Internship Insider

This fall, more than 4,000 clinical, counseling and school psychology graduate students are expected to vie for approximately 2,400 APA-accredited internships. Those who succeed in securing an internship will be one step closer to their dream careers, while those who don't will face uncertainty and even delays in their graduate education.

To bring attention to the internship imbalance problem and help demystify the process, five students are documenting their journeys through video diaries.

The Internship Hunters

These brave internship hunters are:

Lee V., 30

PsyD candidate in clinical psychology

Lee V. (Credit:Ivan Lizarde)The internship hunt isn't the only thing that's making Lee anxious this fall. He and his wife are expecting their first baby in January — not long after he plans to jet cross-country for interviews. The new addition to their family is also influencing where Lee, originally from upstate New York, applies. "The further east we get, the cheaper the flights will be for our families to visit their grandchild," he says.

Lee hopes to find an internship that offers rotations or focuses on psychoanalytic treatment, though he knows he can't be too picky.

Lee's dissertation explores how graduate students cope with "forced termination" during practicum, or when they're forced to pass their clients off to another provider. "I had a lot of anxiety around saying goodbye to patients; and 90 percent of student clinicians will have to go through this, too," he says. "But the literature doesn't address it."

Emily V., 28

PhD candidate in counseling psychology

Emily V. (Credit: Juan Javier Castañeda)After earning her undergraduate degree in psychology, Emily joined the Teach for America Service Corps in Houston, where she thrived on the program's dedication to social outreach and prevention efforts. That's why, after earning her master's in clinical psychology, she decided to pursue counseling psychology. In her internship, Emily hopes to find a position in the Department of Veteran's Affairs or the prison system.

"The training at those places is excellent and prepares you to work with people who have been historically marginalized and oppressed," she says. "I want to help people who typically don't have as much access to psychological services." Eventually, Emily wants to launch a clinic for female survivors of trauma. "I'm drawn to close the gaps in health care and education," she says.

Sommer T., 32

PhD candidate in neuropsychology

Sommer T. (Credit: Steve Smith)Sommer is looking for an internship that offers at least 50 percent of time focused on neuropsychological assessment, as well as strong generalist training, including inpatient psychiatry experience. She also hopes to remain in the Northwest or West, close to her husband, a geography professor who can't move with her. But Sommer is not sure what her chances are of landing her ideal internship. "One challenge is that [neuropsychologists] are a relatively small percentage of psychologists," so there are no good data on the ratio of applicants to positions, she says.

Sommer began her academic career in the field of geography, where she found her husband, but not her calling. Now, she knows she's on the right path. "What really makes me passionate about psychology is the brain," she says. "It's exciting to learn about the neural processes underlying behavior."

Matt P., 26

PhD candidate in clinical psychology

Matt P. (Credit: Andrew Itkoff/SILVER IMAGE Photo Agency)Matt is interested in family dynamics, adolescent identity and religiosity, a pursuit that stems from personal experience. When he was 12 years old, his parents divorced and both later remarried. He went from being an only child to living in a household with two stepsiblings, one half-sister and a new set of values based on his stepmother's religion. Later, at age 18, Matt was rejected by this side of the family when he told them he is gay.

"My coming out experience inspired my research on family factors that relate to youth outcomes," he says.

Matt wants an internship that will prepare him for assessment and therapy with both children and adults. He worries about the financial burden of the search, the availability of quality internships near his family and partner, and feeling like he may need to compete with friends in his program. But he is optimistic. "I have had some rough experiences, but have tried to meet every one with confidence and positivity," he says. "I am hoping to do the same with the internship process."

Christian M., 29

PsyD candidate in clinical psychology

Christian M. (Credit: Orlow Kent Nygren)Christian, whose first language is Spanish, works in a clinic where he sees Hispanic clients, many of whom are immigrants dealing with cultural adjustment and poverty. He hopes to find an internship where he can continue to work with the Hispanic community, or where he can treat survivors of trauma.

Christian knew he wanted to be a psychologist after he earned his undergraduate degree. The inspiration hit when talking to his friend's mom, who was going through a divorce. "I realized I wanted to help people feel better," he says.

Ultimately, Christian wants to work as a psychologist in the military. "By serving the government, I hope to improve the mental health of individuals and, in turn, help the development of our country," he says.

—Anna Miller

Digital Extra

These brave psychology grad students will share their journeys from the application process to Match Day. Watch their video diaries.