Psychology Interns Who Are They And What Do They Do?

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I am just going to talk very quickly today about what it means to have a psychology intern in private practice with me and what that means for you if you are a client of our practice.

I was interviewed on this topic recently by the lovely Gerda Muller for one of her Facebook groups for private practice owners and it reminded me that it is quite an uncommon thing that we do in our practice, having interns. There are several psychology practices around the place who do take on students but it is not the most common thing to find among private practices. So if you’ve been a client of a private practice psychologist before, you might not have come across this concept.

We have a long-standing relationship with the University of Tasmania, in fact in the past I have been both a lecturer and the director of the psychology clinic there. Through this partnership we have a long history of taking postgraduate psychology student into the practice as interns. So our interns are Masters-level students in their fifth or typically sixth year of psychology training. Part of their postgraduate training involves completely several professional placements in different psychology settings. Our interns typically spend about six months of the year with us. Usually I have two students across the course of each year going through their placement program within the practice, but most recently we have had two interns on placement at the same time. They see clients under the supervision of myself and the other senior clinicians in my team.

By the time they come to us, our interns have usually had at least a year’s experience working with clients in a variety of settings. So typically they would have already done a placement in the University Psychology Clinic working under very close supervision. They may also have done a placement in a hospital setting or a community mental health setting or some other setting such as a school, for example. So before they come to me, they’ve had quite a bit of experience already.

Once an intern starts with us, they might shadow one of the other clinicians by observing sessions. So sometimes you might be asked if a student/intern can sit in and observe your session. This is a great way for them to learn. And most of the interns tell me that the opportunity to observe the treating psychologist (so not just you) teaches them so much. Then once they’ve found their feet, interns might generate their own client list, offering additional treatment options running alongside the primary treating psychologist. Those services are usually offered at no expense to clients. So it really adds value for our clients to know that (for example) if they are requiring a lot of support (e.g., during a crisis period) there is plenty of help available.

This is really important, because sometimes we see clients who have really complicated and long term mental health needs that aren’t going to be covered by the number of Medicare-rebated sessions available to them within the course of a calendar year.

Another role that the interns have is to provide that first contact with clients, especially if they are waiting for quite some time for their first appointment with the psychologist they’ve been referred to see. So we are increasingly reaching out to our new clients via phone or Skype to ensure that they feel comfortable and supported while they wait for their first psychology session. This also helps us gather a little additional information to “flesh out” the referral we’ve received from the GP. Again, this contact is a free service that we offer to you while you are awaiting your first session with your treating psychologist.

So while our interns are with us they are not only gaining valuable experience and learning from us, they are also providing valuable support services to our clients. It is important to point out that you can’t be referred to the practice to see an intern exclusively, it doesn’t work like that, but it is an extra benefit that we offer to our clients. It also offers peace of mind to our GP referrers, who worry sometimes about sending clients with complicated issues to private practice.

So we find that being a teaching clinic and offering internship opportunities to postgraduate students works really well.

What I have also been very lucky to find is that a lot of our interns over the years have actually stayed on with me in private practice. So a number of clinicians within my team started out as students on placement with me.

So if you feel like you want to see someone in our practice and you’re a bit worried about whether or not you are going to get enough support through the Medicare system (keeping in mind we are not a bulk billing practice), this is something we offer as additional support to our clients. So if you feel that this is something that’s going to work for you, call our practice and you can talk to one of the admin team members about what your needs are and whether or not one of our psychologists can help you with perhaps the added support of an intern if necessary. You can also use the form on the front page of our website [add link] to request a free chat with one of our interns who can talk you through what therapy with a psychologist would look like and how it all works. How’s that for try before you buy??

Best wishes,

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Tess has a passion for mentoring new psychologists. She also has a strong interest in supporting executives as they juggle the balance between leadership and new parenthood. You’ll see Tess regularly speaking on our Facebook pages and our YouTube channel. Her mission is to provide as many free resources to the community as she can, so her videos offer tips and strategies that might be helpful to you. Read Tess’s full Bio here.