Teaching Future Therapists

One of the things that I have been enjoying doing, is supervising Speech Language Pathology (SLP) interns in their last year as undergraduate students. I became a young supervisor in 1995, two years after graduation. The internship program gave me the opportunity to be in touch with my alma mater, UP CAMP and with the teaching process comes the learning process as well. Now that we have four universities offering the SLP course, I am glad that I am still able to participate in their training programs.

Over the years, I have witnessed interns who bloomed from being awkward around children to professionals who exuded passion in making a difference in children’s lives. I have met interns who almost gave up during the course of the training program but eventually finished strong. There were others who took more time in finishing the course but are now respected and competent specialists. There are a few who finally found the perfect fit for them in another field after trying out internship. Quite a number have asked whether this profession is really for them during internship. My bottom line for students of today is, you will never know unless you try.

Internship entails a lot of adapting to varied work settings, countless sleepless nights (especially during case presentations and report-writing), overwhelming information about varying cases and a bagful of activity plans, therapy materials and books. There are also priceless benefits of internship. One gets the chance to work with other allied health professionals and handle clients while being guided by clinical supervisors. There are professionals who are available for consultation and collaboration is easy. Since interns are exposed to varied settings, from community-based rehabilitation to therapy centers and hospitals, interns may now choose the work environment where they will grow. While most persevere during this challenging training period, some opt to stop and reflect.

What I have noticed recently is that a lot of interns have very high expectations from the program, the supervisors and most especially, themselves. During the training program, they are worried that they are not competent enough to handle their clients. They feel anxious when they do not know all the answers to the questions posed by their supervisors. They expect a perfectly written evaluation report thus the late submission. There is a clear mismatch between what the supervisors expect and what they expect from themselves. I often wonder, if our new set of interns were required to make their own clinical evaluation form, I may not even meet their standards.

Personally, one of the things that this profession has taught me was to take care of myself too. We have to be kind to ourselves so we can be kind and compassionate to others. In the end, we cannot give what we do not have. I am inspired by the Dalai Lama in starting one’s day. He sets his intention for his day to be meaningful. “Meaningful means, if possible, serve and help others. If not possible, then at least not to harm others.”

I am grateful to be in a profession that gives me the opportunity to have a meaningful day with the children under my care. I make it a point to reflect at the end of the day about the things that I said or did not say and the actions done or undone. I sleep with the hope of doing better the next day. Each morning is a reset button for me. Another chance to become a better therapist, to take note of my mistakes and make them my life lessons and to continuously learn something new. My heart is full of gratitude for the opportunity to live a meaningful life, one day at a time, one child at a time, one word at a time.

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