Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA

Frequently Asked Questions

Practicum and Internship:

 

What are practicum and internship?

Practicum and internship are experiences designed to provide you with an opportunity to practice and expand your counseling skills in a fieldwork site. Practicum is an opportunity to begin to experience a wide gamut of essential counseling services at an actual agency or school site with children, adolescents, and/or adults while under direct supervision of a Fairleigh University counseling faculty and a site-based supervisor. Internship is the culminating experience of the counseling program of studies leading to the masters in clinical mental health counseling. Therefore, all core courses and practicum must be completed before the internship is started. The practicum and internship experience are both comprehensive and professional. The intent of each experience is to provide you with supervised training activities in an appropriate site congruent with your specialization within the counseling program.

 

Can I do practicum and internship at the same time?

CACREP standards clearly state that a student must have completed 100 clock hours of practicum experience before being allowed to start a clinical internship.

 

How can I find out about practicum/internship sites?

The Counseling Faculty and the Coordinator of Practicum/Internship conduct a practicum/internship orientation each semester to explain details, requirements, and procedures for attaining a practicum/internship placement. All students planning to take practicum/internship courses must attend an orientation session the semester prior to actual placement. Dates are posted on the door of the Psychology office and on the bulletin board inside the office.

The orientation will offer ideas and professional tips on selecting and obtaining a practicum/internship site. While the Coordinator of Practicum/Internship placement and the faculty advisor will help you to find a proper placement, you are primarily responsible for selecting and obtaining the internship site. Why?  Because each of you have unique needs (e.g., geographic location, work requirements, family responsibilities, etc.).   Indeed, the process of finding, selecting and obtaining an appropriate site placement is a tremendously enriching experience because it can be considered to be a practice run for when you actually seek employment as a professional counselor upon completion of the masters program. All internship sites require that you bring in a resume and complete an interview. Thus, the experience of seeking a practicum/internship placement prepares you in your future search for a professional position.

In addition to attendance at the practicum/internship orientation, you can find out about potential sites by asking the department administrative assistant, for the Practicum/Internship Binder to review sites where students in the program have completed their hours. Former graduates of the program and students currently enrolled in practicum/internship courses can also be invaluable sources of information.   An additional resource is the Multicultural Agency Resource Center brochure published by the NJ Institute of Mental Health.

You should select a site based on the following:

  • Appropriateness of the site to your specialization (i.e., mental health, school, substance abuse)
  • Availability of appropriate supervision. The supervisor is preferable a LPC. If not, the supervisor can be LCSW, licensed psychologist, or a psychiatrist.
  • Ability of site to meet course requirements regarding direct and indirect hours, supervision, and audio/videotaped sessions with clients.
  • Ability of on-site supervisor to provide one hour of individual supervision, at a minimum, once a week.
  • Availability of clients for both individual and group counseling.
  • Ability of the site to provide a variety of professional experiences.
  • Referral or approval of the site by the Director of Practicum/Internship during an appointment or at an orientation meeting.

In general, you are better served if the practicum and internship experiences take place in a variety of settings and places. For example, practicum and internship should be taken at various agencies although some agencies may require Practicum students to continue at their site for at least the first internship. Not only do such varied experiences offer you a broader perspective, but you also become known to many more administrators and professional counselors. You are also strongly encouraged not to use your place of employment for practicum and internship. Clinical training is intended to broaden your experience and professional training beyond that which could be expected at any single place of employment. Similarly, the need for on-site supervision could create a conflict of interest for both you and the on-site supervisor/colleague.

 

What are the required credentials for a site supervisor?

The on-site supervisor must be a licensed professional counselor, a LCSW, licensed psychologist, or psychiatrist. In a school setting, the on-site supervisor must be permanently certified in school counseling or be a LPC, LCSW, licensed psychologist, or psychiatrist.

 

Can I get a paid internship?

Some (but very few) community or agency sites offer paid internships. Sometimes an agency agrees to hire a master’s student before her or his graduation and will offer to create a supervised internship covering the first several months of employment. If this is the case, the job responsibilities must be commensurate with what is expected of a master’s level professional and with what is required for your training. If this seems like a possibility for you, speak with the Director of Practicum/Internship.

 

Can I get internship credit for the job I am doing now?

