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Meeting their match: Doctoral psychology students receive internship placements

Kristen B. Morales

April 22, 2019

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Students in the University of Georgia College of Education's psychology doctoral programs recently celebrated a new milestone: News of their internship placements.

Otherwise known as "Match Day," the placements represent the culmination of each student's training at UGA as they move on to positions in health centers, Veteran's Administration facilities, counseling centers and academic facilities. Each will spend the final year of their doctoral program in a professional environment before graduation.

Eleven students in the counseling psychology program and five in the school psychology program matched with competitive programs across the country. Nearly all students matched with their first-choice placement, a rate significantly higher than the rate among all applicants.

The placements show the strength of both the students and the programs, said Amy L. Reschly, professor and graduate coordinator for the school psychology program, and Bernadette Heckman, associate professor and graduate coordinator for counseling psychology. "All were matched to very prominent and highly competitive American Psychological Association-accredited internship training sites," added Heckman.

For most students, the internship is a chance to hone professional skills while putting their research interests into practice. For example, counseling psychology doctoral candidate Jhokania De Los Santos, who will be working at the University of Colorado School of Medicine's Salud Family Health Primary Care clinic, will be able to expand on her experience providing mental health care to underserved populations.

"Salud is committed to an integrated care model, and given my practicum experience working at a primary care center, in which I provided integrated services to the Latinx community, I am excited to continue this line of work and use my Spanish skills," she said. "Because my practicum experience and my research have all been in domains in which I'm very passionate about, it only seems fitting that my internship experience nicely brings it all together."

The integrated care aspect is a cornerstone of the College's counseling psychology program, which aims to train students to work alongside other healthcare professionals to align physical and mental health under one roof. This method of healthcare delivery is considered the "gold standard" in the healthcare industry.

The integrated care model also plays heavily in De Los Santos' dissertation, which offers a case study exploring the challenges undocumented Latinx clients and their healthcare providers face with integrated care. "With my findings, it is my hope to improve health primarily through improving the health care system and generate knowledge that can be used to increase equity in behavioral health outcomes," added De Los Santos. "At Salud, I will carry on with my training in primary care and work toward doing just that, while working with rural, Latinx, migrant farm worker, refugee and underserved or disadvantaged populations."

In addition to Colorado, other counseling psychology students were placed in internships in Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Knoxville, Tennessee; and locations across Florida and North Carolina, among other locations.

Counseling psychology students are training to become licensed mental health providers in a clinical setting, while school psychology students are training to work specifically with school-age populations. School psychology students were placed in locations in Nebraska, Illinois and Florida.

Brian Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in school psychology, will be working in the Boys Town Child and Adolescent Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic in Grand Island, Nebraska. He will provide outpatient therapy in a few rural, integrated-care settings.

It's a perfect matching of his interest in providing mental health services to rural, under-served communities.

"Integrating those services into primary care physicians' and pediatricians' offices is one method of providing those services that is expanding and showing some promise in expanding access," he said. "In that way, this position fits perfectly with my interests, and I am very excited to see what it is all about."

Another school psychology doctoral candidate, Dominic Tannoia, said his placement at the Florida State University Multidisciplinary Center will offer the opportunity for training in both school and outpatient settings. "The MDC offers a perfect mix of both for my training goals," he said. "I was especially attracted to the work they do in their outpatient clinic assessing for developmental disabilities, particularly ADHD and ASD. Also, my supervisors all seemed warm and welcoming, and all the interns spoke highly of them and their training."