What is a Practicum and Internship, anyway?
Practicum and Internship are the two field placements required by all counselor training programs to provide you with real world experience working with clients in agency settings. Generally speaking, you will be placed in a traditional clinical or community mental health setting where you will have opportunities to work with a variety of clients. In order to be licensed as a counselor in the state of Ohio, you must have received a one semester Practicum of 100 hours and at least two semesters of Internship totaling a minimum of 600 hours. About 60% of that time should consist of direct contact time.
You said "at least" two semesters. Does that mean I can take longer to complete internship?
Yes. Each semester of internship can be taken for between 1 and 4 semester hours. At 4 hours, you will need to complete 300 hours of field experience (about 20 hours per week, 10 of which are direct contact time). In effect, your internship is a half time job. If you are also working full time, this can be overwhelming, so we often encourage students to spread internship out over several semesters.
What do you mean by Direct Contact Time?
Direct contact time refers to time actually working with clients doing counseling. This includes individual as well as group counseling, but it does not include talking with clients on the telephone.
Why do I have to take a practicum and an internship?
Counseling is a skills-dependent field and a person's ability to interact both with clients and with colleagues professionally is critical to your success as a competent counselor. Some skills cannot be taught in a classroom setting or even in the counseling lab. Moreover, the only way that we can assess your professional competence is by placing you in the field. Think of practicum and internship as an apprentice program.
I don't plan to work as a counselor or seek licensure, so can I get my degree without taking practicum and internship?
No. Although we understand that many who seek an MA in Counseling are not necessarily going to work directly as counselors, we operate on the assumptions that all our graduates must be prepared for licensure. After all, people have been known to change their minds!
When can I start my practicum?
Generally, the field experience does not start until the bulk of your core courses have been completed. Think of the field experiences as the capstone of your program.
Does my practicum and internship have to be at the same agency?
No, but as a general rule, we prefer that students complete the field experience in the same agency. This provides you and your clients with continuity and a more comprehensive experience.
Can I do my practicum and internship at the same agency where I already work?
Generally, no, although it is possible under certain conditions. The key here is to understand that the practicum and internship experiences must be uniquely counseling experiences. You must be seen as a Counselor-in-Training rather than, say, that case manager who's getting a counseling degree. It is very important to keep your roles/duties separate, so we are not inclined to allow field experiences in the same agency unless you can clearly demonstrate that the roles will be separate (different hours, different supervisor, etc.).
Can I carry hours over from one semester to the next?
You should expect that you will accrue more hours than you need. The more the better as this is just more experience for you to carry in to your professional life. Also, you should expect to continue your field work between terms. You can't just tell your clients, "Hey, I'll be back in a month!" Although you may work at your site between terms, you cannot count hours accrued between terms. However, if a student accrues more than the total hours needed during a given term, up to 50 of those hours may be applied to the next term.
Can I quit early if I complete all my hours?
No. Practicum and internship are courses, not just field placements. Students are expected to participate and complete all of the requirements for the course and stay at their site until the end of the term even if the hours are done early. The more hours of supervised experience in the field before graduation, the better prepared you will be when you begin work after graduation.