Discovering Opportunities

Amanda Talan

Amanda Talan is spinning a lot of plates. This spring, she will graduate with not one, but two master’s degrees: the Master of Professional Studies in Addictions Counseling (ADDC) and the Master of Social Work (MSW).

Amanda Talan

On top of that, she is a graduate research assistant at the Minnesota Center for Chemical and Mental Health, as well as completing a 600-hour internship at St. Olaf College as a therapist.

This dedication stems from a passion to continuously learn from and help others. “I have always been interested in listening to people’s stories, asking questions, and supporting others,” Talan says.

“These attributes are a major part of who I am and influenced my decision to pursue a career where I can do those things on a daily basis.”

Out of the Lab

Talan found her calling early on in her education. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Vermont in 2010, then went on to work in a research lab, where she studied how substances of abuse affect brain function.

“My academic interests included the psychology of motivation and how trauma influences mental health… In the lab, I was involved in assessing the effectiveness of a pharmacological intervention for reducing the addictive liability of certain pain management medication.”

Talan enjoyed the science and the research but realized she wanted to work directly with people. The decision to leave the lab and go back to school, she says, grew out of an interest in mental health and her personal experience with people struggling with substance use and addiction.

Expanding Boundaries

Talan completed her first internship through the Addictions Counseling program at PRIDE Institute’s intensive outpatient program, where she gained valuable experience in group therapy and treatment planning. At her second internship at North Memorial Medical Center, Talan learned about the screening process for substance use concerns, Rule 25 assessments, and referrals.

“Focusing on an individual’s strengths and using humor can have a significant and positive influence on the therapeutic relationship.”

“A major takeaway from my internships is that the experience is what we, as students, make of it,” she says. “My most invaluable learning opportunities occurred when I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone and took on responsibilities that were new and unfamiliar to me.”

“I encourage all ADDC students to take the internship process seriously and to look for diverse placements that will encourage growth as practitioners and individuals.”

Maintaining Focus

With two advanced degrees under her belt, Talan will have a lot of options. She would like to focus on behavioral health concerns (substance use and mental health disorders), as well as the relationship between behavioral health and physical health and how providers can better integrate treatment for both.

"I hope to secure a job as a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and a Licensed Graduate Social Worker. One of my dream jobs is to work with college students who struggle with mental health and/or substance use concerns and to create and enhance programming for them.”

At the core of her career goals is the desire to keep supporting others in a person-centered setting that emphasizes strengths, relationships, and policy and advocacy initiatives.

Favorite Courses

  • Foundation in Addiction Studies
  • Methods and Models I: Motivational Interviewing
  • Assessment and Treatment Planning

Tips for Future Students

  • As a student and a working professional, create a routine that includes something that you enjoy each day. 
  • I would recommend completing two internships at very different sites—one outpatient site and one in-patient site or one adolescent site and one adult site. 
  • During your internships, remember that you are a student! Try not to put too much pressure on yourself.