Match Day: A culminating internship for clinical psychology students

Clinical psychology cohort 2016

A group of clinical psychology students and doctoral candidates, including Anouk Allart (at far right in purple). Of those applying for internships this year, 100% matched! (Photo courtesy of Allart)

By Kenna Caprio

100%? It’s hard enough to score that on a test, let alone prep an entire cohort for total success. But this February, all of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s clinical psychology doctoral students who applied, received internship placements on Match Day.

“Some internship placements are in inpatient units in hospitals with patients who have severe problems, acute or chronic, and who are hospitalized for a period of time. Some placements are in general outpatient clinics in a hospital or freestanding clinics. Still others do treatment in specialty settings such as forensic hospitals and veterans hospitals or in programs that treat specific disorders such as eating disorders, substance abuse, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder,” says Juliana Lachenmeyer, director of clinical training and professor of psychology in University College: Arts • Sciences • Professional Studies. “This is the culmination of what they’ve been doing.”

In anticipation of Match Day, clinical sites rank students and clinical psychology students rank site preferences. The Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers compiles the data and then runs it through an algorithm to determine matches.

In the FDU program, students take classes for three years, receive clinical training (externships), conduct research and write a dissertation. The fulltime internship, assigned on Match Day, is typically the final step in attaining the five-year degree. The program subscribes to the “scientist-practitioner model,” according to Lachenmeyer, referring to the fact that graduates receive both clinical (practitioner) and research (scientist) training and experience.

Anouk Allart, a clinical psychology doctoral candidate who matched this year, says she picked the FDU program because it has a “good balance between research and clinical activity” and between “psychodynamic teaching and cognitive behavioral theory,” plus a “collaborative spirit” among students.

“A Ph.D. in clinical psychology is very stressful, without that component, I don’t know if I could’ve done it,” she says.

Still, nerves were frayed and anxiety high in the lead up to Match Day.

“The week before (Match Day), every day I was just getting more and more nervous. I didn’t sleep very well the night before,” says Allart, originally from Paris, France. “I scheduled a full day as a distraction in case I didn’t match and in order to have friends around to celebrate if I did.”

The emails arrived at 10 a.m., and the experience of opening hers was “anxiety-inducing and weird,” according to Allart. She matched with her second choice, the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn., part of the Hartford Hospital Medical System. She starts in September.

“It’s a 12-month commitment, with three four-month rotations,” Allart says. She’ll work in a variety of settings, providing acute inpatient treatment as well as intensive outpatient support, two to three times per week, and conducting neuropsychological assessments. Interns will also see patients once a week in an outpatient clinic. “The way it’s set up is really exciting. The internship is the last moment where we can really explore a lot.”

Previously, Allart had externships with the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center and the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders. She also worked at the Center for Psychological Services on FDU’s Metropolitan Campus.

“The internship is full immersion into the clinical psychology world,” says Allart. “It’s one of the big milestones in training.”

Right now, Allart is interested in a career in neuropsychological assessment or cognitive rehabilitation, but she admits, “I’ve loved all of it so far. I’m hoping that the internship will help solidify this in one way or another for me.”

Fairleigh Dickinson University first offered the clinical psychology doctorate in 1981, and the program has graduated approximately 190 students since then.

The competitive program takes in 12-14 new students per year. This year, there were 226 applicants. Offers are going out now for the next class, says Lachenmeyer. In a few years, that new cohort will complete the Match Day process themselves.

As of Match Day, “we’ve launched them,” says Lachenmeyer. “Although they still need to successfully complete the internship in order to receive their degree, their formal training in the Ph.D. program at FDU is now over. They will be supervised by other psychologists and be out in the clinical world. However, they will always be learning and updating their skills,” says Lachenmeyer, who has been on the faculty for 42 years and was involved in setting up the Ph.D.