Frequently Asked Questions
APA accreditation requires programs to have a large enough intern class that trainees will have a professional peer group. Generally, APA wants to see a class of three interns. If the class is smaller (ours is two) they want to see a consortium arrangement or some other formal and regular opportunity for Pre-Doc Interns to interact with more trainees at their developmental level. We'd love to have a third intern, but we simply don't have additional office space!
Like APA programs, APPIC internships must have demonstrated to a governing body that they have a planned training sequence, licensed psychologists providing supervision, thoughtful ways of evaluating trainee needs and progress, didactic seminars, appropriate opportunities for direct service to clients, the proper ratio of supervision to service hours, and other program elements – there are 15 criteria evaluated by the APPIC Board for membership.
In addition to these APPIC requirements, APA-accredited programs must provide a written self-study on the cultural diversity of the students they've trained and their Psychology Staff, the professional positions their interns have moved on to, and how many of their interns have been from APA academic programs; they also document the relationship between internship training goals and measurable learning outcomes, and a good deal more detailed accounting of their training. These programs have also completed a rigorous site visit and have demonstrated their ability to remedy any concerns noted by the accreditation team. APA accreditation is a deeper review process than APPIC membership is. (Coincidentally, the Associate Director here at Puget Sound is a former accreditation site visitor.) In short, an APA internship may or may not differ in substance from an APPIC one, but it has met a demanding set of criteria.
Yes. All APA internships are by definition part of APPIC. The membership criteria for APPIC fall within the accreditation criteria for APA.
The nice thing about completing an APPIC internship is that licensing boards understand that you have had the proper type and amount of clinical training. There are a few states that require a more detailed accounting of clinical hours from those who completed non-APA internships (even those that are APPIC) but most understand that all APPIC and APA interns have by definition fulfilled their 2,000 hour requirement, with the proper balance of direct service hours, clinical supervision, didactic training and so on. Often the amount of accounting they ask of licensure applicants depends upon whether or not the student attended an APA academic program.
Our past interns are now Licensed Psychologists in Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Jersey, Colorado, California, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, Oregon, and Washington State.
There are some factors that may make licensure hairier [below] but completing an APPIC-member internship is not necessarily one of those things.
If your primary internship supervisor was not a Licensed Psychologist; if your academic program was online or distance learning; if you complete an internship that's neither APPIC nor APA (particularly if your academic program was not APA-accredited); if you have difficulty passing the EPPP national licensing exam; if you reside in one state and want to practice psychology in a neighboring state.
Some states know they have a major city near a border and cooperate very graciously with each other on this issue. They may either have a reciprocity agreement, or may honor the CPQ: Certificate of Professional Qualification in Psychology. Other states require psychologists to obtain a license in both locations (ugh!).
Though an increasing number of states are allowing psychologists who relocate to practice in their new state or province without having to jump additional licensure hoops, mobility for our profession is a work in progress. Licensure requirements do still vary from state to state, so if there's a move you're worried about, by all means research that state's Licensing Board requirements prior to making internship decisions.
Prospective employers who are psychologists working in training roles or in clinical practice generally know APPIC, so interns can expect some recognition of their having completed an APPIC internship. This “seal of approval” may be a welcome ease in the job search. Prospective employers who are non-psychologists, or who are psychologists in roles quite removed from training (for example full-time research or testing) may need you to highlight this information in your cover letter, since they may not be aware of what APPIC membership signifies.
If you're especially interested in working for the U.S. Government, there is more safety in completing an APA-accredited internship. Some government positions require that applicants come from an APA academic program, and some require completion of both an APA degree and internship. If you're licking your chops at the prospect of working at a Veterans Administration Hospital or a Federal Prison, for example, check on their hiring practices before you decide about internship. In some cases your safest bet might be to accept only an APA internship, even if that program is not an ideal fit for you, and even if it takes you more than one application year to match to an APA site. That said, we have two prior interns working happily in Army Medical Centers, so it's not an across-the-board phenomenon; just be sure to gather information if you want to work for the government.
My advisor or DCT is concerned about students applying to non-APA internships, but I am quite interested in several APPIC sites. What considerations should I be aware of?
There are several issues a good, attentive Director of Clinical Training will keep an eye out for: (1) The quality of the training they hope for their students to receive on internship, and (2) the accreditation status and momentum of their own academic program.
- With regard to quality of training, we love it when faculty pay close attention to the learning experience of their advisees. Although APA internships vary in substance, their accreditation does assure that there is an infrastructure in place, which is important. Academic faculty are sometimes unaware, though, that their department policy for internship requirements is (verbatim) the list of requirements for APPIC membership! It's not uncommon for departments to ask APPIC sites to complete paperwork certifying the structure of their programs, without realizing they are ironically sending them the APPIC criteria checklist. When viewed up-close, department guidelines may be for students to complete an APPIC internship, though this may be articulated as requiring an APA internship.
