From undergraduate level all the way through the postdoctoral level, hands-on experience is valuable in the field of psychology. For students pursuing their bachelor’s degree, the clinical experiences or practicums may be optional, though encouraged. Other bachelor’s degree programs require internship experiences. At the postdoctoral level, internships become mandatory for aspiring clinical psychologists. Completion of an internship is necessary for earning the license and credentials required to practice psychology. No matter what education level you are currently pursuing, looking for internships can be a challenge. You may wonder what opportunities exist, how to get an internship and how your experience will help you further your career.
Psychology Clinical Experience Opportunities
Psychology internships take place at a variety of sites, giving students many options. Students who are interested in counseling or clinical psychology might benefit from gaining their hands-on experience at a private practice or clinic. Inpatient and outpatient mental health centers may also offer internship opportunities, as will mental and general hospitals. Residential facilities and crisis interventions facilities are often willing to take on interns. Social services departments of local governments may also hire interns, especially psychology students who are interested in ultimately working in social services. Veterans Affairs offices and other government services are also common places for aspiring psychologists to begin their internships.
Some aspiring psychologists base their internship decision at least in part on geography. While the notion of interning abroad and getting to travel the world may sound appealing, location shouldn’t be the sole reason you select an internship opportunity. Ideally, you should make your decision based on the work you will be doing as an intern and how that work will help you build your knowledge base and skills for the future career you desire.
At the undergraduate level, you may have the opportunity to devise your own practicum experience idea and coordinate with local agencies or organizations that are willing to supervise you. Psychology internships for graduate and doctoral students are more rigid, and they have become extremely competitive in recent years, according to The New York Times. Both students and clinical sites, like hospitals, must rank each other and be matched together. Fortunately, efforts by the American Psychological Association have succeeded in matching more applicants with the accredited internships they need to prepare for a career as a psychologist.
The Benefits of Pursuing a Psychology Internship
The key to making the most out of your practicum or internship experience is to find an opportunity that aligns with your career goals. For example, if you are interested in a career counseling children or adolescents, gaining experience at a public school can help you prepare for that work. To make sure you find an internship that works for you, you can consult an academic advisor or career counselor at your school. Some psychology programs even employ an internship coordinator to help match students with the opportunities that will be prepare them for their desired careers.