A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Counseling with specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Adriana Del Vecchio:
As part of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, one of the unique opportunities is the practicum experience. It is a chance to put all of the skills you’ve learned over the course of two years into action. It is an incredibly valuable clinical experience. When I think about it, I can hardly believe that I am seven months into my year long practicum. I can vividly recall the nervousness when I ran my first group, and when I sat down with my first individual client, thinking to myself “I have NO idea how to do therapy?!” Quite frankly, I don’t think I can give any advice to quell those fears; that just takes time and trust in your training. But I can give some advice for how to prepare for the interview process, and how to make sure you get the most out of your practicum site.
5 Tips for Navigating the Practicum Process:
- Start preparing early. The practicum fair is in February. It’s your opportunity to speak to supervisors at the sites and set up interviews. However, there is a lot of work that can be done before hand. Learn what sites offer practicum and do some research on each one. Find out what populations different sites work with, what their requirements for hours, supervision, and daily work load, etc. Research their mission statements and the philosophies that guide each agency. This will help you learn where your interests lie and give you the time to contemplate the fit of each site. Additionally, start working on your Curriculum Vitae (CV). Make sure you take a trip to the career center, as they are a valuable resource that many graduate students forget about. Make sure you have it prepared well before the fair, so you have time to reflect and edit.
- Talk to your professors. Your advisor and professors offer a wealth of knowledge regarding each site, what to look for in a practicum site and which sites align with your interests. They can help you prep for your interview and review your curriculum vitae (CV). Developing these relationships with your professors are imperative to succeeding in your graduate career. They are there to provide advice, and help guide you through this important process.
- Practice interview questions. This is crucial. Especially if this a new field for you, or you aren’t used to the interview process, take the time to research and practice answers to interview questions. You will feel much better when you walk into that interview room, knowing you can articulately speak to your abilities.
- Network with students currently in practicum. Sometimes we forget, but students who are in your third year of practicum are GREAT resources. They have been through the process, so they can help you answer any questions you may have. They can give you first hand knowledge about the inner workings of their site. Offer to buy them a cup of coffee or grab some lunch; they can be a great source of support.
- Relax and take a deep breath. If you’ve done these steps and taken the time to prepare, you will be great. These past two years of grad school have lead you to this moment. The year you spend at your practicum site will be the most challenging and inspiring time in your graduate career.