Maria Cardoza: Practicum Experience


My practicum agency is Latino Community Development Agency otherwise known as the Latino Agency. My usual schedule was Tuesday and Thursday from 9a.m. to 6p.m. with a one hour break. What I've learned from my practicum in my first semester is the following.

Because I was interning under the treatment department in the agency, my options were very limited given that I have no qualifications such as degrees or licensure. I was mainly doing outreach for individual/family counseling and for the parenting program. The intakes for the counseling services included; basic identifying information, a fourteen item screening questionnaire, a presenting problem section, mental status exam, and lastly rights and responsibilities of the client, confidentiality forms, privacy notice, and an informed consent form. The intakes for the parenting classes were much more extensive and usually lasted about an hour and a half. These intakes included the following: identifying information, developmental history, family history, religious background, substance abuse history, domestic abuse history, history of mental health if any, parent information, household information, sibling information, presenting problem, needs and strengths of the clients, and much more information, along with all the forms such as confidentiality, privacy notice, informed consent, and rights and responsibilities of the client.

I was exposed to many families and individuals, and I was able to us my intentional interviewing skills the most. I noticed a great change right away in my way of interviewing from my initial intakes to the ones afterwards. After about my fourth intake I was feeling more confident about myself and I was performing better. I was able to successfully use my attending skills such as eye contact, vocal qualities (voice tone), verbal tracking, body language, and verbal underlying. I was able to use my open-ended question mostly in the intakes for parenting because of the extensive information needed. I felt that I was very successful in obtaining descriptive information of clients because of my ability to achieve rapport in the beginning. I had to be very attentive in my observation skills to identify any important behaviors. Lastly, because of all the practice we had in our interviewing class, I was really good at paraphrasing and summarizing what my clients had said (I had to do it often). When clients expressed their feelings of frustration I had to use my observation skills and appropriately reflect with them on their feelings.

This semester, I was able to put my interviewing skills into practice. Practicing in class is helpful, but it’s not necessarily the real deal. As students we may have that classroom experience acquired but when faced with a real situation it can be completely different. Although I mainly worked with the Hispanic/Latino population, the diversity in clients varied. Some clients were very outspoken while others where very limited in their responses. Some clients were very pleased with the amount of support they have received from the agency while others expressed frustration on not being attended properly. Being able to show empathy and understanding is very essential when doing outreach with clients. Acknowledging their feelings, and complimenting them on anything helps to build rapport.

This year I was able to work on outreach and increase my ability in interviewing skills, and next semester I will be doing case management which will help me increase my experience and enhance my social work competencies. Through case management, I expect to put into practice the systems theory, the empowerment theory, crisis intervention model, among others.

Maria Cardoza
BSW Student

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