As of Wednesday evening my psychotherapy practicum is complete!
I spent the year externing on the Valeo Intensive Outpatient Unit at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital. Lakeshore is a freestanding psychiatric hospital, and the IOP unit is located a couple blocks away in a separate building. Many of the patients I saw there were transitioning from inpatient care, some were going back and forth between inpatient and outpatient, and some were admitted solely for intensive outpatient treatment.
Valeo is a specialty program that serves gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) individuals, and patients come from a wide range of socio-economic, cultural, and personal backgrounds. Nearly all patients were dually diagnosed mentally ill substance abusers (MISA), with a few patients being treated solely for mental illness and others presenting with primary addictions.
The bulk of my experience there was in providing group psychotherapy and group substance abuse counseling, and one of the major challenges of the practicum was in balancing groups between the needs of highly diverse patients presenting with a wide variety of complaints and levels of functioning. I was also able to work with a number of patients individually in addition to my time with them in group. This allowed for the rapid expression of some fairly powerful dynamics, and offered unique treatment opportunities.
Over the course of the year I was able to do a great deal of individual and group psychotherapy work with patients suffering from severe anxiety and personality disorders. I used this opportunity to develop my skill in the use of techniques such as relaxation, mindfulness training, and visualization. In my final review, my supervisor reported that my work in this area had made a substantial contribution to the program.
I also gained experience in administrative aspects of the intensive outpatient program, particularly in planning and executive treatment groups. As a final project, I designed and administered a series of therapy groups focusing on attachment styles. I provided psychoeducation on the early formation and adult manifestation of various attachment styles, and relating these ideas to recovery concepts such as codependency. Next I provided cognitive-behavioral group psychotherapy aimed at helping patients to recognize the ways that their own styles of attachment impacted their relationships and to begin to approach those relationships in ways that promote increased feelings of security. Finally, I engaged the group in a visualization exercise designed to access and amplify existing experiences of security and adequacy.
I will be receiving my Master's degree in Counseling after the summer term, and plan on sitting for the Licensed Professional Counselor license. I have only a few classes left to take, so over the next year I will be finishing those up, writing my doctoral dissertation, and hopefully working as a counselor. If you know of any job opportunities in Chicago, please let me know!