Written by Brittany Nesbitt, Psy.M.
4th Year Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student
Wright State School of Professional Psychology
At the start of a doctoral program, each year is nicely mapped out with required courses and clinical training. The first year is comprised of all course work to establish basic clinical knowledge. Towards the end of the first year, students applied and interviewed for their first year of clinical practicum. Meetings were typically held each year where the students who were in their last year of training discussed their experiences with applying for internship. Information was shared about which practicum experiences were required in order to apply for certain sites, how to narrow down the list of sites, and how much it would cost for applications and travel to the interviews. This stage in our educational and training is monumental, not only towards graduation, but for our life and career goals.
This year, however, was different than the years past. COVID-19 presented an uncertain format for students applying for their internship. Internship sites were reporting changes by providing funding or accepting interns for the following training year as students were developing and narrowing their lists. At the same time, APPIC was sending out notifications that the previously required minimum practicum hours were now becoming flexible. Further, the ever-changing regulations of travel led to suggestions for interviews to be held remotely. Slowly, sites started to change their information to reflect the changes of required hours, interview format, and explained how COVID-19 would impact clinical training.
Completing internship interviews virtually was uniquely interesting and had both positive and negative aspects. Not having to travel to each site for an interview saved a lot of time and money. For instance, scheduling was much easier given that it was solely focused on making time only for the interview itself. Preparing for interviews at home also gave students an opportunity to be creative in their home environment like transforming a location that is not typically used in a professional manner and turning it into a home office that would be presentable to other professionals. Once the home office was established, applicants coordinated with training directors via email, downloaded what seemed like every possible video-chat software, and documented the time differences for interviews.
The interviews themselves varied based on the site. Some internships were able to share more about their location with video tours throughout the day, while others were not able to share such images. The lack of being able to see the site itself and the surrounding area made it challenging to get a full idea and scope of the resources and environment where you may potentially spend one year of training. Most sites did their best to hold a full day of interviews, mimicking the experience of an in-person interview complete with multiple individual interviews, groups interviews, and discussion sessions with current interns. The main difference was that it was conducted on video. Trying to find the balance between looking at the camera and the screen for appropriate eye contact and not begin talking at the same time as the other applicants occurred. For those sites that held multiple interviews in one day, it was necessary to make sure that you clicked on the correct link and check that your camera and microphone were in full working order. Thankfully, it was made known that this was a new experience for everyone, and that patience for technological hiccups was imperative.
After all of the interviews were completed, the task of ranking internship sites needed to be done. This is a challenging task regardless of whether or not the interviews would have been held in person or virtually. The presence of COVID-19 and not being able to experience the sites in-person, added another layer of unknown. Ranking the sites based on training opportunities, goodness of fit for training goals, and level of comfort during virtual interactions was hard. I imagine it being similar to making plans to move in with someone who you met online only a few times. Overall, it was an exciting, joyful, and anxiety-provoking experience on the journey to becoming a clinical psychologist. Now onto waiting for match day!