The small but growing trend of part-time internships may be part of the solution to psychology's internship shortage, according to three articles in December's Professional Psychology: Research and Practice (Vol. 37, No. 6).
A national conference sponsored by the California Psychology Internship Council (CAPIC) examined part-time training opportunities in-depth for the first time in 2005, and the PPRP articles summarize the conference's findings and suggest next steps.
The authors of the lead article — Roger L. Peterson, PhD, and graduate student Margaret D. Ober, both of Antioch University New England — call for the training community to think in new and innovative ways to help students find adequate internship experiences. Innovation is necessary because there's a growing internship shortage, say the authors, noting that the number of Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) Match applicants grew by 13 percent from 2002 to 2006 while the number of positions grew by only 1 percent. That left 731 of 3,210 applicants in 2006 to enter the APPIC Clearinghouse.
However, the field has been challenged to find funding to increase the number of internships. An increase in part-time opportunities could help with the shortage, suggest the authors of the second article, led by Luli Emmons, PhD, of the Wright Institute. Small sites that couldn't afford the two full-time interns that APPIC requires may be able to fund two part-timers or share the costs with other sites in part-time consortia. Moreover, these part-time sites are more likely to be in high-need areas, such as rural and urban community mental health clinics, write Emmons and her colleagues. Part-time interns in these areas can help serve clients who otherwise might not receive care, they note.
However, the half-time model is still on the fringes of the discipline, the articles say, and departments, psychology organizations and internship centers need to do more to make the model more widely available. For one, the training community should closely examine its negative assumptions about half-time internships, Peterson and Ober suggest. Training directors can counter the belief that these opportunities attract "underqualified" students unable to "do things right." Why, they ask, should the training community discriminate against students who have relationships and obligations that might restrict their internship mobility?
Part-time slots can allow students the time to tend to such commitments, the articles say. The authors of the third article, led by Lorraine Mangione, PhD, of Antioch, highlight four internships that do just that. For example, students in Widener University's PsyD program participate in a program in which Widener recruits local internship sites and places only its students at those sites. No Widener trainee goes through the APPIC Match.
Other part-time internships are open to any student, the articles' authors note, and a few participate in the APPIC Match and may be APA accredited. Training over two years — such as at the APA-accredited Carson Center for Adults and Families in Westfield, Mass. — allows the students to serve long-term clients and experience an agency's seasonal cycle, while the agencies spend less time training new interns and clients benefit from fewer turnovers. Half-time options are most common in California, where CAPIC encourages them.
However, some internships are part-time for just one year, leaving the student to find a new training slot to finish their hours. And many of the positions are unpaid and lack APA accreditation or APPIC membership — a negative when it comes to applying for licensure. And if students and doctoral programs don't proactively coordinate the half-time training, students may miss out on the organized, sequential training that is the field's gold standard. The sometimes extended timeframe of part-time internships may also delay participating students' graduation dates — costing them more in tuition and thereby cancelling out some of the financial benefits of the positions.
The CAPIC conference participants encouraged the training community to band together to create a tool kit that would help organizations create more half-time options and address some of the drawbacks. In the meantime, APPIC and the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology are examining student demand for half-time options and identifying geographic areas that might support part-time opportunities.
-D. Smith Bailey
APAGS supports half-time options
At its spring 2006 meeting, the APAGS Executive Committee approved a formal statement on half-time internships:
"The American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) highly values quality graduate training at the predoctoral internship level. APAGS also recognizes the changing composition of today's graduate students and advocates for the development of quality half-time internships. Therefore, APAGS believes that similar to full-time APA-accredited internships, part-time internships should prepare students for licensure in all states. Part-time internships should expose students to a series of developmentally sequenced experiences that will assist the intern in developing the appropriate level of autonomy as they progress through the internship. As the student is involved in internship on a part-time basis, it can be expected that a part-time intern will not move through this process as quickly as a full-time intern. Sequencing of training, however, should not simply be a full-time internship cut in half. Training directors and training staff need to take initiative to ensure that the half time internship is an experience significantly different from the practicum experience."