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On March 28, 185 psychology doctoral students breathed a sigh of relief as they got the news they matched with an internship in the first-ever phase II of the APPIC internship match. But hundreds of other students who didn't match in either phase only felt more uncertainty.

All told, 79 percent of applicants — or 3,095 students — matched to an internship this year. That left 21 percent of applicants — or 804 students — without positions. Another 300 students initially registered for the match but withdrew from the process, either for personal reasons or because they weren't contacted by internship centers for interviews.

Clinical and counseling doctoral psychology students must complete an internship year to graduate, so not matching to an internship can stall a student's education. The lack of an internship can also lead students to take out more student loans if they can't get an additional year of funding from their programs.

To ease the way for students, APPIC instituted a second-round match this year, which gave unmatched applicants more time to apply and interview for unfilled positions than the clearinghouse process previously used by unmatched applicants.

While the new system worked well, even a perfect match process can't solve the underlying problem of too many students competing for too few internship positions, says APPIC Chair Sharon Berry, PhD. At the start of the match process last year, APPIC had 4,199 students registered to compete for 3,166 available internship positions.

APA has been responding to the growing internship crisis for several years. In 2008, APA gathered leaders from five psychology doctoral training councils with representatives from APPIC and APAGS to develop solutions to relieve the imbalance. Some steps taken so far include:

  • Developing a web-based toolkit to guide potential internship sites through the internship development process. 

  • Matching up sites that want to expand with psychology doctoral programs willing to offer help with intern supervision and group training sessions. 

  • Providing more comprehensive information about doctoral programs' match rates so that applicants can make more informed decisions. 

  • Seeking commitments from doctoral programs with lower match rates to dedicate funding for new internships. 

  • Advocating for increased federal funding for psychology internship training with underserved populations through the Graduate Psychology Education program.

"All the things we're doing … it's not making a difference yet," Berry says.

Cynthia Belar, PhD, executive director of APA's Education Directorate, thanked APPIC for making a second round of matching available for students, but stressed that the internship imbalance needs a long-term solution.

Belar also noted that APA's Board of Educational Affairs conducted a "vigorous" discussion of the internship problem during their March meeting in Washington, D.C. "The BEA is very concerned about improving the quality of internship training for our students," she says.