Overview

Within a scientist-practitioner paradigm, our program requires students to engage early in a variety of supervised practice experiences in counseling that are both integrated with scientific aspects of the discipline and graduated in depth and complexity to train them to become independently functioning professional psychologists. Learning occurs through formal course work as well as direct experiences with actual clients in a variety of professional settings. One mechanism in which practice training occurs is through the counseling psychology practica and field placements. Counseling psychology practica/field placements provide the necessary opportunities for trainees to apply the scientific and theoretical knowledge bases learned in didactic course work to the practice of professional psychology.

Counseling Psychology Practica

For our purposes, counseling psychology practica are defined as supervised professional experiences in which students accept responsibility for and offer therapeutic assistance to a wide variety of clients under systematic group and individual supervision/evaluation. Course work in the practice area is designed to provide students with a broad exposure to the various types and forms of practice in which counseling psychologists are engaged. The various courses in the practice area stress both theory and application and are integrated throughout the curriculum. Courses in several forms of practice (e.g., individual, group, supervision) are available, and a variety of theoretical perspectives are represented, although a clear focus on integrative therapy and empirically supported treatments exists. Learning occurs through live experiences with actual clients in a variety of professional settings. Counseling psychology practica/field placements provide the necessary opportunities for trainees to apply the scientific and theoretical knowledge bases learned in didactic course work to the practice of professional psychology.

Description of Gradated Practicum Sequence, Practicum Sites Used by Students, and Training Provided in Practicum Sites

The counseling psychology training program is committed to placing students in settings that are strongly committed to training, that supervise students using more than adequate numbers of appropriately trained professionals, and that provide a wide range of training and educational experiences through applications of empirically supported intervention procedures.

To this end, we have a gradated practice-training sequence, in which requirements have been carefully sequenced to facilitate the development of independently functioning psychologists. This gradated practice-training sequence has four levels: (1) Pre-practicum (8040); (2) Practicum (8940); (3) Field Placement (8948), and finally (4) for students in our doctoral program, Pre-doctoral Internship. Each of the four steps in our graduated training is detailed below.

Pre-Practicum (8040):

Our gradated sequence begins prior to practicum with students taking the required prerequisite courses, including 8040 in which micro-skills are learned and students have the opportunity to provide three sessions of counseling to a volunteer clients, while being taped and observed by the instructor. Other prerequisite courses include 8640, in which both clinical assessment skills (i.e., intake interviewing) and more formal, testing assessment skills (e.g., MMPI, Strong Interest Inventory) are learned; 8640 also provides students with an overview of common DSM-IV diagnoses and treatments empirically found to be effective with these diagnoses. Finally, both ethical knowledge and career theory serve as prerequisites to our gradated practicum sequence.

Practicum (8940):

The next step in the gradated practicum sequence, and the first formal practicum experience, is 8940 (Counseling Psychology Practicum), where students provide counseling in on-campus or affiliated sites. All Counseling Psychology Practica (hereafter, 8940s) include both a practicum class meeting and individual supervision. Program faculty are the instructors for all 8940s. Because all 8940s have a class affiliated with them, taught by program faculty, all students in the doctoral program must complete at least one 8940 prior to being allowed to enter the next gradated step, the Field Placement. More specifically, doctoral students entering without a MEd degree must complete two 8940s at two different sites prior to enrolling in a Field Placement; students entering with a MEd degree must take at least one 8940 prior to being allowed to complete a Field Placement.

Although there is some variablility across specialty areas (ie., community/agency, career), students in our terminal masters programs must complete two 8940s at two different sites. These two practica entail both counseling work at the site and enrollment in a practicum class. Thus, no matter what site a student in the MEd program is assigned to, if these sites are being used to fulfill the program requirements of two sites, then enrollment in a formal practicum class (8940) is required. Please note that, except in extraordinarily rare/special circumstances, MEd students will be assigned to one of the following as their first site: Student Success Center, or Hickman High School. However, there are additional sites that can be used as one of (generally, the second) of the two-site requirement (for example, Westminster College Counseling and Health Services). If assigned to one of these sites, the student will be placed in an existing 8940 class. Generally, students in these programs complete two 8940's and then graduate and thus do not complete field placements. However, students in the masters programs desiring additional experience can certainly engage in these field placement experiences.

