June 24, 2020
To become a mental health practitioner in Minnesota, individuals need clinically supervised experience in the delivery of mental health services. Many of these opportunities occur through unpaid internships, which can be difficult to complete without a financial support system leaving many new mental health workers struggling to balance long hours of practical experience with their financial realities.
“It’s not easy to balance an unpaid internship with another job. Having a paid internship allows us to focus and be immersed in this job and learn from it,” says Hannah Le, a recent graduate of People Incorporated’s Mental Health Trainee program, a paid internship that provides the hours and supervision necessary for graduates to advance in the mental health field.
People Incorporated believes it is imperative that we have a workforce that represents the community we serve. We are actively working to remove barriers that prevent practitioners from advancing in the mental health field, as well as, finding opportunities to welcome individuals into the field from historically underrepresented groups. We are committed to offering relevant, paid internship opportunities to remove barriers to advancement. Now in its fourth year, the Mental Health Trainee program has successfully engaged 75 percent or more individuals from diverse backgrounds each year, many of which are hired into mental health practitioner roles upon completion of their education requirements.
When Dilini Senadheera first started looking for mental health jobs as a senior majoring in psychology, she had a difficult time finding paid opportunities. Most paid positions required a minimum number of hours of experience, and most opportunities to gain the required hours were unpaid internships.
“I was sure [the Mental Health Trainee program] was another unpaid internship, but then I looked a little further and it was paid, and it was a pretty good ‘out of college rate.’ I thought, ‘This could be ideal to get into the mental health field in some way,’” says Dilini about her discovery of the program.
Dilini joined a cohort of six individuals in the training program last fall. Trainees work on-site at 25 different programs of People Incorporated. This immersive experience allows trainees to learn from experienced practitioners, and have an opportunity to unpack their learning with a mentor and cohort of peers. Additionally, it provides the supervision and hours necessary to complete the State of MN requirement for becoming a Mental Health Practitioner. The Mental Health Trainees also learn the nuances related to 24/7 programming for vulnerable adults and serving a consumer cohort with many barriers. The skills learned in these programs are invaluable.
Dilini says she gained a lot more than the hours required to advance her career.
“It’s more than gaining experience – I’ve made lifelong friends and gained mentors I want to have in my life for a long time. It’s been incredibly impactful for me,” she says of her experience.
Dilini also highlights the importance of having this program available to recent graduates, “I think in order to have a diverse mental health organization and diversify the mental health field, you have to start with the entry-level positions and move up to more senior-level positions. Making an effort to have those entry-level be a diverse group and representative of the client population is an incredibly important first step.”