Finding a therapist can be really hard. If you want to use your insurance, it might be difficult to find someone experienced and you might have to go to a community clinic for services. If you are seeking a specialist through insurance you might not be able to see someone in network, and full fee therapy can be expensive on a weekly basis. When you do find someone in network they might not have availability for you in their schedule or your schedule might not fit with their availability. While working with a clinical intern might feel scary, it can be a great answer to finding someone being trained in a specialty at a lower rate and with a flexible schedule.
Who are Clinical Interns?
Clinical interns are generally students who are in their Master’s (MSW or MHC) or PhD programs. Many students entering graduate programs already have some experience working within the mental health field in some form. Prior to entering internships, they take courses that teach them the basics of therapy and have them role play with one another therapy sessions. Some might not have as much life experience but have a drive to help others and a hunger to learn how to work in the field.
How are Clinical Interns Supervised?
This really depends on the setting the intern is being trained in. Some community clinics take on interns and their supervision might entail anywhere between 30 minutes and 1 hour of weekly individual supervision and possibly some group supervision if they make this available. There are many group private practices that also act as training clinics, and if they specialize, will work hard to instruct their interns to work within these specialties.
At Mindfulness with Sasha, our interns receive 1 full hour of individual supervision and 1 full hour of group supervision every week. They start off being trained in the full DBT skills program and are guided in various other evidence based interventions on a case by case basis. Our interns are able to observe clinical sessions of clients who have consented to being observed in order to learn from their supervisors practices. In turn, their supervisors also are able to observe some of their sessions to help interns learn better interventions and strategies to use with specific clients and in general.
Why Should You Work With an Intern?
Just the thought of working with an intern can be frightening for some people. Why would anyone put their mental health in the hands of someone who is so inexperienced? If you think about it though, most people have worked with inexperienced doctors if they have ever been in a hospital setting, putting their physical health in their hands. Every student needs experience in their field and regardless of their inexperience, if they are well supervised, their abilities will continually improve throughout your treatment with them and there will be benefits for the both of you in the end.
Clinical interns usually have very low fees for their sessions and more flexible schedules than their supervisors. This often gives more clients the opportunity to be treated in a specialized treatment modality without limitations of insurance or high rates and with the comfort of flexibility in scheduling. If you are seeking to work with a trauma or a DBT specialist, you might find a couple who are in network with your insurance but neither of them might be able to match their availability to your schedule. If you can find a specialist you really want to work with who is supervising an intern, you might want to take the opportunity to support a future clinician in training. Many times the clinician you want to work with could have great interns that will work just as hard to help you as their supervisor would.
What are the Downsides of Working with a Clinical Intern?
As most people probably recognize, Clinical Interns are inexperienced as clinicians. They are in their learning process and unfortunately their internships are the “gateways” to their future careers. While most interns do great work during their year of internship and learn a lot, a few do end up leaving their programs because they can’t make the cut in some way, shape or form. This can also be the case with fully licensed clinicians though as well. Not every licensed clinician does good work, just like not every experienced doctor is a good doctor. On top of that, not every clinician is a good fit for every client and many times clients will shop around for clinicians or fire clinicians that aren’t benefiting them anyway. This is not very different from working with interns, either way there is a risk that the “fit” isn’t right.
If you are someone who has struggled with finding a specialist due to insurance, time constraints, or location, you might want to consider taking the “risk” of working with a clinical intern. Consider the setting of the internship when you are making your decision and feel free to ask questions about how the intern is supervised and what instruction they are provided with during their internship. You might just find the clinician you have been searching for all along and help a student find their clinical expertise at the same time.