Internship positions are available in the Counseling Center and are open to students in doctoral programs who are preparing for a career in health service psychology. Doctoral internship applicants must follow APPIC guidelines and timetables regarding the submission of their application materials.
The Counseling Center at Western Washington University is a unit of Counseling, Health, and Wellness Services, a department of the Division of Enrollment and Student Services and is accredited by the International Association of Counseling Services (IACS). Counseling, Health, and Wellness Services is dedicated to promoting the mental and physical wellbeing of Western Washington University students.
Currently, the Center includes 7 full-time (and 2 part-time/temporary) clinical professionals and 4 doctoral interns, supplemented by 2 full-time support staff. Staff members practice in a variety of counseling modes and represent a number of theoretical approaches to counseling and psychotherapy. Case conferences, professional development programs, and consultation activities help each staff member share and expand their individual skills.
The Counseling Center is located in Old Main with a space that has been customized to meet the needs of a university counseling center. Professional and self-help libraries are a part of the space in the Counseling Center. The Center also has a group/conference room.
The doctoral internship program offered by the Counseling Center at Western Washington University is designed to provide intensive supervised experience in individual and group counseling; consultation and outreach; intake assessment; and crisis services.
The internship is 2000 hours, and per Washington State law, must be completed within 24 months. The purpose of the internship is to provide experience in, and supervision of, the various activities practiced by a professional psychologist. The Counseling Center is committed to the achievement of excellence in the internship experience it provides. Interns gain exposure to the variety of professional activities and service delivery systems that exist in a contemporary college or university counseling setting. The expectation is that interns will profit from the training experience in terms of professional and personal growth. Opportunities exist to individualize aspects of the program so that special needs, skills, or areas of interest can be addressed or developed. Upon completion of the program, it is hoped that interns will view the experience as a valuable capstone to their formal graduate training, and that they will be capable of assuming positions of responsibility in the field.
The objectives of the doctoral internship program are:
To provide a high quality training experience for individuals who have progressed through doctoral studies in the field of psychology
To provide a training experience that will result in interns being eligible for licensure as psychologists
To provide interns with opportunities for the refinement of the basic skills necessary to practice as a professional psychologist and to expose interns to related areas of practice
To provide a training experience that is flexible enough to allow individuals to meet their personal and professional needs
Required Training Activities
In compliance with Washington State law, interns are required to devote at least 25% (i.e. 500) of internship hours to direct clinical service. Interns will also receive a minimum of 2 hours of individual supervision per week, and a minimum of 2 hours of other learning activities. Counseling Center interns are required to participate in the following activities:
Initial Assessment Interviews
The assessment and diagnosis of incoming clients is a central function of the Counseling Center. The intake counselor is responsible for clarifying the presenting problem, assessing its severity, judging the need for timely interventions, and discussing with the client the treatment alternatives that are available. Prior to conducting initial assessments on their own, interns observe/conduct them with senior staff. Once trained, interns are responsible for a minimum of four (4) hours of initial assessment duty per week. Formal psychometric assessment is not part of the initial assessment interview process. Limited opportunities for testing may be available as part of ongoing counseling provided by interns.
Individual and Group Counseling
Direct counseling and psychotherapy is one of the major emphases of the internship program. The internship experience is viewed as one of the best opportunities for the psychologist in training to gain a broad range of experience with clients while receiving intensive supervision. Interns will gain experience with a number of different kinds of cases, requiring different interventions. The Center operates primarily using brief models of counseling, although interns do have some flexibility to see clients for longer term work. Interns should expect to spend a minimum of 15 hours a week in direct, face-to-face client contact. That average will likely be higher during times of peak demand (October through May) in the traditional academic year.
Group activities are considered to be the preferred modes of treatment in many situations. Interns are required to participate in at least one multiple-session group as a leader, co-leader, or process observer. Group offerings vary each quarter, and include general process groups, as well as theme- and identity-based groups. Interns meet with senior staff members early in the year to identify possible options. A sample list of group offering can be found here: https://counseling.wwu.edu/workshops-and-group-counseling.
It is reasonable to assume that individuals who are involved in providing counseling services will have to develop skills in crisis intervention. Although the Center treats crisis management as a shared staff responsibility, interns are expected to be able to respond to the crises experienced by their own clients. Assistance is available for the intern, or any staff member, in those instances where an emergency situation may require hospitalization or other atypical measures. Once trained, interns participate in the daily crisis consultation rotation (minimum of one hour per week). Interns are also part of the after-hours backup crisis coverage rotation. This involves providing support to primary coverage providers. Interns will be responsible for 4-6 week long slots per year.
