Internships and Jobs

AIDS Services of Austin

Austin, Texas | Social Work Intern | 09.05.2006 - 12.08.2006

Course Information:
Integrative Seminar, SW 444, Fall 2006

Faculty Information:
Faculty Supervisor: Tammy Linseisen, LCSW, ACSW, Clinical Associate Professor
Internship Supervisor: Aubrey Staples, LMSW, Intensive Case Manager

AIDS Services of Austin (ASA) helps to respond to the HIV/AIDS needs of the Austin area providing services that "enhance the health and well-being of individuals and the community in the face of an evolving epidemic" (ASA Mission Statement). ASA started in 1984, originally called Waterloo Counseling Center's Austin AIDS Project. In 1987 it became AIDS Services of Austin. During the time when it was WCCAAP it was run primarily by volunteers. Today, ASA has close to 50 staff members but still relays heavily on volunteer support, especially around fundraising. ASA helps about 1500 HIV+/AIDS clients every year. ASA's main programs include: testing, prevention, case management, Paul Kirby Emergency Fund, Capital Area AIDS Legal Project (CAALP), Jack Sansings Dental Clinic, Helping Hands Food Bank and Women Rising Project.

Critical Reflection
I was an Social Work Intern (SWI) at ASA. My connecting experience was special in that I worked full-time at the agency clocking in over 480 hours of field time. The title of SWI gave me many opportunities to have direct contact with clients and have my own client load. I also co-facilitated an educational series for employees and staff of ASA.

I feel I have excelled in research-related duties, evaluative outcome studies, fundraising and other administrative responsibilities. I demonstrated these outstanding abilities in my work through the education series I co-facilitated with the other interns. I also helped evaluated outcomes for a grant program called HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS) for over 300 clients on financial assistance. Lastly, my fundraising and administrative responsibilities came through with the AIDS Walk 2006, when I raised a total of $765 in less than 10 days and finished as the 4th highest raising staff member at ASA.

I also loved the opportunity to use the skills learned in previous work experience. My research experience at the Gender and Sexuality Center was especially helpful. I and the other two interns from UT and Texas State helped put together a transgender educational series with the topics such as: Transgender Basics (including language, myths/facts and The Traditional/Post-Modern Gender Models), History and Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, Issues in Society (e.g. ID cards, hate crimes, work, relationships, school, etc.), and Transitioning and complications for HIV/AIDS clients. It was a 5-week educational series that ended in a discussion panel that invited the HIV/AIDS helping professional's community. I worked most closely on the Gender Models and Issues in Society though I gave import for every section. I have come to cherish my abilities and strengths in research. Social workers have to be active learners, constantly reading the latest research to be helpful, this skill comes naturally for me.

Overall, what I took from the agency is more than what I could give back. What was most important to me was accomplishing my seven educational goals:

  1. To learn about AIDS Services of Austin; its history, structure and purpose.
  2. To learn about and understand Harm Reduction Intervention and its history at ASA.
  3. Learning to be more efficient in time management.
  4. To gain experience working with diverse populations.
  5. To gain experience in interviewing skills
  6. To learn about HIV/AIDS ands its physical, emotional, and psychological effects on a client
  7. To increase my understanding of social work roles in the profession.

Over the course of the four months I was able to complete six of the seven educational goals. The only one I struggled with is number three: learning to be more efficient in time management. Unlike most, characteristics people have that can be improved on constantly, time-management is more like a rollercoaster. Sometimes I am good at managing time and sometimes I am not. I found working full-time and taking a full-course load at the same time, either school or work had to give in, usually, not always, my internship won.

Also, while at the agency I learned a lot about myself from the feedback my supervisors gave me. I was always open to supervision and requested it, asking for help and feedback on many occasions and followed through on the feedback provided, which I think is one of my strongest strengths. One suggestion the supervisors made was in my confidence. For example, after seven weeks in my internship I only had one client. During my supervision hours I spoke up about this concern and within days of speaking up for myself my supervisor gave me another client. I think the fact that I asked for more clients showed that my confidence was building with clients and with the supervisors. By the end of my term at the agency I had three clients I worked with by myself and a few others that I staffed with my supervisor for specific weekly task.

In finishing, I am truly grateful for having the opportunity to intern and learn from ASA. The experience I had at ASA is backed by love and dedication for a cause I will spend my life-time fighting for, for a cause I deem truly worthy of my time to fight for. Richard Gere an American Actor once said, "We've had too many World AIDS Days," and I strongly agree with him. AIDS is no longer a death sentence for those who can get the medicines. My fight towards stopping the need for a World AIDS Day will not end when my internship ends. My one sincerely positive thing that came out of this field placement is my unending wish to help stop the AIDS epidemic. My working at AIDS Services to some might only look like a small hill, but the knowledge I gained working at the agency gave me a mountain to yell from.