Generally, the practicum class meets for a total of 3 ½ - 4 hours per week. During the practicum class, group supervision is provided, in which both the instructor and the other students consult concerning clients and appropriate treatment. This group supervision is an excellent opportunity for students to discuss their practicum experience and to learn, through observation and audio-and video-tapes, conceptualization and evaluation skills in a practice setting. In addition, didactic information tailored to student needs and client concerns is also provided in these 8940 classes. All 8940 classes also require formal case presentations by students. Students are also provided with instruction and feedback about record-keeping (i.e., case notes), case conceptualization, treatment planning, and case-closing strategies. Practica are taught from a multi-theoretical and integrative perspective, making use of scientific knowledge on treatment efficacy. Finally, all 8940 classes provide the students with the opportunity to discuss the practicum experience and to integrate it with their learning with other parts of the program. One example would be discussions in practicum concerning how what students are doing with a particular client fits with the theories and techniques presented in 8040, a pre-requisite class. (Please note that the opposite also occurs. Specifically, other classes provide opportunities for students to discuss their practicum experiences. One example would be discussions in Advanced Counseling Theories in which students discuss current and former clients in light of the theories and techniques they are learning.)



Field Placement (8948):

Field Placement is the next gradated step in which students are placed in program-approved local community agencies, where they provide counseling services to community clients. Licensed psychologists at the various sites provide individual supervision for the students, with our agreement with all sites including one hour of supervision for 3 - 4 clients/week and 1.5 - 2 hours for 6 - 8 clients/week. The Counseling Psychology Program Director and on-site supervisors stay in close contact throughout the semester (generally, phone or email). Likewise, both at mid-semester and at the end of each semester, the Program Director seeks feedback from the students as to the training and supervision they received and in this way, the sites are continually monitored as to the training they are providing. Finally, the Program Director makes at least yearly in-person visits to each site.

There are several field placement sites available, including a Veterans Administration hospital, a hospital-based intensive outpatient treatment program, three community mental health centers, a nearby college counseling center, a hospital-based child and family assessment center, a university assessment and consultation/therapy clinic, a women's shelter, and a student health center placement focused specifically on mindfulness practices in therapy.

Practicum Availability and Assignments

All of the practicum (8940) and field placement sites described above are available to students each semester/year. Thus, practicum sites are plentiful and readily available. Each semester, 8940 practicum placements are assigned through a uniform application process. This application process insures that students have met the prerequisites for practicum and that students are assigned to sites in a fair and equitable manner.

Field placement sites are assigned in two different manners, based on the preference of the site. Some sites interview the students themselves, whereas other sites are assigned via the application process. The sites that choose their own students are asked to make these choices prior to the application process, in order to decrease confusion among students and to insure that those who complete an application are in need of a site assigned by that application.
All information about practicum and field placement sites are posted on the Counseling Psychology list-serve, which all program students are required to be part of. Specifically, information about how to interview for field placement sites that pick their own students is disseminated in this way, as is information on the practicum application process.

Assignment to Practicum and Field Placements

Each semester, 8940 practicum placements are assigned through a uniform application process. This application process insures that students have fulfilled prerequisites and that assignments are made in a fair and equitable manner.

Field placement sites are assigned in two different manners, based on the preference of the site. Some sites interview the students themselves, whereas other sites are assigned via the application process.

All information about practicum and field placement sites are posted on the Counseling Psychology list-serve, which all program students are required to be part of. Specifically, information about how to interview for field placement sites that pick their own students is disseminated in this way, as is information on the practicum application process.

Evaluation and Documenting Hours

Malpractice Insurance

All students who are working with clients must carry malpractice insurance. Options are described below.

Please note that the options are described separately for counseling psychology and school psychology students. This is because the types of insurance offered by different companies are specific to the activities engaged in by school and counseling psychology professionals/students.

Also, please note that insurance plans generally offer options in terms of levels of coverage (for example, options of $200,000 per incident and $500,000 total, all the way up to $1,000,000 per incident and $3,000,000 total). Licensed psychologists generally choose the highest level of coverage; students can choose any level of coverage, including the lowest level.

For counseling psychology students, both the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) offer student insurance to their members only. Students who are not already members of one of these organizations can join by following the appropriate links on the homepages provided below. Rates for different levels of coverage are comparable and both plans allow students to select a start date in the future, so those needing insurance for the fall semester could apply now.

*     APA Homepage

*     APA Student Liability Insurance

*     ACA Homepage

*     ACA Student Liability Insurance

Also please note that the APA insurance application asks if you are required to present a certificate of insurance. You are not required to do so, but asking for and obtaining this certificate is highly advisable.