In this issue
We’re not alone in the internship process
By Kacey D. Greening
In recent years, there has been much concern regarding the internship match crisis. There are different hypotheses for this crisis, but regardless of the reasons, the impact is the same. Delaying internship can disrupt the progression of training, place financial and emotional burdens on students, and impede self-esteem and confidence. APA and APAGS have been working to provide education and guidelines to ensure that some doctoral programs either improve the quality of their training or accept fewer students into their program. Other solutions have included the possibility of requiring accredited doctoral programs to provide a quality internship program for every student accepted, as well as encouraging prospective students to become informed about match records among different programs (Munsey, 2011).
I write from a unique perspective because I am not comfortably writing from the other side. I can’t celebrate a successful internship match yet because I am in the midst of applying for internship this year. I’m sure many of you are also in the midst of applying or at least looking ahead to applying in the near future. In the spirit of group, Yalom’s therapeutic factor “universality” comes to mind. It may help to know we’re not alone and to know there are other students out there who are going through the same exciting and anxiety-provoking journey. For us, anxiety is not a thing of the past but very palpable in the present moment. Now, we can have an even deeper empathy for what many of our clients must be experiencing in group (e.g., Will I “match” or “fit”? Will I get my needs met? Does anyone else know what I’m experiencing?)
If pre-group preparation is a strong predictor of group success, then hopefully a similar concept can be applied to the internship process. Much like new group members who learn about group processes before they join, it has been essential for me to prepare well in advance for this capstone in my training. For instance, familiarizing myself with the internship process and with potential programs have been important preparations for me. Personally, I’ve found it helpful to reach out to programs in an effort to learn more about their mission and what a professional relationship might be like with them. I think this speaks to the importance of “self-understanding” and knowing what works for you because each person will be encouraged and calmed by different strategies. For me, it has been just as important to have self-care strategies outside of my professional world. For example, spending time with my family and friends, as well as reading and meditation, have been powerful ways for me to decrease internship-related stress.
I’ve often imagined that internship interviews will be similar to group screenings. You walk into a new environment, both excited and nervous, with only a partial understanding of what will happen. You approach the process with a desire to learn about an opportunity that could generate great possibilities for your life, and you hope to convey what you might be able to offer in return. It is a curious time because you know you’re being assessed and you also know that you’re assessing them. This process may bring up “existential factors.” For example, I can’t do anything more than my best. WhiIe I can do my best to work with any situation, each person ultimately makes their own evaluations and decisions. As group screenings provide a channel to check in with clients to see if they are a “fit” for group, internship interviews provide a channel to check in with applicants to see if they are a “fit” for the site. The concept of “fit” isn’t always easy to understand, but I think it is important to remember that just because some group members don’t fit into a specific group doesn’t mean they are any less valuable. I believe the same is true for internship applicants.
Through writing this article, I have experienced some “catharsis” regarding the internship process. Just knowing that others will read this article, regardless of their reactions, makes me feel as if someone has witnessed my feelings and my fears. I wish I had a perfect set of answers to solve the matching crisis and to ease the anxiety many of us feel. But no matter what the outcome is, I firmly believe that it can bring about opportunities for growth and meaning. While I wish a successful match for us all, I wish even more that we give the very best we have to the process and not base our worth as a clinician on the outcome. I know this is easier said than done, but this is still my wish for us all.
Munsey, C. (2011). The internship match crisis continues: A surge in applications leaves a record number of students unmatched. Monitor on Psychology, 42(4), 12.