What I found most interesting (and yes, call me nosy) was reading patient charts. Their progress notes, seeing the actual WAIS-IV or BASC-2 tests, the extensive amount of paper work, seeing the various diagnoses – it was nothing like what I imagined, and it really showed my what clinical therapy really is (and no, it isn’t just asking the patient how they feel while they lie on a big leather couch…although she *does* have one of those…).

Something I definitely wasn’t expecting to see was the business side of psychology. Essentially, a private practice is a business, and that means paying rent, paying electrical bills, broken air conditioners, filling receipts, keeping track of expenses, and dealing with insurance. No offense insurance companies, but you suck. Sometimes patient claims get paid the day after their filed (meaning they pay for the patient’s session), and sometimes it takes upwards of 90 days. My aunt has actually been treating someone with serious depression and adjustment disorder for over a year now, and still hasn’t gotten paid for a single session. Oh, and don’t even get me started on co-pays…

Currently, I am sitting at my small make-shift desk in the room adjoining my aunt’s office, doing what I have been doing for about a week now – pretending to look busy while surfing the internet. Although really, isn’t that what everyone does at work? I’ve spent a lot of today thinking about this summer and how it wasn’t what I expected. I guess that’s both good and bad, depending on how you look at it. I may not have had an wildly exciting summer before senior year with my friends at the beach, and instead spent it watching tv halfway across the country, but I did something that I wasn’t comfortable with and despite the personal setbacks I did survive a full two and a half months of commitment, to my aunt and to myself. Even though I was living with family, it was no small step. I lived in a different time zone, in a different culture, in an environment that was mostly foreign to me, unable to go home or visit my parents once (not that I didn’t try to get them to spend an extra $400 on a plane ticket so I could come home early). I proved to myself that I can handle commitment, and almost more importantly, I can handle being in a situation with no easy ‘escape’. Yeah, I’m pretty proud.

(Oh, and the fact that this internship will look like a gold star on my college application – just a bonus!)

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