A practicum is an experience within a broader training context in which theoretical knowledge drawn from coursework and research is used in an applied setting. It can involve an array of activities typically performed by psychologists (e.g., intervention, assessment, report writing, supervision, case conferencing, consultation, and observation of others’ clinical work) and can take place in a variety of settings. In choosing which professional activities a student might be involved in, the determining factor is the skill development and competency of the student. Over the course of the training program, the student should be exposed to a graded series of increasingly more challenging and responsible professional activities. This ensures that students are not expected to perform beyond their abilities or limited to activities that do not provide sufficient challenge and growth. Finally, a practicum is a collaborative enterprise engaging the supervisor, student, and training program. As a training program, our goal is to support and facilitate training opportunities in the community and to ensure the best possible practicum experiences for our students.
One of the challenges for training programs is to establish a common understanding of what constitutes a good practicum while permitting enough flexibility to accommodate a variety of different training experiences. This is important in communicating with practicum sites, setting expectations for students, and may be increasingly important in future years as part of the registration process. Below we outline the general guidelines and expectations for community practicum placements for students from the UBC Clinical Program. They rely heavily on the practicum guidelines developed by the Association of State and Provincial Boards of Psychology. Our hope is that these guidelines will serve as a beginning point for a collaborative relationship between training sites and our program. It is in this spirit that we have outlined our practicum training guidelines and included sections addressing responsibilities of the practicum site as well as those of the UBC Clinical Program. We hope that this will facilitate further discussion about our students’ progress and challenges and create a synergistic approach to clinical psychology training. These are intended as general guidelines, if you have questions or concerns about any of these guidelines or if you have an idea for a practicum that deviates from these, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d be happy to talk with you further.
Responsibilities of the Practicum Site
Breadth and Depth of Training
- There will be a written training plan between the student, the practicum training site, and the graduate training program. The training plan for each practicum experience will describe how the trainee’s time is allotted and shall assure the quality, breadth, and depth of the training experience through specification of the goals and objectives of the practicum and the methods of evaluation of the trainee’s performance. Practicum sites are welcome to craft their own training plans or to download an example from the UBC Clinical Psychology Program to use as a guide.
- Practicum training plans will also include the nature of supervision, the identities of supervisors, and the form and frequency of feedback from the agency supervisor to the student. The training plan for each practicum experience will also provide a rationale for the experience in light of previous academic preparation and previous practicum training, to ensure that the overall practicum experience is organized, sequential, and meets the training needs of the trainee and the protection of the public.
- A student will provide services at the practicum level that is appropriate to his or her prior education and experience.
Evaluation of Student Performance
- Students must be evaluated on practicum work. The supervising psychologist will be provided with a Student Evaluation form by the UBC Psychology Clinic toward the stated end of a student’s practicum placement and asked to complete and return it.
- In addition to this end-of-practicum formal evaluation, practicum supervisors are encouraged to provide oral or written formative evaluations of students as the practicum progresses.
- At least 50% of the total hours students spend in the practicum will be in service-related activities, defined as treatment/intervention, assessment, interviews, report-writing, case presentations, and consultations.
- At least 25% of the total hours students spend in the practicum will be devoted to face-to-face (direct services) contact with clients.
- EXAMPLE: A student completing a practicum placement with 24 hours (3 days) of experience in each week should spend at least 12 hours in service-related activities per week as defined above and 6 hours of those 12 hours must involve face-to-face client contact.
- Individual face-to-face supervision will be no less than 25% of the time spent in service-related activities; 25% of total supervision hours can be in a group setting. That is, the ratio of supervision:service hours should be at least 1:4. Peer supervision will not count towards supervision hours. While supervision may occasionally be provided via telephone, this mode of supervision must not be a frequent occurrence. We encourage, but do not require, direct observation of some of the student’s clinical work.
- EXAMPLE: The student in the above example would receive at least 3 hours of individual, face-to-face supervision each week based on 25% of the 12 hours of service-related activities.
Supervisor and Setting
- A psychologist registered with the College of Psychologists of British Columbia (or jurisdiction in which the practicum takes place) will be responsible for maintaining the integrity and quality of the experience for each trainee. This person shall have supervisory responsibility for the entire practicum experience. Up to 25% of the time spent in supervision may be provided by a licensed allied mental health professional.
- Supervised experience will occur in psychological service settings that have as part of the organizational mission a goal of training professional psychologists. The supervising psychology will be on the staff of the setting in which the practicum takes place.
