Philosophy of the Internship Training Program in Psychology

The Howard University Counseling Service Pre-Doctoral Internship in Clinical and Counseling Psychology espouses the belief that all individuals should have access to quality mental health care, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical disabilities or socioeconomic status. It is further believed that in order to fully prepared to render quality mental health care in a diverse society with rapidly-changing demographics, psychologists and other mental health practitioners must have in-depth knowledge of issues of diversity.  This conceptual orientation is part of the guiding philosophy for our program curriculum. 

Interns, therefore, are selected from diverse educational environments in counseling and clinical psychology with varying training philosophies. Because of this diversity, the interns' core program is supplemented by training experiences that are tailored to fit specialized   training needs. They have completed all of their formal coursework and bring with them the most recent knowledge, theory, and research in psychology. Program emphasis is focused on training interns in the application of knowledge to a culturally, racially, and individually diverse population of clients. Training supervisors ensure that the training experience is consistent with the intern's personal and professional goals.

Interns are encouraged to evaluate their experiences throughout their training and to consider the relevance of these experiences to understanding of dynamics among people of diverse cultural, racial and individual backgrounds. The total internship experience is informed by the psychodynamic framework.  In addition, the psychodynamic framework provides a foundation for integration of content and process dimensions of supervision. It is also the lens through which the didactic and experiential elements of the training are understood by both the supervisor and trainee. 

Given that Howard University’s mission is to educate African Americans and other historically underserved groups, Howard University's student population is rich in diversity. More than 88 countries are represented with large numbers of international students coming from Africa and the Caribbean. The setting gives the interns the experience that is needed in realizing the training goal of developing special competency in working with a diverse population.

 The trainees are taught in seminars to follow a clearly defined theoretical rationale for their clinical and consultative work. In case conferences and supervisory sessions, careful attention is paid to ensure that trainees know how to identify and diagnose a problem by formulating hypotheses and gathering data to confirm or reject the hypotheses. Concepts of human development and intervention strategies are taught from a variety of theories such as Object Relations, Self Psychology, interpersonal and relational schools of thought. Specific emphasis is placed on the application of theoretical concepts to diverse populations. While the practice of psychology is the primary focus in this practitioner-scholar model, interns are provided the necessary resources to conduct research and engage in such scholarly pursuits as attending and presenting at professional conferences.

Training is provided in incremental levels of complexity. The first training requirement is participation in orientation.  Interns participate in three-four weeks of orientation activities which include new employee orientation, sexual harassment training, an ethics presentation, and introduction to the DC Superior Court and assessment review. This orientation also includes a discussion of the history of Howard University Counseling Service, and the training program’s philosophy, objectives, and training plan; as well as a discussion of the evaluation process, due process, and grievance procedures. Interns are then exposed to training in conducting intakes and formulating their clinical intervention framework within an integrated theoretical model. This training takes place under the tutelage of the Training Director, Dr. Stacey Jackson- Lampley. The interns start their hands-on experience by first conducting intake interviews and writing intake reports for presentation at the weekly intake conference. Once they master that skill, the interns are assigned therapy cases for ongoing work. In the beginning months of the internship, the training staff works with interns in the selection of cases to help them achieve a balance between selecting cases with relatively straightforward clinical presentations and selecting cases with more challenging clinical presentations. In the ensuing months, interns are encouraged to select increasingly challenging cases.

Our overall model of the supervisory relationship is structured to move interns along a continuum of development as follows:

Stage 1 - Exploration of anxieties, expectations, and experiences focusing on interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics are combined with skill development activities.  During this stage of supervision, considerable discussion is devoted to the intern’s adjustment to the intern role, and attention is also given to the intern’s perceived strengths and areas of growth and how these perceptions are influencing the selection of cases.

Stage 2 - A more in-depth exploration of dynamic patterns and therapeutic feedback from the supervisor. Parallel process issues, transference and countertransference issues often warrant a more in-depth examination during this stage.

Stage 3 - The supervisor functions more as a consultant as trainee skills are enhanced and they gain more confidence. Professional identity development and the transition from trainee to professional are also focused upon in greater depth during Stage 3.

The above supervisory model characterizes individual clinical supervision during the training year, but it also informs, to some degree, many of the other training activities and supervisory relationships. While this model is the foundation for many of the training activities, most training activities also have a specific structure and/or components which ensure that the learning experience within the activity is sequential, cumulative, and graded in complexity.

Last updated July, 2014