When Fielding University clinical psychology student Mark Holbrook couldn't find an internship that would keep him near his family in Brunswick, Maine, he panicked. He had a young daughter at home, and he couldn't uproot his wife from her job. But without an internship, he couldn't get licensed, and the time and effort he'd put into grad school could go to waste.
"I just felt this impending sense of doom," Holbrook recalls.
Rather than resigning to moving away for a yearlong internship, he set about creating one close to home that fell in line with his university's clinical psychology program's training philosophy. With the approval of his adviser and other faculty members, Holbrook contacted mental health agencies statewide and tried to talk them into creating an internship program.
His diligence paid off: In June 2008, Holbrook began an internship at Riverview Psychiatric Center, a 92-bed facility in Augusta, Maine, that houses four psychiatric units and the state's only forensic treatment facility.
Holbrook's work benefited Riverview as well. Thanks to his efforts, the center was one of 24 locations approved as a new internship site by the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers last year. The facility is also considering applying for APA accreditation as a predoctoral internship site.
"This is an example of a student who took initiative and was able to achieve his personal objectives but also make a contribution to a training resource that will continue beyond his time," says Gilbert Reyes, PhD, who was associate dean of clinical training at Fielding when Holbrook was working with Riverview and now serves as Fielding's associate dean for program development.
Research was key
Developing a new internship site from scratch was difficult and took months of Holbrook's time. First, he researched Maine's psychological licensing rules and requirements, including the amount of hours and supervision needed for predoctoral clinical internships. He says he found that "creating an internship out of thin air was a monumental task on the site's part." Maine, similar to many states, follows the APPIC and APA licensure guidelines, which require internship sites to have a strong emphasis on training and employ at least two full-time doctoral-level staff psychologists.
The guidelines also mandate that the program hire at least two interns, a requirement Holbrook was able to help the site meet by reaching out to potential interns at professional schools and universities in New England. Rebecca Eilers, a psychology graduate student at the University of Maine, responded and joined Holbrook in his quest.
Before contacting any potential sites, Holbrook says he developed talking points for how his talents, skills and experiences might help the agency. He says this proved particularly helpful when faced with some administrators who didn't see the benefit of going through the paperwork required to become an approved internship site.
"The psychologists all said yes, but their administrators thought it would be like trying to turn a supertanker" to add two internship positions, Holbrook recalls.
To help executives get over their initial resistance, Holbrook researched each organization's mission, then searched for potential grants or federal programs to subsidize a new internship there. When he called the agencies, he explained how he could help them obtain funding, though this wasn't a problem for Riverview. Once the institution decided to create the program, it was able to shift some funds around to support it.
Holbrook says his biggest cheerleader in this regard turned out to be the deputy superintendent at Riverview, Teresa Mayo, PsyD.
Despite the state's ongoing budgetary restrictions, "She made it all happen," Holbrook says, by presenting the program to administrators as an opportunity to enhance staff expertise, develop and create new programs and put Riverview in line with an elite group of teaching hospitals. To further demonstrate her commitment, she also invested her own time in completing the necessary paperwork.
The virtues of persistence
Holbrook also remained persistent, continuing to contact sites regularly even after one site expressed interest. At one point, he says, he'd gotten pretty far along in planning a potential internship with one site when its funding fell through. Luckily, he had alternatives lined up.
Holbrook says he also received fervent support from his faculty adviser, Lynne Saba, PhD, and from Reyes, who was heavily involved in ensuring that Riverview's internship experience and supervision would be in line with the education Holbrook was pursuing at Fielding and meet the criteria for APPIC membership. Reyes says he also discussed these requirements with Mayo and learned more about the site.
As an intern, Holbrook spent time presenting at clinical case conferences, advancing his knowledge and understanding of test instruments and engaging with long-term psychiatric clients. He also worked to ensure that the program could continue for years to come. He helped create program materials and a Web site, and his efforts have led to further Riverview success, Mayo says.
"Mark's successful completion of this internship has helped cement the program for future interns," she says. "This year, we were selected by two more doctoral-level students as their No. 1 internship choice."
Reyes says he has been most impressed by Holbrook's persistence as well as what he's done for the field moving forward.
"The contributions of Mark and all of the folks at Riverview have created one new resource to deal with the bottleneck problems psychology currently faces with regard to internships," Reyes says. "It may be a drop in the bucket, but that's how you fill a bucket."
By Amy Novotney
Amy Novotney is a writer in Chicago.