Responsibilities of the UBC Clinical Psychology Program
- In conjunction with the Simon Fraser University Clinical Psychology Program, the UBC Clinical Program will sponsor an annual Practicum/Internship Information Night in the Fall. All practicum sites who regularly offer practica, or who indicate they will be able to do so in the upcoming year, will be invited to attend. There are a number of objectives in hosting this event:
- To inform student applicants and practicum sites of established application deadlines and notification dates for practica. The goal is to streamline the application and selection process and to alleviate confusion. Typically, the application deadline for students is set for February 19, 2018 and the notification date is approximately one month later on March 19, 2018. Interviews occur between these two dates. All sites are asked to contact students with practicum initial offers only on the morning of the notification date.
- To provide a forum in which to disseminate accurate information about available practica to all students.
- To provide an opportunity for students to pose frequently asked questions to the practicum sites.
- To provide an opportunity for practicum sites to interact with each other and with representatives of the UBC and SFU Clinical Psychology Programs.
- The UBC Clinical Program will make all practicum-related forms available for download.
- We will also provide secure electronic storage for written documents (e.g., assessment reports) and session videos on our Departmental server, as well as IT support for accessing student work that has been uploaded to the server.
- We offer the expertise of our in-house IT staff who provide up-to-date information on ways to safely store and transmit confidential information.
Evaluation and Feedback
- The supervising psychologist will be provided with a competencies-based Practicum Student Evaluation form toward the stated end of a student’s practicum placement and asked to complete and return it.
- In addition to evaluations of student performance, each practicum student will be asked to complete a Supervisor Evaluation at the end of the practicum. We endeavor to use this information to provide constructive feedback to supervisors and sites while protecting students from the power imbalance and lack of anonymity inherent in an apprentice training model. Student feedback is kept confidential in the following ways. First, if there was more than one supervisor, the student can rate either the overall quality of supervision at that site, or can complete ratings for each supervisor individually. Second, the evaluation will initially be available only to the Clinic Director at UBC, who is Ingrid Söchting. However, in order to provide constructive feedback to supervisors and external practicum sites, the Clinic Director will aggregate the feedback offered by multiple students over multiple years (at least 4 students over at least 2 years) and provide this aggregated feedback directly to the supervisor (or, in the case of students who rate the overall supervision quality across numerous supervisors, the practicum site). Students are, of course, free to share their comments directly with supervisors at any time and are encouraged to develop an open and collaborative supervisory relationship. Please feel free to raise any questions, concerns, or suggestions with us.
- We understand that practicum training requires a substantial investment on the part of the practicum site and of the supervising psychologist, in particular. In recognition of this contribution, we offer supervising psychologists from the previous 12 months opportunities for low or no cost participation in our continuing education workshops. The UBC Psychology Clinic is a CPA approved continuing education provider. Examples of recent events include workshops on health anxiety, strategies in working with suicidal clients, treatment of anxiety in children, and sexual orientation issues in health care. Our workshops are usually offered annually.
- As well, we will maintain an updated list of other local seminars and workshops that may be of interest for supervisors and students.
- Knowing how tough it can be to keep up with the literature, we will periodically provide brief summaries of recent articles that are relevant to clinical practice.
- We would love to be able to offer monetary compensation to supervisors for the enormous investment they make in training UBC students but, alas, this is not possible. Instead we have come up with a variety of other ways to show our appreciation. Please let us know if you think of other ways we can reciprocate!
- Interested supervisors are encouraged to apply for Adjunct Faculty status at UBC. Among the perks of being Adjunct Faculty at UBC are professional recognition for your work, access to UBC Library materials, and discounts at various vendors on- and off-campus (including academic pricing on most computer hardware and software at UBC bookstore).
- We administer two student-nominated awards for excellence in supervision and maintain a list of current and past supervisors.
- The UBC Clinical Program regularly expresses our gratitude for supervisor efforts through thank you notes and small gifts at the end of practica. We also give an annual gift to supervisors who have been active within the past 12 months. In the past, supervisors expressed preference for a Chapters gift certificate.
- In order to more formally recognize the work of supervisors, we also solicit contact information for your department manager (or other applicable person) and send him/her a letter acknowledging your professional contribution.
Peer Consultation Network
- Although many of our external supervisors work in concert with other health care providers with whom they can consult on patient-related concerns, few have a forum in which to discuss issues specific to clinical supervision. To that end, the UBC Clinical Program will host supervision-focused peer consultation evenings three times a year that will be open only to supervisors. Meetings will begin with a discussion of an article germane to clinical supervision and will then provide a forum in which to discuss other supervision-related issues.
- In addition to helping practitioners work through supervision-related concerns, enhance their education on this topic, and develop greater skill, these events also offer a chance to connect with other psychologists who are doing clinical supervision.
- For those whose work tends to be more independent, these meetings can also count towards Category ‘C’ Continuing Competency requirements.