Practicum Experience as Social Work Interns

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By Julia Ollikainen and Trellie Johnson, MSW Interns

A question we get asked often is, “Why social work?” For Julia, it felt like something she was called to do. For Trellie, it was having a job that had a purpose. We currently are first-year graduate students at IUPUI working on a Master of Social Work degree. After the completion of this semester-long practicum, we will move into our second year at new practicum sites embarking on new adventures.

First, what is CICOA?

In the beginning, neither of us had ever heard of CICOA. Was it an acronym for something and pronounced it by spelling it out (C-I-C-O-A) or was it pronounced Sequoia? Neither, as it turns out. When our classmates would ask what CICOA was, we would simply shrug our shoulders and say, “I don’t know.”  On top of that, we did not know what to expect when we walked through those glass doors. Despite our lack of knowledge and apprehension, everyone was welcoming and made us feel comfortable and excited for the semester ahead.

Experience throughout the whole organization

Over the last five months, we have had the chance to learn about and experience all that CICOA has to offer. We spent the bulk of our time in the Flourish Care Management department shadowing care managers on home visits from Franklin to Indianapolis. We were able to shadow Dan Amonett on a bathroom home modification, have lunch at a Meals & More site, sit on a few internal committees, attend both Operating and Foundation Board meetings, shadow Options Counselors at Methodist Hospital, and shadow a Way2Go driver as he ran his route. On top of all of that, we witnessed the implementation of a new client database, the resignation of a CEO, and an impromptu fire drill on our first day.

Valuable takeaways

During our time here as MSW interns, we have learned many things. The first is how many clients CICOA serves and how grateful its clients are to receive the help necessary for them to stay in their homes. We learned what person-centered care looks like and how important it is to involve the client in the decisions about their lives. We followed the process of becoming a CICOA client, from that first call to the Aging & Disability Resource Center, to the initial home visit, to being assigned a care manager. Lastly, we learned about the different levels of social work and how they all impact the client system.

What will we take with us from this practicum experience, and hopefully, utilize in our future careers? Collaboration and client engagement is crucial. The client needs to be involved in every step of the process, because the work we do as social workers is for the betterment of their lives. Advocating for and partnering with clients to promote self-advocacy efforts are necessary to ensure independence. We have enjoyed our time at CICOA, and we would like to thank everyone who had a hand in our learning experience.


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