The answer is MAYBE. Keep in mind that the goal of a degree program in counseling is for a student to develop new counseling skills and expertise and that the internship is a student’s capstone experience for acquiring those skills and that expertise. Thus, you CANNOT receive credit for internship for the job that you are already doing—that would not allow you to acquire new skills. However, it is possible to work an internship experience into your current job if you develop a plan that allows you to perform counseling-related activities that are significantly different from and that are at a more challenging level of expertise than your current job requires.

 

How should I prepare and what should I expect on the Practicum/Internship interviews?

Most schools and agencies require an interview. You should seek an appointment to discuss a request for placement and by presenting a letter of introduction provided for you during the practicum/internship orientation or by the Coordinator of Practicum/Internship. It is critical that you bring a resume to this interview. A sample resume will be provided at the Practicum/Internship Orientation and in the Practicum/Internship Student Handbook. A handout with “Commonly Asked Questions” during an interview will also be provided during the orientation and in the Handbook.

Part of your preparation for Practicum/Internship also includes developing your professional identity as a counselor. Therefore, become active members of national and state counseling associations. Belonging to a professional organization provides knowledge on current developments and future directions of the field, as well as information on ethical practice and employment opportunities.

The American Counseling Association (ACA) is the professional organization for counselors; www.counseling.org. ACA is an educational, scientific, and professional organization whose members are dedicated to the enhancement of human development throughout the life span. It offers discounted membership rates for graduate students enrolled half-time or more in a graduate counseling program.

ACA has 19 national divisions and one organization affiliate that are dedicated to the skills, professional settings and interests of over 50,000 members.  

ACA also offers liability insurance for professional counselors and graduate students. You must apply for this ACA insurance or comparable insurance from another source no later than when you commence practicum. If you plan to work in schools, consider joining the American School Counselor Association, a division of the ACA: www.schoolcounselor.org.

You are also encouraged to join New Jersey Counseling Association http://www.angelfire.com/nj/counseling) for $23, with membership in the New Jersey Mental Health Counseling Association, one of NJCA’s divisions, for an additional fee. Membership in the national organization is not required for state or regional membership.

Other professional organizations for you to become familiar with is the National Board of Certified Counselors www.nbcc.org and the NJ State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiners  http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/medical/familytherapy.htm.

 

What are the procedures for registration for practicum/internship?

Perhaps the most important guideline is to apply early --- at least one semester in advance.   Make sure your name is on the list for the semester you need to be scheduled!  Applications are accepted on a first come, first served basis.

The semester PRIOR to taking the practicum/internship course:

  • Consult with your faculty advisor to determine eligibility for the course. You must meet all prerequisites prior to commencing the Practicum.
  • Attend the orientation meeting to obtain forms, requirements, referrals to sites, and other information relative to placement. The orientation meeting is prior to registration dates.
  • Secure a site and submit all required paperwork to the Director of Practicum/Internship. The Program Director will consider the breadth and depth of experience offered at the site, rather than the setting, in determining  appropriateness. Once a training site is selected and approved and all required paperwork submitted, you will be allowed to register for practicum/internship.

NOTE: Registration for practicum/internship is completed the semester prior to the course offering. All sites and paperwork must be approved by the Practicum/Internship Director no later than 30 days of the start of the academicsemester in which you intend to enroll in the course.

 

If I complete my 700 Practicum and Internship hours can I count additional hours towards my LPC?

No. You can begin to accrue supervised counseling experience hours towards your LPC upon receiving your 60-credit Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Once you have received your 60 credit degree in counseling, seven-hundred and fifty (750) hours may be completed, but these hours must be completed within a twelve-month period.

 

Can I be endorsed in both mental health counseling and school counseling?

If you wish to receive an endorsement in both mental health and school counseling, you will need to add required coursework and complete additional practicum and internship experiences. The best way to assure the success of this is to work closely with your faculty advisor so that coursework is completed in the proper sequence and all requirements are met. The programmed plan of study will need to be approved by the faculty advisor and the Director of the Counseling program. You are responsible for ascertaining only state requirements to obtain certification as a school counselor.

We encourage you to check out the website of the New Jersey Examiners Committee website http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/medical/procounsel.htm for more information about licensure of professional counselors in NJ. The Professional Counselor Examiners Committee regulates the practice of both professional counseling and rehabilitation counseling, comes under the supervision of the State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiners. Inquiries may be forwarded to Ms. Elaine DeMars, Executive Director, State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiners, PO Box 45007, Newark, NJ 07101, (973) 504-6415 or (973) 504-6582.