Since APPIC and APA internships have both demonstrated that they have an infrastructure and a professional staff likely to promote growth, the primary "unknown" is that each internship also has a personality – a work culture, a social climate for interns, a training philosophy, a theoretical orientation – all of which combine to determine how happy and productive a year it would be for each individual student. You may want to make these climate issues part of your research and your planning conversations with an advisor or DCT. Your relationships on internship may shape not only your sense of well-being, but your freedom to learn and the recommendations you'll receive as you begin your job search.
- With regard to the accreditation status of academic programs, it makes perfect sense for faculty, who have worked very hard with students for a number of years, to want them to secure the strongest internship placement they can. There are a couple of variables to consider here. One is that some academic programs are themselves in the process of applying for APA accreditation. Under these circumstances, it frankly does behoove the academic program to place its students in APA internships. This is not always possible, but we support their efforts to work towards this; preparing for an APA site visit is a lot of pressure!
A competing pressure is that some students have geographical limits. Though they might like to apply to a variety of internship settings across the country, they must find one within driving distance of their home. In these cases, it may hurt the student to steer him or her only towards APA internships, since there will usually be just a few at most in the immediate area. Accredited internship programs review strong applications from Ph.D., Psy.D. and Ed.D. students across the U.S. and Canada. In some cases, these applicants are also older adult students, who had extensive clinical experience and an impressive CV prior to engaging in doctoral work. Given this reality, for students applying within a focused geographical area, it's important to understand that it may take more than one year's cycle for them to match to an internship, especially if they are applying only to APA-accredited sites.
Given the unfortunate strain of there being more great applicants than training spots each year, some students consider arranging an informal internship for themselves. Often this occurs in a setting where the student completed a practicum or where they have a relationship with someone who works in the geographic location they desire. These free-standing internships may offer terrific training, but it's hit or miss.
Free-standing internships do not need to respond to any professional governing body, so they do not need to develop a full training program. Internships that are neither APPIC members nor APA accredited are not obliged to design a varied training environment, an evaluation philosophy, an infrastructure for supervision, professional development opportunities, a grievance procedure, didactic learning etc. What may take place instead is basically an agreement for trainees to see clients or patients in exchange for supervision. When it comes time to apply for licensure, it's incumbent upon the intern to document in detail how they spent their time, whether their supervisors had the proper credentials, the ratio of direct service to supervision and so on. This paperwork alone is no reason to avoid a free-standing internship. If the trainee is certain they'll get the hours they need, in the specific categories they need them, and will have the opportunity to develop as a psychologist and not just as a therapist, it could be an excellent arrangement.
One ethical concern that has arisen with these informal arrangements is that students may be led to believe that a free-standing internship “meets APPIC requirements.” Unfortunately, what is sometimes meant (in a well-intended way) is that they can offer a year-long affiliation in which the trainee will complete 2,000 hours and receive two hours per week of supervision. Number of direct service hours is only one of the 15 criteria required of APPIC-member programs, though. It's important for students completing a free-standing internship to understand that this distinction can be meaningful with regard to application for licensure. Having done the proper number of clinical hours is not equivalent to having completed an APPIC-member internship.
From an educational perspective, the core issue is that trainees in free-standing internships sometimes do almost entirely direct service. It's easy to understand why very benevolent sites might slide into this pattern. Any hours that trainees are doing things other than direct clinical service are “expensive” for any setting. APPIC and APA internships define themselves as training sites, and believe this trade-off (less efficiency for better learning opportunities) is worthwhile. They invest in creating well-rounded training opportunities: For interns to supervise trainees, to prepare materials for a group, to consult with colleagues, to get feedback on their progress notes, to do team building and learn about the organization, to respond to crises, to present workshops, to attend seminars, case conferences, and specialized trainings, to get help with job search, to learn professional issues of psychologists and so on. Because free-standing internships don't need to offer trainees a varied, intentional, developmental experience--and because it's expensive for them to do so--they often don't. Again, not because they don't care, but because they need to have those treatment hours covered!
A practical consideration with informal arrangements is that they are just that: informal arrangements. These programs often hinge on the commitment of a few psychologists in a setting very dedicated to students. But if they were to depart or the agency changed its mind about having interns, the training program could evaporate. Use your best judgment about the resilience of the program.
More optimistically, interns may have fabulous experiences with free-standing internships! They may receive fantastic clinical supervision from talented professionals who have put a lot of effort into creating something special in their setting.
Please bear in mind that these FAQ responses represent the perspectives of our Training Staff. There are certainly other variables and viewpoints to consider with these complex professional issues. Having heard from many grad students that they'd wished for more awareness of credentialing issues as they approached internship, we thought a FAQ section could be a helpful resource. Do let us know if you read anything here that you think bears correction or clarification; more information is always better!