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Are you a college student pursuing a career in mental health?  Securing an internship in this field is a crucial step towards gaining valuable experience and developing your skills.  But not all internships are created equal.  To make the most of this opportunity and set yourself up for success, here are four essential factors to consider when choosing a placement:

 

  • An Interview: Demonstrating Commitment.   Look for internships that involve an interview process.  Though it may seem nerve-wracking, it’s actually a positive sign.  Interviews allow both you and the internships program coordinators to assess if you are a good fit for each other.  It demonstrates that the program is selective and values interns who are genuinely committed to the field of mental health.  Embrace the opportunity to ask questions about the internship structure, responsibilities, and the organization’s values.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions- the interview should go both ways.  The mutual evaluation ensures you find an internship that aligns with your goals.  Offering a placement without an interview is a sign that an agency is looking for a warm body, not the perfect fit, and this is a big red flag for what the rest of your experience with them might look like.   


  • Training: Equipping You for Success.  A reputable mental health internship should offer comprehensive training sessions.  As a student, you may not have extensive experience in the field, so training is vital.  Look for an internship that provides workshops on therapeutic techniques, ethical considerations, and relevant clinical modalities.  This training will equip you with the necessary knowledge and tools to handle various challenges during your internship.  It will build your confidence as you provide clinical care to real-life clients with high needs.  It also sets you up for success in future roles as a mental health professional.  


  • Supervision: Support and Guidance.  Supervision is a crucial aspect of any mental health internship.  Regular sessions with an experienced mental health professional offer valuable support and guidance.  As a college student, you’ll benefit greatly from the feedback and advice provided by a clinical supervisor.  They can help you navigate difficult cases, ethical dilemmas, and help you determine areas of growth.  A supportive supervisory relationship fosters a safe learning environment and helps you build confidence in your abilities.  Bonus points if the agency provides group supervision for interns!  Intern group supervision is one of the best learning and support experiences you will have during your time in placement.  


  • A Challenge: Growth Opportunities.  While it’s important to have a nurturing environment, you also need an internship that challenges you.  Seek internships that expose you to diverse cases and clients with varying needs.  Overcoming these challenges will push your boundaries and enhance your critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Avoid internships that only offer co-facilitating opportunities.  Although there are definitely opportunities to learn from a co-facilitator, you need to have the chance to try it on your own.  Embracing a challenging internship experience that will contribute significantly to your growth as a mental health professional and help you stand out in the job market.  

 

Finding the right field placement is a critical step towards realizing your career goals.  By prioritizing placements that include an interview process, comprehensive training, regular individual and group supervision, and looking specifically for an internship that will challenge you, you ensure a transformative learning experience.  Remember, the goal of an internship isn’t just to meet requirements; it’s about gaining practical skills, fostering passion for the field, and preparing yourself for a successful career in mental health.  Take the time to research and choose an internship that aligns with your aspirations- it will be a rewarding investment in your future! 

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Aspire Clinical Training Center

Blog articles are contributed by various Aspire staff members.

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