In her undergraduate internship at the Mayo Clinic, Monica Ziebell ran group therapy sessions in the pediatric psychiatric unit. While substance use disorder wasn’t the focus of her unit, the experience solidified her career goal.
“Working with kids, I noticed that there was a huge overlap with substance use disorders… and I think that in order to work at a place like that in the future, it’s important to have some experience, because it happens all the time. You see kids with more than just depression.”
Preschool to Premed
“Ever since I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor,” Ziebell says, remembering the time she wrote her intent down in her kindergarten journal. She was set on becoming a pediatrician until high school when she took her first psychology class.
“I was like, this is exactly what I want to do. I think mental health is definitely becoming less stigmatized, but there's a lot that still needs to be done, and I would like to be a part of that.”
After graduating from the Health Science program at the University of MInnesota Rochester, Ziebell was looking forward to taking a gap year before medical school.
“But I didn't want to do nothing. So I was looking at different psychology-based degrees, and I decided to apply to the Addictions Counseling program, and I got in, thankfully.”
Managing Kids and Coursework
Shortly after Ziebell started the ADDC program, she began working as a nanny to two toddlers 20–30 hours a week, which doesn’t afford her a lot of emotional or physical downtime.
To manage her workload, she spreads out her assignments and readings over time. “If I know I have 200 pages to read by Wednesday, I'm not going to wait until Tuesday. I'm going to spread it out and say okay, Friday night I do this, then Saturday this.”
As an undergraduate, she worked 40 hours a week, had an internship, and always took over 15 credits. During the pandemic, Ziebell has finally been able to carve out time for, well, nothing. To relax, she has started watching a TV show with her mom; they have already completed 12 seasons!
That doesn’t mean she isn’t busy. Ziebell will start studying for the MCAT during winter break and hopes to take the exam in April. In the meantime, she will be completing her clinical internship at Nystrom & Associates, conducting individual therapy, group therapy, and Rule 25 assessments (where she’ll gather information about a person and decide whether they need treatment and if so, what type might be the most beneficial).
In addition to the practical clinical training she gained in the ADDC program, Ziebell says she learned important culturally competent relational skills that can be applied to her everyday life.
"And if you're scared when you're working with a client, you're just not going to be able to give them the best care.”
“We need to have conversations about race,” she says. “Although it can make people uncomfortable, that's how we become better physicians and clinicians. Because if we aren't having these conversations and learning, then we are constantly going to feel scared to say something wrong. And if you're scared when you're working with a client, you're just not going to be able to give them the best care.”
Ziebell has a unique perspective on race as a naturally blonde Hispanic woman who speaks fluent Spanish. The assumptions we make about people based on their appearances, names, or how they sound can be complicated, especially now when our encounters are often virtual and without video.
If you present a certain way or if people only hear your voice, Ziebell says, sometimes they can be surprised when they see you in person.
Another major takeaway from the program she values is how to use empathetic communication. “I actually use it with my friends, and I'm very deliberate with how I communicate with them when they're upset about something. I think that's something that everybody can use all the time, and that I will definitely be able to use in my future career as a psychiatrist.”
Advice for Future Students
“Don't be afraid to ask questions. I know it can be intimidating. When I entered the program I was only 20 years old. A lot of the people had more experience than me, and I thought I probably wasn’t going to be heard because I haven't worked as a counselor or social worker. You're paying to be in this program so you should get everything that you can out of it, and I think the best way to do that is to make sure you understand what's going on. There's no reason to not share your voice, because people will listen.”
Monica Ziebell is a recipient of a Graduate Tuition Scholarship.