The ideal applicant for graduate school in the applied mental health professions (e.g., psychology, counseling, social work, marriage and family therapy) has (1) applied helping experiences/internships on their curriculum vita that help them stand out, (2) strong letters of recommendation from professional supervisors who can speak to that applicant’s talent and passion, (3) social justice activism skills and experiences that have helped them develop their critical consciousness, and (4) a knowledge of the “hidden curriculum” (i.e., unspoken rules) of how to put together a competitive graduate school application.

To help more undergraduates become competitive applicants for master’s and doctoral degree programs in the mental health professions, Dr. Joseph Hammer coordinates the Social Justice Activism Internship for undergraduate students across the United States and beyond.

This internship is designed to be a high-quality training opportunity tailored to helping undergraduate students make a positive difference in the world while building their (1) applied helping and active listening skills for their CV, (2) ability to earn a strong letter of recommendation from a professional supervisor, (3) social justice activism skills and critical consciousness, and (4) knowledge of how to be a successful applicant to graduate school.

Furthermore, unlike most internships that require in-person attendance, interns can live anywhere in the world, provided they have reliable internet access and the ability to attend internship activities during the afternoons/evenings in USA Eastern Time (UTC-4) Zone.

This webpage is divided into the following sections, designed to help prospective applicants decide whether this internship opportunity could be a good fit:

  • What is the nature of this internship? What do interns do?
  • What are the minimum qualifications to become an intern?
  • How do interns benefit from the internship?
  • How do I apply for the internship?
  • When is the internship application deadline?
  • What is the internship application process?

What is the nature of this internship? What do interns do?

As noted above, this internship is designed to help undergraduate students develop awareness, knowledge, and skills that will help them be a successful future graduate student. To help interns develop these skills, they engage in two activities.

First, they attend weekly internship meetings (on Zoom, a free-to-use teleconference app) facilitated by Dr. Hammer. During these meetings, students will (1) get to know Dr. Hammer and the other interns, (2) learn principles and strategies of social justice activism/organizing, (3) practice the active-listening skills that make someone an effective organizer and applied mental health professional such as open questions, telling your shared interest story, and empathetic reflection techniques, (4) and learn the strategies for creating a strong graduate school application and making a good impression during interviews.

Second, they will attend weekly phone banks organized by progressive non-profit grassroots community organizations (e.g., SURJ, WFP) where they will put their social justice activism and active-listening skills into action to help create a more just world. Dr. Hammer has volunteered with these organizations and can personally vouch for the high quality of these organizations’ phone banks.

What are the minimum qualifications to become an intern?

Minimum qualifications include:

  • Current undergraduate students who have completed at least 2 semesters of undergraduate-level coursework. (Please note that current University of Kentucky students are not permitted to participate in this internship, but are eligible for Dr. Hammer’s UKY counseling psychology internship)
  • Comfortable understanding, reading, speaking, and writing in English. If you speak English as a second language, we strongly recommend that your TOEFL scores be in the “advanced’ category in all four domains (refer to https://www.ets.org/toefl/institutions/ibt/interpret-scores.html).
  • Comfortable acting in accordance with the values of progressive organizing as articulated by SURJ (refer to: https://surj.org/about/our-values/) and the professional values of the specialty of counseling psychology (refer to: https://www.div17.org/mission-values) and the APA Ethical Guidelines (https://www.apa.org/ethics/code).
  • Willing to have difficult, emotionally-charged, challenging conversations with strangers on the phone, during the weekly phone banks that are a part of this internship
  • Professionalism, punctuality, motivation, good oral and written communication ability, interpersonal awareness, and emotional maturity (ability to adaptively cope with stress and difficult feelings).
  • Ability to be flexible, open minded, tolerate ambiguity, improvise, feel and express emotion, and step outside your comfort zone in order to challenge assumptions you might hold about emotion, relationships, diversity, privilege, racism, and other forms of prejudice.
  • Ability to prioritize internship activities to ensure consistent and reliable attendance at weekly internship meetings and phone banks. If a person cannot ensure attendance at these required events, they will not be eligible for this internship.

How do interns benefit from the internship?

Interns benefit from this internship in a variety of ways, including:

