Internship as Hazing/Indentured Servitude

I'm an MFT Intern in California--graduated Pacifica 2004, MA Counseling Psych. I love the work I do with clients and consider it an honor to share the journey with other human beings. But it has been a struggle for survival as a single parent--managing nearly 20 hours a week in an unpaid internship on top of 32+ weekly hours at my "day job". Typical work days are 12-14 hours for me with little time for myself, and the financial pressure has been intense. And I know there are many of us engaged in this struggle.

I have been thinking a lot about the irony inherent in the intern/licensure experience. We are tasked with animating soul in the world and in our clients, and yet the process often leaves us little with which to animate our own souls. Reflecting on the archetypes of wounded healer, victim, martyr, savior, prostitute, etc. that are evoked by this kind of system, I am interested in what changes might be set in motion to create a healthier system and healthier therapists who can experience and model good self-care and high self-worth.

There is a clear relationship between the nature of the intern experience and our health care system, mental health parity laws, and insurance systems. A system that does not value mental health on par with physical health will not compensate mental health providers with parity. Because poor, uninsured, and disenfranchised people often cannot afford the fees of licensed therapists, there is a need for agencies which provide low-fee therapy. And how do these agencies provide low-fee services? Through unpaid interns! Then interns, who require 3000 hours supervised experience to become licensed, have no choice but to complete their supervised hours without pay. Only those who are financially independent or supported by someone else can commit to several years of work without compensation. The end result is overworked, underpaid, often highly stressed interns--like moi.

Maybe changes in health care and insurance systems will naturally result in changes to the internship process; this remains to be seen. As for me, I am considering my beliefs and mythology about what it means to be a healer, a keeper of the flame of soul in the world. And asking myself, "How I can approach this experience in loving support of myself, my clients, interns to come, and the future of our profession?"