After putting many years of time and effort into academic coursework and clinical training, the final culmination of the doctoral degree ends in an internship year where students expand their knowledge and training and stretch themselves in infinite ways. Reaching this point assumes that you have had a requisite number of direct clinical service hours that include foundational competencies in intervention or assessment.

Since many states allow for pre-doctoral hours to count as supervised clinical experience toward licensure eligibility, considerable attention is paid to issues such as hours, competencies, assessment, and supervision [1]. Indeed, intervention and assessment hours have been found to significantly influence the number of interviews internship applicants receive, suggesting that monitoring the type of clinical training hours you accrue is important throughout pre-internship training [2].

However, one of the inherent challenges many often face in their training experiences is how to acquire more quality face-to-face hours to meet a developmental trajectory and increase competitiveness for internship sites.   

The pie and bar graphs on Time2Track provide a continuous reminder of how many hours you have completed and how many more you must obtain to increase your direct clinical service hours and competitiveness for an internship. Subsequently, the question often arises in practicum training regarding how you can obtain more direct hours. Below are five tips for getting those salient face-to-face hours to increase your chances to obtain an internship placement that will be a good fit and meet your clinical training goals.

1. Plan ahead

Trainees can no longer be passive and wait for opportunities to happen. Instead, they must plan and be proactive. Training supervisors regularly experience competing demands when executing their work. Their best intention may be to provide optimal training that offers you a breadth of clinical experiences, but this can at times be a challenge.

Trainees who receive their clinical training at a larger site, such as a medical hospital, inpatient state hospital, state correctional, or federal facility, may encounter a supervisor who has multiple roles that compete for their attention and focus. The demands are significant and can draw clinical supervisors in divergent directions. Consequently, identifying additional opportunities for trainees to gain face-to-face hours may be one more thing on a long list of pressing issues. It is essential, then, that you consider your needs early and identify potential options at your training site ahead of time. This will let you transition seamlessly into the clinical trainee role with a solid understanding of the number of face-to-face hours expected.

2. Communicate

You are your own best advocate. Supervisors are not likely to know how many direct and indirect hours you have accrued, or how many more hours you may still require to meet your goals. Your clinical training needs will also vary based on your past training experiences and level of competency. Therefore, it is important to communicate with your supervisor about your desire for more face-to-face hours and the type of hours you may need, and remember to come prepared.

Let your site supervisor know what kind of direct clinical service hours you are looking for and be ready to offer ideas and a plan for how the site might meet those needs. Remember to be sensitive to the parameters of the site, the supervisor’s time, and his or her ability to help you achieve those goals.

3. Be open to new experiences

It is time to get out of that comfort zone and be willing to try something new. Becoming a psychologist requires a measure of growth, and growth requires trainees be open to new experiences that may initially be uncomfortable.

While this idea may seem daunting, these new experiences have the potential to facilitate your personal and professional development as a future psychologist. After all, we ask our clients to do this in treatment. Similarly, as clinicians, we must be open to taking measured risks that enhance our experiences and create opportunities for attaining additional face-to-face hours.

4. Be flexible

Maintaining the status quo is easy. Unfortunately, the status quo may not allow you to meet your training goals or to attain the direct service hours you need to develop functional and foundational competencies as a developing psychologist. Acquiring more face-to-face hours may require change.

Be willing to go above and beyond what you are doing in the present. You may want to consider adding a few more hours to your schedule where you have direct contact with clients. Unquestionably, it is not easy to add more to an already busy schedule. However, even a few hours weekly or monthly spread out over several days can add up. If you have the capability, you may want to consider adding a day at your current site or at another clinical training site to gain those additional face-to-face hours.

5. Be creative

Let’s face it; you may need to get creative and think outside the box. Trainees may assume that the only opportunities for face-to-face hours at their sites are those that are predetermined, prior to the completion of their practicum placements. However, there may be more than meets the eye. Many practicum experiences have multiple psychologists on site who have many different roles.

Furthermore, consider that not all supervised experiences need to fall under the domain of a licensed psychologist. Consider whether your training site has other licensed mental health professionals who may have opportunities for you to earn intervention or assessment hours. Another professional at the training site may allow you to provide co-therapy services with their clients.

If there is a waiting list, it may be possible for you to add another client to your caseload and in turn, reduce another professional’s workload. Maybe a clinician is providing case management for a client, and it is possible to participate. In a hospital setting, consider opportunities for client consultation on a different treatment floor with a pediatric or adult population.

At assessment sites, consider whether there is an opportunity to conduct intake interviews or participate in feedback sessions to disseminate assessment results. Some psychiatric hospitals may have other options for gaining assessment experience. Psychiatric hospitals may allow you to co-facilitate a group, provide milieu therapy, or offer individual treatment with a different patient population. Exposure to different experiences can not only increase your direct service hours but also enhance your learning across domains and settings.

Another option is to consider whether your site may be able to offer pro bono services to an underserved population such as the homeless. Some organizations may provide free transportation services from homeless shelters to the training site. Consider whether there are opportunities for the supervision of other practicum trainees more nascent in their clinical training experience. Inquire about the possibility of your participation in program development or outreach efforts at your training site. Offer to run a psychoeducational or substance abuse group. Consider the provision of an evidence-based manualized treatment such as cognitive processing therapy or dialectical behavior therapy to a client who may have specific challenges and who might benefit from this type of intervention. Even if it has never been implemented at your site before, it may be something you can do. I encourage you to ask. The only limitations may be your own.

Ultimately, the pursuit of additional face-to-face hours requires some level of motivation and self-direction. It is essential that trainees take the initiative and develop ways to actively acquire their direct hours. Remember, you are your best advocate and the one with insight into how best to meet the expectations established for your learning and clinical training. After all, someday you will be the psychologist. The experiences you create now in your quest to accrue more face-to-face hours will only enhance your learning, growth, and professional acumen. 

References

[1] Li, C., & Fiorello, C. A. (2011). Evolving practicum issues in school psychology preparation. Psychology in the Schools, 48(9), 901-910. doi:10.1002/pits.20601

[2] Callahan, J. L., Hogan, L. R., Klonoff, E. A., & Collins Jr, F. L. (2014). Predicting match outcomes: Science, practice, and personality. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 8(1), 68.

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Debra Row, MA

Debra Row, MS, MA, NCC is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Fielding Graduate University and is currently completing pre-doctoral externships at the Special Commitment Center and Western State Hospital in Washington State. Debra is a member of her school’s student governance and personnel committee and holds many mentorship roles inside and outside of her institution. Debra has experience in clinical neuropsychology, health psychology, and forensics, working with populations across the lifespan in both outpatient and inpatient mental health settings and has served individuals with severe mental illnesses. Debra is particularly interested in working as a forensic psychologist and hopes to focus her clinical work on the evaluation of risk with sexual offenders. Her primary research interests are in identifying and targeting precursors to sexual offense patterns. She strives to apply this knowledge to her work with the sexual offender population to reduce community risk.
Debra Row, MA

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