In addition to opportunities for undergraduate students at UK to join the HAMMER Lab as undergraduate research assistants, 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, I teach 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, I teach 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 my EDP 605 and 652 students learn these skills, I often demonstrate these techniques “live” in class with the help of a “mock therapy client” — role played by an undergraduate PSY 399 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.
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 has depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. People who have been exposed to actual therapy can often do the most realistic acting, but many people can do a decent job with a little bit of practice.
- Good oral communication ability and interpersonal awareness
- 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, 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 2017 semester, then look up when EDP 605 is being taught that semester. If you wanted to intern during the Spring 2018 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.
- Be prepared to set aside up to 30 minutes prior to each week’s seminar to read any assigned readings I may give you. These readings may include client scripts and descriptions that you will need to study so that you can accurately act the part, assigned readings that the graduate students are also reading, or any other materials relevant to the class.
- 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.
- You may be asked to role play people who are different from you, including different gender, age, work status, socioeconomic status, etc. It can feel weird at first but that is what acting is all about.
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.
- 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) two Microsoft Word documents:
- current resume/CV and
- 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 credit, you will need to secure a UK Psychology Department faculty sponsor. I 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?
If you wish to intern in the fall, when EDP 605 is being taught, then the deadline is March 20 of the prior spring.
If you wish to intern in the spring, when EDP 652 is being taught, then the deadline is October 20 of the prior fall.
What is the selection process like?
Dr. Hammer 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 in the two weeks following the application deadline. 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 internship course, so that they can get credit for the internship experience.