Interns receive supervision in a number of different ways. Each intern will meet with a senior staff member (primary supervisor) for two hours a week to receive supervision of his/her individual counseling caseload and related activities. Primary supervisors are licensed as psychologists in Washington State. Interns may also work with senior staff members in a number of other areas such as outreach, group programs, consultation, etc., and will be supervised by the participating senior staff member for those activities. Interns are generally required to videotape all individual counseling sessions, unless specifically exempted by the clinical supervisor. Interns should always be prepared to present tapes for supervisor review.
Interns attend a weekly two-hour seminar, with topics determined to have particular relevance for WWU interns. Drug and alcohol assessment, specific applications of psychometric assessment instruments, neuropsychology, stress management, and working with eating disorders are a few examples of topics that may be addressed in the seminar.
Approximately midyear, each intern is required to conduct a formal case presentation of their work with a client selected in consultation with their clinical supervisor. The presentation is given to the intern cohort and clinical supervisors. Presentations include a written case synopsis, videotape segments, and testing data (as appropriate). Presentations last 2 hours and include time for the presenter to solicit feedback on the case from audience members.
Interns participate in peer consultation group and medical consultation hours. Peer groups meet one hour per week to discuss cases presented by senior staff and interns. Interns also participate in the medical consultation hours with Health Center physicians. Interns are encouraged to present their cases at these meetings as appropriate.
Outreach and Consultation
The Counseling Center has an active consultation and outreach program serving the university community and campus organizations. These consultations extend the skills and expertise of the staff to the larger community, broaden the Center’s contacts, increase the Center’s awareness of psychological needs, and contribute to the visibility of the Center. Interns are required to participate in on-going consultation and outreach efforts and/or to initiate new ones. Outreach opportunities include training and facilitating developmental and educational activities on campus.
Twice a year, interns are given formal feedback about their professional skills and performance. Interns will be evaluated on their professionalism - including their adherence to the relevant ethical and legal guidelines of the profession - as well as the policies and procedures of the Counseling Center. They will also be evaluated on the scope of activities in which they engage, and their counseling aptitude, behaviors, and skills. The intern's clinical supervisor drafts the formal evaluation and discusses it with the intern prior to forwarding it to the Training Director. The Training Director forwards the formal evaluations to the intern's academic department twice a year.
As a part of the evaluation process, group and individual supervisors meet regularly to exchange information and/or perceptions about the progress of interns. Such information is used to address evolving needs of interns and to acknowledge areas of strength. Evaluation and feedback are viewed as important aspects of the learning process which assist interns in maximizing their strengths, developing new competencies, and mastering the fundamental skills which will permit them to function in the multiple roles of a professional psychologist.
Interns are expected to achieve final ratings of at least “Good” (performance is at a level expected of an intern, functioning within typical parameters of supervision) across all major domains:
Outreach & Program Development
Stipend and Benefits
The pre-doctoral internship currently is funded at an annual stipend of $26,172, and, as a one-year exempt staff position, includes benefits offered to professional staff employees. Information about benefits is available online at: http://www.benefits.wwu.edu/
Accreditation and Membership
The Counseling Center is accredited by the International Association of Counseling Services (IACS).
The internship program is a member of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). This internship site agrees to abide by the APPIC policy that no person at this training facility will solicit, accept, or use any ranking-related information from any intern applicant.
Qualification of Candidates
Candidates must be enrolled in a doctoral program in counseling, clinical psychology, or a closely related area. All of the formal coursework and comprehensive examinations for the doctorate should be completed. Please see below for additional information regarding criteria that guides the intern selection committee.
Intern Selection Criteria
The intern selection committee carefully reads each AAPI to determine if applicants’ experiences appear to align with our program’s goals and objectives (i.e., professionalism, versatility in clinical practice, group counseling, outreach and program development, and cultural competence). Reviewers complete a rating form based on the information in each AAPI (see attached). Numeric values (0, 1, 2 or 3) are assigned based on level of experience/interest in the following areas: counseling center experience, expressed intention for counseling center career, familiarity with brief therapy model, outreach, multidisciplinary work, group therapy, breadth of caseload/clientele (indicated by number of unique clients). We also assign a numeric rating based on quality of applicants’ written communication, based on three criteria: 1) “cover letter reflective of knowledge about WWU” and 2) “all prompts are addressed in essays,” “writing is relatively free of grammatical/spelling errors.”
During the application review process, applicants are rated on their experience/interest in the following areas:
(1) College/university counseling center experience. Highest rated applicants will have demonstrated practicum (or professional) experience in a college or university counseling center, and a stated desire to pursue a career in that setting. Second ratings are given to applicants who may have practicum experience in a university-based community training clinic. Lowest rated applicants have neither practicum experience, nor interest in college/university counseling center.
(2) Brief therapy experience. Because the Counseling Center operates primarily within a brief counseling model, the highest ratings are given to applicants who have demonstrated practicum experience working within a brief therapy model. Second ratings are given to applicants who may lack practicum experience, but express a desire to gain experience using a brief therapy model. The lowest rating is given to applicants who demonstrate neither practicum experience, nor interest.
