Expectations. We all have them whether it is in our relationships, ourselves, our future jobs, in our future clients, if you are an aspiring social worker like myself. I have often caught myself daydreaming about my future in class or while studying for my next big exam. I dream of a ranch set in the hilly plains of central Texas where each day is welcomed by the bright rays of sunshine and the nights are kissed goodnight by hues of magentas and lavenders dancing across the sky as the evening sun says it’s farewells to another day. Between the sunrise and the sunset, I dream of horses, wild and tame, galloping across the wide open pasturelands of the ranch that I will one day call my own. In my daydreams there are children giggling in the background as a friendly bay stretches her nose out to receive her carrot. These children, in my daydreams, are not my own but are children who have come to my ranch because they have suffered an unfortunate tragedy in their short lifetime and are in need of healing. In my dreams, these children come to the ranch sad and broken one day and leave renewed and hopeful before the setting of the sun.
Currently, I am interning at a placement very near to my dreams. Cadwalder Behavioral Clinic is set on a ranch just north of the city lights of Houston. This placement provides Equine Assisted Psychotherapy to clients suffering from a range of mental illnesses. These clients are on a wide spectrum of level of functioning. Some of our clients suffer from schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addictions. I must say that I am glad that the field of social work still acknowledges the importance of an apprentice type portion of the education process. Although I have read about mental illness in textbooks throughout my undergraduate degree in psychology and social work, and although I have studied about mental illness on the graduate level, I had not quite understood what mental illness looked like until I was face to face with a person suffering from schizophrenia on my first day of my internship. I learn best by trial and error, by hands on work, by experience. I have now served numerous hours at my placement and have seen clients on their good days, on their bad days and everywhere in between. I am just now beginning to understand how difficult it must be to live with a mental illness.
I have already learned so many great lessons through my internship. After an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy group supervision that I did with the other interns, I found that unrealistic expectations are something that I have always held onto throughout my life as a perfectionist. Another lesson learned is that my clients aren’t perfect and the therapy practices that I will implement will not be perfect. Also, not all of the group members will perfectly respond in group the way I want them to. However, striving for perfectionism is not always a bad thing, as long as one leaves room for error. I am a firm believer in self-fulfilling prophesies. Therefore, holding high, but realistic, expectations for my clients is good for them. Clients need to know that others believe in them and this will help boost their self confidence in themselves to reach their goals that they are working toward in therapy and in life.