August 28, 2013

Internship Site Selection: Finding a Clinical Science-Oriented Program

Matthew Rouse
Boston Consortium in Clinical Psychology 
Doctoral candidate, Emory University
(Clinical Science Vol. 15 (3): Fall, 2012)

Applying to and securing a predoctoral clinical internship is a stressful process, not helped by the statistics of nearly a quarter of applicants failing to match to an internship site this last application cycle. The hysteria around the “crisis” is enough to engender attitudes of “going wherever I can match,” without much consideration of the training model and orientation of the site. I know I myself succumbed and submitted an additional flurry of applications after applying to my top sites. Needless to say, I didn’t end up matching at any of those sites and I probably would have been better off, certainly financially, if I hadn’t submitted those applications. Having come out of the process with an internship that feels like a great fit, I believe now more than ever that the internship “match” is appropriately named, and that it really comes down to the fit between the internship site and the applicant. Therefore, for students coming from clinical science programs or subscribing to the tenets of clinical science, it is important to apply to clinical science-oriented programs, as those programs will provide training that is consistent with their prior experiences. Following is a list of some tips that I used in helping to figure out which sites were consistent with clinical science and that valued research, and were therefore a good fit for me.

• Go to the Academy for Psychological Clinical Science website. They publish a list of clinical science internship programs This is a great starting place (and where I first got information on my internship site). However, as there are currently only 11 sites on the list, it will probably not constitute the end of your internship search. Even so, reading the descriptions of the programs on this list gave me a frame of reference against which I could compare other sites and assess their degree of clinical science orientation.

• Read the program descriptions thoroughly. Somewhere in the materials, typically towards the beginning, there will be an identification of their training model and orientation. A few will actually identify as clinical science programs, making things easier. However, I also learned that not all clinical science-oriented programs actually use the term “clinical science” and others use terms like scientist-practitioner or Boulder model, so those were key terms I also looked for. Others I ran across, including practioner-scholar, Vail model, developmental training model, and local clinical scientist model, seemed to emphasize the training of clinicians rather than clinical scientists.

• Look for protected research time. This became the most important criterion for me in selecting sites. Even if it is only a couple of hours per week, the fact that a site allots time for research endeavors at all speaks to the values of the program.

Think about research match. At those sites where they request that you identify a potential research mentor, this is obviously important. However, considering that many interns transition to post-doctoral fellows at their sites, thinking about where you might fit in at a site could benefit you down the road. Plus, I have found that having someone who shares your research interests, or even just your enthusiasm for clinical science research, serves as a welcome touchstone during the internship year.

• Divorce yourself of the idea of “safety” sites. It’s hard to let go of the notion that some sites are better or more prestigious or more competitive than others. The more you can think about a site in terms of the fit for you, the better the whole process will be. One interviewer at a site for which I was not a good match said to me, “We hardly ever invite candidates with your background to interview here because you never match here.” So true! I had gone against my better judgment in applying to the site, and they had broken their own rule for whom to invite to interview. The result was that we essentially wasted each other’s time. Set your goals for internship and don’t let anxiety deter you from sticking to them.

• Ask lots of questions during the interview. It’s important to determine how the actual experience of the internship lives up to what is described in the materials. From my experiences interviewing, current interns were the most valuable sources of information, reporting that the protected research time was nonexistent or that the emphasis on an evidence base was not as strong as it could have been. This is important information that will help determine where you rank the site, or maybe if you will even rank the site at all.
In sum, I think if your goal is to match at a clinical science-oriented internship site, and your “story” is one of clinical science, then get an internship you shall. If you put the effort into selecting sites that make sense for you and your goals, all while resisting the sway of anxiety, you’ll be pleased with the end result.

1 comment:

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