Pre-Doctoral Internships for Students Interested in
Careers in Addictions
Greetings! As a 5th year clinical psychology
graduate student, I recently completed
my pre-doctoral internship applications
and interviews. By the time this article is
published, I will know whether and where
I have matched. Graduate school is a long
marathon and I am very much looking
forward to the next phase of my career.
Given the great anxiety associated with the
internship match process for many students,
in this issue I will share my experience and
offer some advice tailored to students
interested in careers in addictions. Here are
some factors to consider that may help you
to select sites and ensure an optimal result
on Match Day.
“Helping Clients Who Drink Too Much: Using the NIAAA Clinician’s Guide”
Attendance at this workshop is limited to allow individualized attention and maximize exchange between front line
clinicians and clinical researchers.
Are you primarily research-oriented,
aiming for an academic career? Mostly
interested in clinical work? A mix of the
two? Although you will spend most of your
time doing clinical work at all internships,
there is wide variation in programs’
attitude toward research. Some sites do
not protect any time for research and
discourage interns from getting involved
in research with the exception of finishing
their dissertations. Other sites don’t protect
time, but encourage involvement outside
of the standard workweek. Still other sites
protect a limited number of hours within
the standard workweek, perhaps 2 to 8,
and strongly recommend or even require
interns to complete a research project.
Finally, a few programs offer a specialty
track designed specifically for students
interested in academic careers focusing on
addictions research. In these tracks, interns
serve as therapists for randomized clinical
trials of addictions treatments and become
integrated into the research team.
The Elusive “Fit”
“Fit” is an overused word during the
application and interview process. Be
prepared to make a strong argument for
why a site is the right fit for you. Ultimately
I decided that the best fit for me was an internship that would offer advanced
training in addictions treatment but would
also provide general training in areas I had
less exposure to during graduate school.
Students interested in addictions-related
rotations are fortunate because there is a
great wealth of opportunities available in
a variety of internship settings. Given the
high prevalence of addictive disorders in
veteran populations, most internships in
Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals in particular
offer at least one addictions rotation, with
many offering multiple rotations in both
inpatient and outpatient settings.
Internships vary greatly in the number and
length of training experiences offered.
Some sites offer a standard curriculum
completed by all interns, whereas other
sites offer numerous rotations from which
to choose. Some sites divide the training
year into 2 to 4 full-time rotation periods.
Other sites offer quarter or half-time
rotations that run for the entire year, so
that interns complete multiple rotations
at the same time.
Size of Intern Class and Program
Internships also vary widely in class size
and coherence. For example, some sites have a small intern class but many rotation
choices across a large geographical area, so
it is possible you may rarely see your fellow
interns. Other sites are just the opposite
and you may work closely with fellow
interns in a single clinic.
One of the most important things I learned
during the interview process was that I
needed to think beyond just the internship
year. I realized that at many sites, I was
not just choosing an internship but perhaps
a post-doctoral fellowship as well and
even my first “real” job. Several sites
emphasized that many of their faculty had
completed internship and/or post-doc at
the site. Consider the faculty at the site and
whether you could imagine yourself working
with them for a post-doctoral fellowship.
Once again, I think that students interested
in addictions are fortunate because many
internship sites have great opportunities for
addictions-related post-doctoral fellowships
and beyond, especially academic medical
centers and VAs.
Good luck! And remember that, despite
everything I have said, it is important to
keep internship in perspective as simply
one component of your full clinical and
research training plan. It is, after all, only