President's Column

Every year, more than 3,000 students apply for an important aspect of their doctoral programs in professional psychology: a doctoral internship. The Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) match connects psychology doctoral students with internship programs that provide a required year of experience working with clients or patients under

the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Following rounds of interviews, applicants and programs submit their preferences and a computer program matches applicants with available positions. Unmatched students may seek internships through a second round of the match (called Phase II), or through the APPIC Post-Match Vacancy Service, or apply again next year. Not matching to an internship can delay and complicate the path to a doctorate for many students, and often has significant financial and emotional consequences as well.

For at least three years now, one-fourth of all students who applied did not get “matched.” In fact, this year, a record number of 4,199 registered students applied to a record number of internships; 3,166 positions were offered by 690 registered internship sites. These numbers reflect an increase of 309 applicants and an increase of 65 positions as compared with last year at this time. (See a more complete news report in this issue.)

Particularly concerning is the fact that 937 students — or 24 percent — who participated in the match did not get matched to a position in Phase I of the match, while only 256 positions remained unfilled. Further, of the 4,199 who registered to take part in the 2011 match, 352 withdrew or did not submit rankings.

These results are unacceptable. Multiple causes have contributed to the internship crisis, the most consistent being a greater rate of growth of students in the pipeline in relation to the growth of internships in the match. However, it is also important to note that some programs have a number of students who do not even enter the match and obtain internships arranged for by their doctoral programs.

Solving the match problem requires multiple strategies with a variety of groups. Among those working on the issue are APA’s Education Directorate, the Board of Educational Affairs, APPIC and the Council of Chairs of Training Councils (CCTC). What are the solutions? They include:

  • Pressing psychology programs for “truth in advertising.” APA emphasizes that students must have easy access to information about match rates for doctoral programs.
  • Urging those who manage existing internship training sites to create additional internship slots.
  • Fostering the creation of new internship slots. CCTC has created a kit that provides tips on finding funding and acquiring administrative support to ease the way for developing new internship sites in such settings as community mental health clinics, counseling centers, hospitals and VA facilities.
  • Helping graduate students increase their chances at matching (visit APA’s gradPSYCH magazine and search for “internships.”) For example, APA recommends that students apply to sites that match their interests, ensure that their application materials reflect their experience and practice their interviewing skills.
  • Advocating at state and national levels for an increase in psychology training funds and reimbursement for services that interns provide. APA educates policymakers about the need for psychologists to provide services to the nation’s underserved communities and the need for psychology graduate education. The Graduate Psychology Education Program, for example, provides monies that contribute to both internship and postdoctoral training opportunities.

In addition, APA and the various training councils are urging programs to take greater responsibility for placing their students, and to ensure that the number of students admitted are able to be placed in internships.

APA is committed to continuing its work with key groups involved to address the crisis, and to identifying strategies and solutions.