That moment you realize that finding an internship site is much more of a daunting process than you imagined…
You feel like you have exhausted all options and the demands of life haven’t slowed down a bit. If you’re like me, you’ve amassed a great deal of lemonade from what seems to be an orchard of lemons. Now, if an opportunity actually does present itself, you’re worried that you’re too involved in other endeavors to attend to the demands of an internship with the necessary zeal. You are continuing to accomplish so many things, but the void left by what you ultimately equate to failure is notwithstanding.
As I continue in my effort to locate a site to complete the clinical requirements of the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) graduate program I attend, I can’t help but to question my own efforts as I reflect on the experience. It is my hope that in some way the information I present hereafter will prove useful to those wishing to pursue a graduate degree requiring a concomitant residency, others similarly situated and additionally serve as a calling to those positioned to supply the necessities of this demand.
Similar to most careers, becoming a helping professional is possible through a variety of avenues. Despite the source of your motivation, the resources and support you have accumulated and the advantages of your genetics, you can be assured that the licensure process will create challenges that, despite any preparation, will test your fortitude.
The licensure process is the stretch of the pursuit that canalizes candidates to evaluate competency.
In many cases, the consideration of a graduate program is one of the first steps towards garnering the competency necessary to embark on your journey. While you carefully consider your options you may be taking into consideration the programs offered, the institutions proximity to your home or place of employment, tuition and associated costs and even the school’s reputation.
This thought process is normal, and is closely related to the process you went through during undergrad; however, consideration of a graduate program (especially a counseling related program with a clinical training requirement) requires specialized thought.
So, while you’re mapping out the coffee shops on campus, make sure that you take a moment to get your hands on some extremely relevant information.
Clearly understand the following:
The accreditation(s) held by the academic institution. Regional accreditation by one of the regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, ensures that specific standards are upheld at the institution, and that credits earned are more likely to be transferrable to another institution. Furthermore, the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is a specialized accrediting body within the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) which accredits MFT programs at academic institutions. The COAMFTE is purposed with evaluating the level of competence of the graduates of institutions which volunteer for accreditation.
The requirements for internship sites and supervisors as set forth by your institution. You may find that aligning these requirements for a particular site is more difficult than you imagined. You may have to compromise concerning one or the other, or both. For instance, you would ultimately prefer to work with an approved AAMFT Supervisor but may find that there are few, if any, located within a reasonable distance.
Often when you do locate such an individual you find that they cannot take on any more interns or limit their expertise to interns who already possess the requisite degree. Though as a graduate student you are obviously striving for excellence, understanding your academic organizations minimal requirements for both the site and the supervisor is key to complete and careful consideration of potential sites.
If the academic institution has partnered with local organizations to provide clinical sites for its graduate students, you should spend some time learning about those sites and what is offered and expected. Understand that many academic institutions cannot guarantee placement at an internship site even in cases where partnered organizations exist. Also note that it is not farfetched to intern at a qualified site under the supervision of a qualified professional who is not affiliated with the site you are located.
The expectations concerning competency and the academic requirements of the clinical experience. The academic institution likely requires both clinical experience hours and supervision hours for completion of your clinical training. Understand that the site you choose should be able to provide the hours you need for your degree within the confines of your academic semester. During this planning process you must consider the likelihood of the unforeseen such as no-shows, changes in personnel at your site and the stability of specific programs at your site which may affect your ability to accomplish your academic requirements. You may find that, in order to meet your goals and the academic requirements, you may require support from multiple internship sites concurrently.
Your state’s licensure board requirements. In many cases state licensure requirements are similar; however, it is critical that you understand the requirements in the state(s) which you plan to practice. Consider the application process and transferability of licensure in reference to neighboring states and states you may plan to reside in the future.
Don’t save a review of these requirements for a later date, thinking that they only concern those who already possess a degree and are seeking licensure. The reality is that states often have educational requirements that specifically pertain to your graduate work. Through careful consideration, it is possible to align yourself with an organization and/or supervisor which can support you, not only through your graduate experience, but also throughout the post-graduate licensure process as well.
While this information is structured for those seeking a MFT graduate program, the processes and structures are similar to those associated with other helping professions as well. If you have read this and are wondering why such a review and careful consideration is necessary by the student, it may prove helpful to understand that my MFT academic experience has been online.
Thus, in my case, the pursuit of a site and supervisor includes a great deal of footwork, phone calls, emails and, ultimately, networking. I chose to attend an online program during active duty with the military, and this approach was the best (and realistically only) method for continuing my education at the graduate level concurrently with my military obligations. I do not regret taking the time to pursue a higher education while serving in the military.
I will admit that there were challenges during the pursuit; none greater than having left service with only the clinical portion of my degree remaining. Despite the rise in popularity of online courses, certifications and degree programs and the growing acceptance of these forms of education, clinical degrees present specific, unique challenges regardless of the institutions mode of education.
Continue to follow this blog to learn more about finding an internship site, approaching potential supervisors, the advantages provided through innovative technology and the unforeseen challenges of completing the clinical training requirements of your online MFT graduate degree.
Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.