The latest

Psychology students preparing for the internship application process often believe the number of practicum hours they've accumulated is the most important factor in getting matched to a training site. But it's an urban myth, top psychology training officials say.

In fact, practicum hours are fourth on the list of what training directors consider most important, ranking behind interviews, essays and letters of recommendation, says Stephen McCutcheon, PhD, chair of the Board of Directors of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC).

  • Interviews. 78 percent of respondents said the rating given the student from an on-site interview or telephone interview is very important.

  • Essay answers. 56 percent of respondents said the answers to the five essay questions included in the Application for Psychology Internships (AAPI) form are very important.

Letters of recommendation. 50 percent of respondents listed letters of recommendation as very important.

The number of practicum hours was rated as very important by only 40 percent of the training directors, he says.

"I hear over and over again from training directors that they want students to have a sufficient number of hours, but once they've met the minimum criteria, other factors become much more important," McCutcheon says.

From his discussions with training directors, McCutcheon says that besides meeting the minimum number of practicum hours listed in a program's internship application, students need to pay attention to the quality of the practicum experience, in terms of the level of supervision, the severity of the problems of the clients they help treat and the diversity of clients.

"Students should gain a range of experience that will be attractive to the type of site they want to apply to," McCutcheon says.

APPIC made the online survey available to 684 training directors in May 2006, and 55 percent responded. The survey also asked them to comment on the issue of supply and demand in the 2006 Match, during which 3,479 students sought matches to 2,779 internship slots.

Many of the 197 training directors who submitted written responses expressed frustration over the knowledge that a certain number of students won't be able to get internships, he says. Overall, they said they support expanding the number of internships, but acknowledge the difficulty of finding more money for training. They also expressed concern about the number of professional schools producing an increasing number of graduates, but conceded that APPIC can't tell schools how many students to enroll, McCutcheon says.

When it comes to evaluating the progress of interns during the internship year, 64 percent of training directors said they believed that if they could talk to an intern's academic program about training goals and a training plan prior to the start of the internship year, communication between interns' academic programs and training sites could improve. Training directors responding to the survey also want more input from academic programs on where interns need to improve, so that once the Match has occurred, specific training and education can address those weaknesses, he says.

In other survey highlights:

  • 90 percent of training directors support the development of a new APA division of education and training, but a significant number expressed doubt over whether they'd join or participate.

  • 96 percent described themselves as satisfied with the APPIC Match.

  • 22 percent expressed dissatisfaction with the level of communication provided by interns' academic clinical training directors to the internship training sites, 33 percent were neutral

-C. Munsey