A practicum placement is a pivotal and exciting time in a student’s graduate school career. You’re finally putting all those psychology classes to practice. And you’re starting to learn and sharpen your clinical skills.
To help you make the most of your practicum placement, we talked to Theresa A. Wozencraft, Ph.D., psychologist and associate professor of psychology and practicum coordinator at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She offers advice on everything from selecting a mental health site to making it a successful experience.
Unfortunately, many students don’t read these books early enough, Dr. Wozencraft said. Books on practicum placements usually feature how-tos on selecting a site, building a relationship with your supervisor and ascertaining your training needs — all information that’s better to know a semester or so before making your choice, she said.
2. At first, seek a broad experience.
When selecting their first practicum, one of the mistakes students make is wanting “a very specialized experience when they need a broader experience,” Wozencraft said. Students “will rule out excellent training sites because they don’t offer an access to a specialty population.”
However, “the earlier on it is, the more you need to be open to being trained more broadly as a psychologist.” That’s because the goal of early training is to “secure your foundational set of skills as a psychologist.” You’re there to become “effective at building rapport,” using a wide range of skills, deploying different types of interventions and getting “comfortable with [yourself] in the role of psychologist,” she said.