State Hospitals

The site you choose for an internship is vital to establishing your professional career path in psychology. If you want to enter the clinical or patient-centered arena of this profession, you may consider a state hospital for your doctoral internship. Doing so can provide a plethora of hands-on experience and tailor your skills toward independent proficiency as a practitioner.

Consider your career goals carefully. State hospitals’ internship programs vary and each hospital may have a slightly different focus. For instance, some hospitals may focus on counseling, whereas others may have a strong program in forensics. Choose several hospitals that match or complement your interests and apply to all of them. Internship positions are usually very limited and getting hired for one is a competitive process.

State hospitals provide care for both involuntary and voluntary patients with varying forms and severities of mental illness. Involuntary patients are deemed incompetent to care for themselves. This may be the result of a declaration of insanity, severe mental disorders that could lead to harm of self or others, or substance abuse. Voluntary patients may be admitted in state facilities to treat personality disorders such as severe borderline personalities or thought and affective disorders such as schizophrenia. State hospitals house mental health facilities where you can gain a plethora of hands-on experience in counseling and up-to-date treatment methods, and refine your skills working with professionals such as psychiatrists and social workers.

Research the hospitals and their accreditation. Accreditation means that the educational program or facility has been surveyed and meets a standard level of quality in education or service as set by the accrediting organization. As a doctoral student, the American Psychological Association (APA) must accredit the hospitals you consider for internship possibilities. You must attend an accredited school and obtain your clinical hours in accredited facilities for eligibility to sit for professional licensure. This is true for any post-matriculation affiliations; the hospital must be accredite if you hope to gain access into professional organizations such as the APA. Check into the hospital’s accreditation with The Joint Commission. TJC will only accredit hospitals that pass the national standards of care set forth for mental health facilities.

Once you have selected several accredited state hospitals, prepare your curriculum vitae, or CV, specifically to reflect interest in state hospital positions. Include any didactic or clinical hours, prior experience or professional presentations, or publications focused on work with patients in this setting. Include your specific career goals such as what type of patients you are interested in working with and how this work will help you achieve your professional goals.

Personnel Departments

When you hear about personnel-department internships in psychology you may immediately envision a human resources department and imagine counseling unhappy employees. The truth is that only represents a tiny slice of the professional functions of psychologists in personnel positions. Your areas of interest may range from industrial psychology to counseling. The psychologist in human resources can wear a number of hats and have a diverse role within the organization.


Before applying for internships in personnel departments, learn about the myriad experiences you could gain in this field. Choose potential internship sites based on your ultimate career goals and interests. Your internship will establish your career path and may open the door to a permanent position. Remember, the main goal of any internship is to facilitate your independent proficiency as a practitioner after it is complete.

Doctoral students interested in the fields of industrial and organizational psychology, counseling, and teaching may consider an internship in personnel. Psychologists hired into these departments may adapt the workplace to employees’ individual needs, maintain the mental health of personnel, and intervene during the recruitment and interviewing process. Interns may assist with employee screening, personnel changes within the organization, and professional coaching or counseling to help retain current employees.

Employee satisfaction is a growing concern in organizational psychology. The human resources psychologist can use performance prediction tools, such as polls or surveys, to judge the effect of the workplace environment and workload on current employees. Teambuilding, awards, and benefits packages can be influenced by the psychological impact of these actions on the workers. As an intern you may be directly involved in the polling or planning of these events.

Human resources psychologists are essential for maintaining team building, but are invaluable during times of stress such as corporate mergers or a take-over. These specialists use research and behavioral patterns to predict, assess, and treat the effects of these stressful events on every level of employee. Your experience may range from one-on-one counseling to organization-wide briefings. This internship can help you develop your clinical skills in diversity, as you will work with adults from varying cultural and economic backgrounds.

If you decide that an internship in personnel will complement your career goals, prepare your CV specifically to reflect that interest. These positions may be highly competitive. Use your CV to reflect why you, above all other applicants, should be chosen for this position. Include any prior experience, presentations, or publications focused on personnel or organizational psychology.

Treatment Facilities

An exciting hands-on option for a psychology intern is the treatment facility. The term treatment facility encompasses a multitude of care environments that may include hospitals, residential facilities, and state institutions. Basically, any facility that employs both teaching and mental-health services may offer an internship in this area of specialty. Research your options thoroughly and learn how each site may affect your professional career goals.

There are many different types of facilities that provide mental health services. They vary by the patient’s age, length of stay, voluntary versus involuntary patient selection, and level of care provided. Some clinics specialize in the psychological care of children and adolescents, whereas others only admit adults. The length of stay refers to the acuity of care provided; long term facilities, often called residential sites, may not offer the same level of care as found in emergency rooms. Involuntary and voluntary admission refers to the level of mental illness severity; involuntary patients are declared incompetent to care for themselves and could risk harm to themselves or others. Voluntary patients are admitted under their own free will for psychiatric care. Both types of admissions may facilitate caring for patients with substance abuse, personality disorders, or affective disorders such as schizophrenia.

The treatment facility internship will provide hands-on training in a clinical setting. The residential psychologist will strictly observe your counseling and treatment plans during the year. You will have the opportunity to work with many professionals in the mental health field including psychiatrists, licensed master social workers, and psychologists. These experiences will sharpen your clinical skills and help prepare you for independent practice in a variety of fields in psychology.

Take the time to research each potential internship facility and its accreditation status. The APA must accredit treatment facilities for your internship to count toward your professional licensure exam eligibility. Likewise, most APA-accredited facilities will only consider your internship application if you are attending an APA-accredited school or educational program in psychology. Each facility you consider should also be accredited by The Joint Commission, which maintains the national standards for healthcare environments.

Ensure that your CV reflects your professional and personal goals supporting your desire to work in a treatment facility. This resume should include any clinical hours, schooling, or experience relevant to this job position. Consider the specifics of the facilities you are applying to and mention those site-specific interests. For instance, if you want the internship at a local adolescent residential psychiatric facility, include the professional desire to work with this developmental stage in your CV.

Last Updated: 05/08/2014

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