  1. Interns learn knowledge and skills to enhance their ability to engage in effective social justice activism.
  2. Interns learn and practice the active listening skills (e.g., restatements, open questions, reflections of feeling, challenges, empathetic attunement, problem solving, motivational interviewing, persuasion, navigating conflict and differences) that are the foundational competencies of effective communicators and applied mental health professionals.
  3. Interns have the opportunity to earn a strong letter of recommendation from a doctoral (PhD) licensed psychologist who can attest to interns’ skills, professionalism, cultural humility, and promise as a future mental health professional (strong letters of recommendation are essential for getting in to graduate school; you want a strong reference who can speak to your talents)
  4. Interns sharpen their conceptual analysis and practical understanding of how interlocking systems of power and oppression (e.g., racism, classism, heterosexism, cissexism) function in concert to open and close doors of opportunity for people across sociodemographic lines
  5. Interns receive coaching on the graduate school application and interviewing process from a professional who has: first-hand knowledge of the application process (from both the student applicant and faculty side of the process), coached over 100 students through the graduate school application process, and developed a collection of resources on Getting in to Graduate School that have been consulted by over half a million people to date.
  6. Interns considering a career in the applied mental health professions (e.g., psychology, counseling, social work, marriage and family) learn more about what applied mental health training is like, which can help them confirm or reconsider if this is a career path that is right for them.
  7. Interns can find support, camaraderie, solidarity, joy, and connection within a tight-knit community of people (i.e., Dr. Hammer and fellow interns, plus leaders and volunteers in the progressive community organizations in which the interns volunteer) all committed to growing together and working side by side toward progressive social change. This also represents a great professional networking opportunity. Each internship cohort is kept small (maximum of 15 interns) to help maximize connection and personal attention.
  8. If your undergraduate degree program allows you to earn course credit for completing an internship/externship/volunteer experience/field placement/rotation, Dr. Hammer is happy to complete the necessary paperwork (within reason) to allow you to earn that course credit.

How do I know this will be a high-quality internship experience?

Dr. Hammer has considerable experience with creating high-quality learning experiences for students. Since 2017, he has graduated over 40 undergraduate students from his Counseling Psychology Training Internship, where he has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from interns about the quality of the training experience. Since 2015, he has also served as primary research mentor to more than 25 undergraduate research assistants, 34 master’s students, and 13 PhD students. In addition, he has served as director of master’s and doctoral programs in counseling psychology, and has taught over 35 graduate and undergraduate-level psychology courses focused on applied mental health training.

How do I apply for the internship?

To apply, please complete the online Social Justice Activism Internship application form.

A special request: please consider sharing the link to this internship webpage (https://drjosephhammer.com/psych-grad-school/social-justice-activism-internship/) with your classmates, friends, and professors. Word of mouth is the best way for people looking for this type of internship experience to find out about this opportunity. Students are encouraged to share this invitation widely via social media and personal email. However, because this internship involves engaging in political electoral activity with progressive organizations (e.g., SURJ), and most universities and 5013c nonprofit organizations prohibit political electoral speech on their listservs, students are strongly advised not to post this announcement to university/5013c listservs.

When is the internship 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 during the Summer 2024 semester (early July through early August), then the review date is July 1st.   **Current Status: We are still accepting applications for Summer 2024 internship**

If you wish to intern during the Fall 2024 semester (late August through early December), then the review date is August 1st.   **Current Status: We are still accepting applications for Fall 2024 internship**

If you wish to intern during the Spring 2025 semester (mid January through early May), then the review date is December 1st.   **Current Status: We are still accepting applications for Spring 2025 internship**

If you wish to intern during the Summer 2025 semester (late May through early August), then the review date is May 1st.   **Current Status: We are still accepting applications for Summer 2025 internship**

What is the internship application process?

Dr. Hammer will respond via email to all applicants who submit all required materials.

The strongest applicants will be granted a 30-minute interview via Zoom.

Interns will be selected based on their evaluated fit with the internship minimum qualifications articulated above, based on data gathered from the application and interview.

If it has been more than 3 weeks (a) since you submitted your application and (b) since the rolling application deadline (see prior section) date and you have not heard from Dr. Hammer, feel free to contact him at jhhammer@gmail.com to inquire about the status of your application.

Disclaimer

Please note that Dr. Hammer coordinates this internship in his role as a private individual citizen and licensed psychologist. This internship is not affiliated with Dr. Hammer’s employer (the University of Kentucky) and the views/opinions expressed at/during/through this internship application/webpage/internship activities are those of Dr. Hammer operating in his individual capacity only – not those of his employer. This internship is considered an outside activity unrelated to Dr. Hammer’s employment as a faculty member at the University of Kentucky, which has no involvement in, liability for, or endorsement of these internship activities.

A note for university faculty reading this webpage: most institutions prohibit faculty members from “engaging in political activity” in their faculty role. Thus, university faculty who want to spread the word about this internship should take care to avoid violating their institution’s political activity prohibition. This internship often involves students engaging in political activity for candidates for political office, and thus your advertisement of this internship to your students could be construed as you engaging in political activity in your faculty role. There is nothing wrong with sharing this information with relevant parties when you are acting in your role as a private citizen, particularly when this information is shared with people who are not staff/students at your university. When in doubt, consult with your university’s general legal counsel. It may be permissible to share notice of this internship, provided you make it clear that you are not “endorsing” the internship. Please also be mindful that most non-profits (e.g., NAMI), which include many mental health associations (e.g., APA, ACA), are prohibited from engaging in political electoral activity so you must likewise be mindful of posting an advertisement about this internship via those organizations’ listservs.