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Track hours

Many grad students believe that once they secure an internship, their days of carefully tabulating their hours of supervised therapy are over. Not so.

When clinical, counseling or school psychology students apply for their licenses to practice, they must again report how many supervised hours they accrued — and state boards often check this number against internship supervisor reports.

Unfortunately, those numbers may not always match: A survey found that 58 percent of internship directors admit to estimating a student's hours, according to a study published in the May Training and Education in Professional Psychology (Vol. 5, No. 2).

If a licensing board investigates a discrepancy, it can delay a student's licensure application because most states require a specific number of internship hours to be eligible for licensure, says study co-author Emil Rodolfa, PhD, director of University of California, Davis Counseling and Psychological Services and vice president of California's state psychology licensing board.

"I've seen cases where there's a discrepancy between what the supervisee reports and what the supervisor is willing to sign off on, and the board has to work with the credentialing staff to try to resolve what the number of hours are," Rodolfa says.

To avoid such problems, students on internship should track their hours by the week and month, says lead author Erin Tracy, PhD, clinical director at La Luna Center in Fort Collins, Colo.

One way to do that is with an Excel spreadsheet, printing it out every week or month and asking your supervisor to review and sign it, Rodolfa suggests.

Students also need to make sure they're getting enough training hours to meet the licensure requirements for any states in which they might want to practice in the future, Tracy adds. States require students to accrue anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 training hours during the internship year.

To simplify the process, Rodolfa would like to set a national standard of 1,800 hours for the internship year, which would allow student to take off holidays, two weeks of vacation and sick days. Rodolfa says he hopes the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards will support a national standard of 1,800 hours for licensure and recommend adoption by its state licensing board members.

"If we could figure out how to be more consistent at the licensing level, that would provide more guidance to training programs and easier mobility for psychologists," he says.

—C. Munsey