Some graduate programs afford students the opportunity to spend their summers back home as opposed to requiring summer courses. Online graduate programs sometimes require students to locate their own training opportunities wherever they are located.

For students coming from larger towns and cities, this can be a promising option. However, for other students like myself, home has more wildlife than people.

After going through the process of finding summer practicum and internship positions in my small hometown multiple times, I have learned some approaches that have aided me in this process despite my initial hesitation.

1. Be Persistent.

In small towns, finding a psychologist is a difficult task on its own. Some companies, even relatively large ones, may only have one psychologist on staff to provide services to all of its clients. As a result, their days are most likely hectic and filled with back-to-back appointments, leading to the necessity of leaving a voicemail when trying to contact them.

Based on my experiences, I have learned that persistence is helpful in these situations, especially when it is a site at which you would really like to work.

When I first attempted to find behavioral health training positions in my area, I felt guilty about calling a supervisor twice for the same purpose. Unfortunately, many of my calls were not returned and summer was quickly approaching.

I then decided to call periodically (or send an email as well) with hopes that I would have good timing for when that individual was in their office or that repeatedly hearing my name on a voicemail or from an assistant would act as an increasing reminder to return my call.

I have personally found that supervisors have been receptive to these reminder calls and admired my determination.

2. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone.

Due to the aforementioned issue of having many voicemails left unreturned, it is often necessary to widen your search to different types of sites and potentially neighboring towns (i.e., commuting an hour each way). Expanding your search criteria can often lead to more opportunities.

Even if you are not interested in the population that a specific site may be servicing, you can still obtain coveted direct hours, gain experience with working in different settings, and learn skills and therapeutic approaches from supervisors that can be applicable to any population. You may even find that you enjoy working with a different population.

As for commuting to a site, weigh the positives and negatives to determine whether the experience and training will benefit your curriculum vitae for when it comes time to apply for internships and whether it is worth the additional time and effort as opposed to settling for something closer.

3. Contact Previous Supervisors & Directors.

Although you may have had positive experiences at previous training sites, you may want to obtain more diverse experiences in different settings or with different populations. Despite this meaning that you will not be returning to provide free labor, most psychologists understand the difficulties facing graduate students and will want to help their previous trainees as much as possible.

I have found it helpful to remain in contact with previous supervisors and directors as they often have colleagues to refer you to and may even provide a recommendation on your behalf.

4. Reach Out to Your County’s Mental Health Department.

Due to financial issues, not every county will have a licensed psychologist on staff to act as a supervisor in their community clinics. However, due to the nature of a county’s mental health department, they are tasked with being knowledgeable about the resources available in the county in terms of individual treatment providers and organizations.

Getting in contact with a representative from the administrative side of the department can lead to outside-of-the-box training opportunities. Some counties also have a list of the area’s behavioral health treatment providers on their websites.

5. Don’t be Shy – Ask for Help.

In some small towns, such as mine, behavioral health treatment providers do not come across many students asking for clinical psychology internships and may be surprised when they are contacted randomly. Even if a provider is unable to provide adequate supervision and training opportunities, do not be afraid to ask them for recommendations or suggestions. Remember – they were students once, too.

It is always possible that these treatment providers may have colleagues to refer a student to or are even aware of who has had a practicum student in the past.

Giovanna Steinhaus
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