In addition to opportunities for undergraduate students at UK to earn PSY 395/394 credit by completing a research assistantship with the HAMMER Lab, Dr. Jeff Reese and I also offer PSY 399 Field-based/Community-based Education internship course credit to a few UK psychology undergraduate students each fall and spring semester.  Please note that it is also now possible to do a PSY 499 Senior Internship with us.

What is the nature of the internship?

Each fall, Dr. Reese teaches EDP 605 Techniques of Counseling.  This is a graduate-level counseling psychology course that teaches students the core counseling skills (i.e., communication skills, active listening skills, microskills) that all mental health professionals use with their clients in counseling/psychotherapy.  The core counseling skills include skills like demonstrating empathy, open questions, restatements, reflections of feeling, challenges, nonverbal attunement, etc.

Each spring, Dr. Hammer teaches EDP 652 Theories of Counseling.  This is a graduate-level counseling psychology course that teaches students how to use theory to guide their counseling/psychotherapy, with an emphasis on Beck’s Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).  Students take EDP 652 immediately after taking EDP 605, which allows students to practice integrating a theoretical orientation with their core counseling skills.  A theoretical orientation is what mental health professionals use to understand clients’ mental health issues and create and implement a treatment plan based on that “theoretical conceptualization.”

To help our EDP 605 and 652 students learn these skills, we often demonstrate these techniques in class with the help of a “mock therapy client” — role played by an undergraduate PSY 399/499 intern who is able to convincingly act like a person who is seeking therapy for help with anxiety, depression, or some other mental health concern.  In short, the intern serves as a standardized/simulated patient of sorts.  Interns also act as mock therapy clients for my graduate students; here’s a sneak peak at what that “dyad practice” looks like:

What are the minimum qualifications to be eligible for this internship?

  • UK undergraduate junior or senior students majoring in psychology
  • GPA > 3.3
  • Interested in becoming a mental health professional (e.g., psychologist, counselor, social worker, marriage and family therapist, psychiatrist)
  • Can convincingly act like a client who is dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, or other common mental health concerns
  • Ability to act, improvise, be creative, sit with ambiguity, be convincing and emotionally expressive but not over-the-top with their affect/emotions during role plays, take verbal cues from the instructor when the instructor is acting as therapist
  • Professionalism, punctuality, motivation, good oral and written communication ability, interpersonal awareness, and emotional maturity (ability to adaptively cope with stress and difficult feelings)

What is required of interns?

  • Come prepared to convincingly act as a therapy client during each weekly 2.5-hour EDP 605 (fall) or EDP 652 (spring) course seminar, for the entire duration of the semester.
    • Check myUK –> Academics –> Course Catalog to see what day/time the course will be held during the semester in question.  For example, if you want to intern during the Fall semester, then look up when EDP 605 is being taught that semester.  If you wanted to intern during the Spring semester, then look up when EDP 652 is being taught that semester.  If your academic schedule or other obligations will not allow you to consistently and reliably attend the weekly course seminar, then you won’t be eligible for this internship.
  • Playing a convincing therapy client is challenging and requires flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity, ability to improvise, willingness and ability to show emotion, open-mindedness, and a commitment to stepping outside your comfort zone in order to challenge assumptions you might hold about emotion, relationships, diversity, privilege, racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination.
  • Interns can sign up for one, two, or three PSY 399 credits or for three PSY 499 credits.  To earn more than one credit, interns can help Dr. Hammer/Reese with projects such as playing a multi-session mock client for a graduate student practicing skills outside of class or creating therapy technique demonstration videos.  Interns will also the opportunity to propose and create projects related to psychotherapy and their interests.  Check out this Choose Your Own Therapy Adventure video project the Fall 2017 interns created!
  • To clarify: interns do not “get therapy” as a part of this experience.  The interns are acting as clients, they are not actual clients seeking actual therapy for actual mental health concerns.  If you are currently having difficulty coping with mental illness, we recommend seeking actual therapy from UK Counseling Center; this internship is not designed to provide treatment.

How do interns benefit from this internship?

  • Witness first-hand how graduate students are trained to do psychotherapy.
  • Dispel myths about what learning to do this work does (e.g., personal growth, showing empathy, building genuine relationships) and does not (e.g., aloof expert curing patients with fancy techniques) involve.
  • Get a feel for whether talk therapy is something you would actually enjoy doing for a career.
  • See how therapy can honor and incorporate the cultural identities of therapist and client into the work to increase the effectiveness of therapy.
  • Learn what goes into providing effective Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) (if interning for EDP 652 in the spring)
  • Learn how graduate-level courses are different from undergraduate-level courses in terms of atmosphere, personal attention, and expectations.
  • Build relationships with current counseling psychology graduate students and Dr. Joseph Hammer (possible letter of recommendation for graduate school!)
  • Get your foot in the door with the Counseling Psychology PhD and MS Programs at University of Kentucky.

What do past interns have to say about the internship?

“I would say this experience is excellent for those thinking about going to graduate school. There are no other internships available for psychology students that will be as close to graduate school or “real” training as this internship. This is a wonderful opportunity to participate and learn like a graduate student without the pressure of earning a grade. I learned counseling skills that will give me a stronger foundation in beginning graduate school classes that other first-year students will not have.”

“I would tell any UK Psychology students who are thinking about applying for this internship to go for it. I feel like I learned so much about CBT and core counseling skills just by sitting in this class. It was also really beneficial for me to see what grad school will look like for me. It helped me to be a lot less anxious and a lot more excited for the next chapter of my life.”

How do I apply for this internship?

To apply, please submit via email (to for Spring internship or to for Fall internship) two Microsoft Word documents:

  1. Current résumé or curriculum vita (CV) and
  2. A 250-500 word cover letter articulating why you are qualified and a good fit for the internship.

If you wish to earn PSY 399/499 credit, you will need to secure a UK Psychology Department faculty sponsor.  We recommend identifying, in advance of your application, a faculty sponsor who will be willing to supervise you in the event you are selected for the internship.

When is the application deadline?

We use a rolling application deadline.  We start reviewing applications on the “review date” and continue to accept applications until all positions have been filled.  This webpage will be updated to indicate when all spots have been filled and no further applications are being accepted.

If you wish to intern in the fall, when EDP 605 Techniques is being taught, then the review date is March 20 of the prior spring.   **Status Update: We are not yet accepting applications for Fall 2020 internship**

If you wish to intern in the spring, when EDP 652 Theories is being taught, then the review date is October 20 of the prior fall.  **Status Update: We are still accepting applications for Spring 2019 internship**

What is the selection process like?

Dr. Hammer/Reese will respond to all applicants who submit the required materials.  The strongest applicants will be granted a 30-minute interview.  The interviews will occur in Dickey Hall.  Interns will be selected based on interview performance.  Interns who are selected will work with their UK Psychology Department faculty sponsor to formally register for the PSY 399/499 internship course, so that they can get credit for the internship experience.