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Student and Trainee Perspectives
Erika Litvin
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.
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Career Goals
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.

Program Structure
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 Coherence
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.

Post-Internship Opportunities

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 one year.