(3) Outreach experience. Outreach programming, particularly to underserved populations has become a major point of emphasis for the Counseling Center. Highest ratings are given to applicants who have demonstrated experience developing and providing outreach programming. Second ratings are given to applicants who have provided (not developed) programming. Third ratings are given to those who lack experience, but express interest in gaining experience in this domain. The lowest rating is given to applicants with neither experience nor expressed interest.
(4) Multidisciplinary team experience. The Counseling Center is administratively under the same umbrella the Student Health Center and Prevention & Wellness, and works closely with these units. Thus, the highest ratings are given to applicants who have demonstrated experience working as part of multidisciplinary teams, including medical providers. Second ratings are given to those who have worked as part of multidisciplinary teams that did not include medical providers. The lowest rating is given to applicants with no experience as part of a multidisciplinary team.
(5) Demonstrated breadth in clinical caseload/clientele. The Counseling Center serves students from a variety of backgrounds, with a variety of identities, and presenting with a variety of clinical issues. Highest ratings are given to applicants who have seen more than 30 unique individual clients. Second ratings are given to applicants who have seen 15-30 unique individual clients, and the lowest rating is given to applicants who have seen less than 15 unique individual clients.
(6) Demonstrated group counseling experience. Group counseling is often the preferred mode of treatment, and all interns will be expected to co-facilitate at least one group. The highest ratings are given to applicants who have led/co-facilitated and developed a counseling group. Second ratings are given to applicants who have led or co-facilitated (but not developed) a group. Third ratings are given to applicants who have served as a process observer. Lowest ratings are for applicants who do not have any type of demonstrated group counseling experience.
(7) Demonstrated strong communication skills. The highest ratings are given to applicants who clearly demonstrate, in the cover letter, knowledge about WWU and the Counseling Center; who address all prompts in the AAPI required essays; and who write in a grammatically correct manner with minimal errors. Lower ratings are given to applicants meeting one or two of these criteria. Lowest ratings are given to applicants meeting none of the criteria.
Ratings are summed across domains. Though greater experience yields a higher total score, applicants are not absolutely required to have extensive pre-internship experience in every area. Total scores help guide the discussion about whom to invite for phone interviews, but we do not employ cutoff scores in this process.
Intern Selection Process
Each November, the Counseling Center convenes an intern selection committee of 3-4 staff psychologists (including the training director) to review applications. Applications are divided among the members of the selection committee. After reading the applications, the intern selection committee meets to determine which applicants to invite for phone interviews. If a committee member recommends that an applicant be denied an interview, that application is reviewed by a second committee member before a final decision is made.
Phone interviews last 50 minutes each and are conducted by the entire selection committee. Prior to the interview applicants are asked to prepare a 10-minute case presentation to share as part of the phone call. The case presentation is an opportunity for us to hear about their clinical style, approach to case conceptualization, and handling of diversity considerations. Applicants are asked to speak to their decision to apply to our program and about ways the program may fit (or not fit) their goals. Applicants are asked about self-care, and invited to share examples of how they have managed stressful professional situations. They are asked to discuss their experience and interest with outreach, especially around engaging underserved populations. We ask them to reflect on which types of clients and clinical issues they are especially interested in working with, and which, if any, they are reluctant to work with. Finally, interviewees are given an opportunity to ask questions of the selection committee. At the end of the interview, applicants are invited to correspond with the training director if they have any additional questions. We adhere to our prepared questions and occasionally ask follow-up questions for clarification. Interviews have a conversational and friendly tone that reflects the welcoming and respectful culture of our program. In the process of asking and answering questions, phone interviews allow the selection committee to get a feel for an applicant’s interpersonal style.
In general, the program seeks applicants with experience and interest in working in college/university counseling center settings; experience/interest in brief counseling modalities, group counseling, and outreach programming; and a commitment to multicultural competence. The program also seeks applicants who convey an openness to learning, who value working collaboratively as team, as well as those who can articulately address how they have navigated professional challenges and demonstrated resiliency in doing so.
To apply, please complete the AAPI online, including graduate transcripts and three letters of recommendation (two of which should come from clinical supervisors or individuals who are familiar with your clinical work.) Applicants will also need to register for the Intern Match.
Application information and deadlines can be found on the APPIC directory listing for the WWU Counseling Center. Applicants who advance past the initial screening will be invited to participate in telephone or Skype interviews.
Offers to candidates matched to the internship are contingent upon successful completion of the University’s required criminal background check.
Direct inquiries to:
Dr. Eric L. Denson
Coordinator of Clinical Training
Counseling Center, OM-540
Western Washington University
Bellingham, WA 98225-9052