Preparing for Your Counseling Internship

As a CFT, CMHC, or creative arts therapy student, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you start thinking about your upcoming internship. How do you choose a site that’s a good fit for you? When should your start applying? What do prospective internship sites look for in an applicant? All of these questions and more may be on your mind as you get closer to internship.

Michelle Byrd, MA, and Director of Clinical Training, offers some tips and tricks for making the internship preparation process a little smoother:

  • Know your plan of study! Be sure to check the CFT or CMHC handbook to make sure you have taken all of your prerequisite courses. Nothing is more frustrating than thinking you’re all set for internship only to discover you forgot about that one class you have to take before you can start.
  • Meet with your academic advisor more than the minimum times required. Checking in with your advisor regularly can help you make sure you’re on track and gives you an opportunity to build a valuable relationship with a faculty member.
  • Get familiar with the available resources. As an enrolled counseling student, you have access to the Clinical Training Hub in Sakai. This is a rich resource for practicum and internship information, including a list of current sites in your area.
  • Talk to other students. Your fellow students can share their internship experiences, which may lead you to a site that would be a good fit for you.
  • When you are considering sites, make sure your on-site supervisor is appropriately credentialed. There is a frequently updated list of approved supervisors in the Clinical Training Hub on Sakai, as well as instructions on how to get a new supervisor approved.
  • Get your therapy hours! Make sure you’ve completed the required 20 hours of personal therapy before you start your internship.
  • Make sure the site you’ve chosen can provide you with the hours you need. For example, if you are a CFT student, you’ll want to choose a site that has enough family clients to ensure you’ll get your 250 required relational hours.

Byrd also recommends that you start applying for internship at least two or three quarters before you want to start. Waiting until the last minute will make it more difficult to find a site that’s a good fit. In addition, some sites may only accept interns at certain times of the year, so it’s good to know well in advance where you’d like to apply.

Once you’re ready to begin applying, check the websites of the sites you’re considering. They may have applications online that you can fill out and submit. Many times, these applications are found under the Volunteer section.

When you’re applying to sites, be sure to have your resume and a cover letter ready and on hand. Many sites also require letters of recommendation, while others need contact information to speak to faculty, so be sure to talk with faculty about recommending before you begin applications. For your cover letter, Byrd says most sites want to know why you want to be a counselor. “Demonstrate that you’re curious and flexible,” she says. “You don’t need to know everything, just show you’re willing to learn.”

Following these recommendations can go a long way in alleviating your internship preparation stress and ensuring that you end up at site that is a good fit for your personality and therapeutic interests. If you have any questions about the process of applying, Byrd says she is happy to answer your questions. You can email her at [email protected].

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