Spring internship at detention center encourages Basconi ’15 to consider career in substance abuse counseling

Posted by Centre News in Internships, News 01 May 2015

Centre College prepares students to delve deep into their academic interests, expanding their boundaries to engage new ideas and explore the full spectrum of liberal arts disciplines, both in and beyond the classroom. A fascinating academic experience can even inspire an unexpected real-world career opportunity—as it did for Rita Basconi ’15.

Last year, Basconi took a course led by Associate Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience Melissa Burns-Cusato called Drugs, Brain and Behavior that ultimately influenced her academic focus and, potentially, her professional path.

“I found Dr. Burns-Cusato’s course last fall fascinating,” Basconi said. “I appreciated the way she structured the class; it went from learning about drugs at an in-depth neurological level to learning about drugs on a societal level.

“We discussed addiction and the many theories and approaches for treatment,” Basconi continued. “Dr. Burns-Cusato brought in guest speakers, such as the Boyle County sheriff and Rob Durham, director of counseling services at SelfRefind, a clinic that prescribes substitute medications for addicts struggling to recover.”

While Basconi enjoyed guest speaker presentations, her favorite part of the class was an off-campus visit to the Boyle County Detention Center.

“We went on a field trip to the jail, where we interviewed the inmates in the substance abuse program,” Basconi said. “The program’s director, Liz Cook, mentioned the opportunity for an internship.

“I had a strange feeling that this was the opportunity I should pursue, despite my initial apprehension of working in a jail,” she added.

Fast-forward to one year later, and Basconi has found herself earning three academic credits for her work at the detention center.

An internship or research opportunity is one of the three main tiers of the Centre Commitment. This spring, the College has 49 students participating in a total of 50 internships for academic credit, which is a record number of students for the spring and fall terms.

Basconi’s responsibilities as the substance abuse program intern vary from day to day.

“I manage the inmates’ files, review their applications to phase-up to the next levels of the program and conduct intake surveys with new inmates,” Basconi explained. “I also observe group therapy sessions, conflict resolution meetings, accountability panel and group meetings, and one-on-one counseling sessions.

“By observing my supervisor, I am learning how to facilitate group therapy sessions and mediate confrontational situations,” she continued. “I especially like observing one-on-one sessions because my supervisior says really insightful things.”

Although Centre doesn’t offer classes that focus specifically on counseling or therapy, Basconi feels that the College has equipped her with the tools she needs to succeed in this internship role as well as life after graduation.

“Centre has prepared me for this opportunity by only accepting my best,” she said. “I truly have developed a strong work ethic and I know I can apply that to all things in life.”

Basconi hopes to pursue a career related to substance abuse and addiction counseling.

Learn more about internships at Centre and the Center for Career & Professional Development.

By Anne H. Evans
May 1, 2015

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