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Letter to an Intern

A significant ingredient of Recovery Cafe’s healing community is the love, support and passion brought by our interns. Typically our interns come from counseling degree programs at Seattle University and the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology.   Dave Shull heads up our interns program and serves as their wise, deeply seasoned, committed and caring mentor. We view the opportunity to help shape the understanding and practice of our interns as one of the ways Recovery Cafe contributes to the larger mental health field and to the healing of our larger community. Below is a powerful exchange between Dave Shull and our new intern, Jerome Veith, which gives some insight into the discernment process for becoming an intern and the richness of the relationship between intern and mentor.

Hi, Jerome,

This must be a wild time in professor-dom as the quarter draws to a close…

I really enjoyed our conversation a couple of weeks ago.  I may have told you there was only one other time in the seven years I’ve been supervising interns that I offered a slot to someone right after the interview.

I wanted to let you know a bit more specifically why I’m inviting you to be an intern here.

When I asked you to describe yourself, you said, “I engage.  I like to be with people.  I want to be around a table with them.”  Whether you knew it or not, you summarized in just a few syllables what the heart of this place and its mission is.  And you summarized why it can be a hard, exhausting place for a lot of people.  Everything here is about engagement.  It is about accompaniment.  It is about being with.  I believe you would be an excellent intern here because what we ask of interns is something you thrive on doing.

You talked about the joy and life you receive from surprising others and being surprised by them.  Core to my philosophy of healing is this element of surprise.  I believe when a clinician surprises a member/client by not responding the way they were sure the clinician was going to respond that these moments of being “kindly” thrown out of that place of certainty can break them open to seeing and imagining in new ways.  Suddenly a new world is possible.  I believe you would be an excellent intern here because you not only are open to surprising others and being surprised, but you say it’s “something I can’t help”.

You said one of the reasons the existential/phenomenological psychology master’s program attracted you is because it “awakens curiosity”.  You said, “When I feel too certain, I have to pull back.  When I feel too certain, I’m not doing my work.”  Jerome, it’s like you’ve been listening in on my supervision times with interns.  Because the need always to bring an element of curiosity into a conversation with a member is something I speak of all the time. I know the interns must get sick of me saying that.  And I believe it’s essential, since assuming we know the meaning of something to anyone is never helpful or healing.  I believe you would be an excellent intern here because you honor and practice this spirit of curiosity, and try to shun the certainty that can never heal.

Talking about your friend Paulie whom you met on a tour, you said, “He knew the right way to ask questions that didn’t shame me.”  Most of us have known too much shame.  All of the members of the Cafe have known too much shame.  To be aware of how healing it can be to be asked questions that don’t shame — to be aware of the power language and behavior and attitudes have to leave people feeling shamed or to tell them, “You’re beautiful” — is something that is hard to teach.  I believe you would be an excellent intern because you are aware of this distinction.

I was struck by your comments about the limits of willpower.  You said, “Willing doesn’t always make it possible to do.”  And you wondered, “How responsible can I make this person for their situation?  Should we attribute blame at all?”  Again, these sensibilities lead me to believe you would be an excellent intern.

Finally, what you said you value in a supervisor speak to values and practices I believe ground how I do this work: speaking to what you’re struggling with a not aware of, pointing out assumptions you don’t know you’re voicing, giving interns a feel for how therapy works by committing myself to the creation of a relation that tries to model openness, challenge, kindness, respect, and the kind of holding that makes risk possible.

Let me know if you have any further questions about this place and our internship program.

Blessings to you, Jerome.


Hi Dave,

It is indeed the wild part of the quarter, when papers pile up to grade. Soon enough I’ll be through them, though, and will have some days to recuperate.

I really appreciated getting your email, and reading your feedback on our conversation. I left the interview feeling really heard and understood, and your words just confirmed that for me again. The email also reminded me how thrilled I am to be invited to work at the Cafe. I gladly accept the invitation!

Whenever is a good time for you, I’ll need to run my program’s internship agreement by you and fill out some forms. But my department doesn’t need that until April/May, so there’s no rush.

By the way, as pleasure reading in the last weeks I got through Night Train to Lisbon. Thanks so much for recommending that! The tone and pace of the writing really sucked me in, and I loved that it was so deeply about the connections between the characters, rather than just about the goings-on of the world. I also caught a reference to Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet which, if you’ve never encountered it, is another great book set in Lisbon, and a chilling character-study.

All the Best,