FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is an academic internship?
An internship is an opportunity to gain field experience involving "real-world" applications of knowledge from a given discipline. An academic internship combines this opportunity with the completion of academic work designed to help students maximize their learning experience.
What are the initial steps I need to take if I wish to do an internship?
The Psychology Department adheres to the policies and procedures for academic internships as detailed in "The Student Guide to Academic Internships" (available at Career Services or at http://www.southwestern.edu/careers/Students/publications/Internships.pdf). You should familiarize yourself with this guide and complete all the preparatory steps detailed within it. The Internship Coordinator with Career Services, Maria Kruger, will give you a blue card indicating that you have completed the process and are ready to contact a potential faculty supervisor.
How do I go about selecting a specific internship site?
After giving some thought to the issue of how an internship can meet your goals and the type of internship desired, you should schedule a meeting with a potential faculty supervisor. Most internships are supervised by Dr. Neighbors, but if your interests lie outside the areas of mental health or forensic psychology, you should approach the faculty member whose expertise most closely matches your interest (i.e., Dr. Muir-Broaddus in school psychology, Dr. Purdy in animal behavior, Dr. Giuliano in social psychology, or Dr. Guarraci in neuroscience). The faculty supervisor will discuss your interests and help you identify an appropriate internship site. Historically, most sites involve the areas of mental health or forensic psychology, but examples of other types of sites have included trial consulting firms and advertising agencies.
A list of "established" internship sites (i.e., those which have previously accepted SU students) can be found at the end of this document. These established sites represent a variety of available opportunities, but many students choose to seek out sites beyond this list. Doing so requires that the student conduct sufficient information gathering so as to allow the faculty supervisor to evaluate the proposed internship based on the criteria outlined below. Be prepared to provide the faculty supervisor with the name and location of the agency, the name and degree of the supervisor, contact information, and a description of the duties and responsibilities involved in the internship.
What criteria must a potential internship site meet?
The primary criterion for a psychology internship is that the experience will meet important student needs. Thus, students are encouraged to give careful consideration to their future goals and to the question, "How can an internship help me meet my goals?" For many students, an important internship function is to help them make decisions about their career path. For others, it is to provide needed experience in the application of psychological principles to real world problems. It is hoped that this experience will both increase students' competitiveness for graduate school or jobs and reduce the difficulty of the transition into these arenas. Ideally, an internship will serve all of these functions for students, but because each student is developing interests in different areas, internships must be evaluated individually in terms of their ability to serve these functions for a given student.
The second criterion is that the activities involved in the internship be psychological in nature. An internship which primarily involves scheduling, planning, organizing, or other administrative duties would not meet this requirement, regardless of the nature of the site. Thus, all internships must be evaluated based on their content rather than the nature of the site. As a part of this requirement, internships should include activities which require the student to draw from previous knowledge in psychology, to learn new psychology-related information, and to apply both of these in performing tasks new to the student. For example, an intern might be asked to develop guidelines for an emotion processing group for abused children and to subsequently assist in facilitating the group. This would require the student to draw on previously learned information and/or learn more about child development, group interactions, and emotions related to child abuse. It would also culminate in the performance of new tasks: program development and group facilitation.
It is also important that the activities not be beyond the skill and training of an undergraduate student. Students should not expect to conduct therapy during their internship - this is an advanced skill performed only by those who have received graduate-level training. However, with appropriate training and supervision (and depending on the specific site) interns may have the opportunity to observe and participate in the assessment process, to conduct intake level interviews with new clients, to co-facilitate non-therapeutic group sessions (i.e., basic processing groups, educational groups, skills training groups), and to participate in treatment team meetings. Interns also are frequently asked to conduct background research (literature reviews), to assist in program development, and to observe a variety of interactions between professionals and clients (e.g., interviews, therapeutic group sessions).
The final requirement is that the intern be provided with on-site supervision from a field professional with advanced training and education in psychology or a related discipline (e.g., social work). The on-site supervision is critical to a quality internship experience, and supervisors must agree to meet regularly with the intern. This supervisor is ultimately responsible for providing the intern with appropriate opportunities, for giving them sufficient guidance, and for ensuring that their work is performed successfully.
Who may enroll for internship credit?
Faculty supervisors have final discretion as to the readiness of a student for a particular internship experience. Normally, students are not prepared for internship experiences until at least the summer after their sophomore year. The Department considers the summer following the junior year to be the ideal time to complete an internship. Although specific course prerequisites may vary by faculty supervisor and internship site, most require a minimum of two upper level psychology courses. Note that many internship sites are popular and filled on a competitive basis; hence, even an exemplary resume and faculty supervisor approval does not guarantee that you will obtain a placement at your desired site.
Who is responsible for securing an Academic Internship?
You are. However, the Internship Coordinator and faculty supervisors have many contacts and can help to identify appropriate sites.
How do I get academic credit for an internship?
Academic credit is awarded for the successful completion of Psychology internships. This credit is dependent upon fulfilling your obligations to the internship site and completing all academic requirements. Upon approval of the internship site, the faculty supervisor will provide you with detailed guidelines regarding the academic requirements for the internship. These will vary by faculty member, but may include keeping a journal, writing progress reports, and writing a final paper. The academic requirements are designed to help you make connections between the knowledge you have gained from psychology coursework and the field experience involved in the internship. Academic credit also depends on being registered for PSY33-943 or PSY33-946 (depending on whether you seek 3 or 6 hours of credit) - the section number will vary according to the faculty supervisor. Note that 3 hours of academic credit requires 120 hours of field experience (the hours you work at the internship), and 6 hours requires 240 field hours. With instructor (faculty supervisor) approval, you can register for this course as you would any other.
Does internship credit count toward the Psychology major?
Yes. You may count up to 9 internship hours as elective psychology credits. Six hours of internship credit may be used to satisfy the Capstone requirement. Credit is Pass/D/Fail, and will not count against the 12 elective P/D/F hours that the University allows a student to take.