The tough get going

For four consecutive years, the doctor in clinical psychology program has had 100 percent placements for highly competitive accredited internships, a requirement for the degree.

Sycamores perform their best when the competition heats up.

There is no truer statement for seven of the fourth-year students in Indiana State University’s doctor in clinical psychology program — Elaine Gilbert, Eve Lasswell, Anthony Lawrence, Kevin Myers, Kelly Schuder, Ruth Viehoff and Amanda Yeck.

In February, they kept the program’s four-year streak alive when they all secured accredited internships through the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers’ match program. The celebrations continued when the program marked its 50th anniversary on April 20.

As a “clinical psychologist in-training,” Myers’ internship with the counseling center at James Madison University in Virginia will give him an opportunity to provide therapy services for freshmen through graduate students, help with university outreach and serve as a liaison in residence halls, beginning Aug. 1.

“When I found out that I had a match I was thrilled,” said Myers, a Virginia native. “The matching process can be stressful, because you rank the internship locations and they rank you. If you don’t get a match, it pushes off your ability to graduate (because an internship is a graduation requirement) so I would have been happy to go anywhere, but I’m happy to go back to Virginia.”

From the ’50s through the ’80s, finding an internship was a more informal process with more positions than applicants, said Liz O’Laughlin, professor of psychology and director of clinical training at Indiana State. In 1999, the match program became a computerized process, which revealed a gap of 510 registrants who weren’t matched to an internship site.

This year, APPIC reported that 3,235 applicants were matched to internship positions in Phase I, but the number of registered applicants still exceeded the number of accredited positions by 1,020.

Over the past decade, O’Laughlin said the number of applicants registering for the match increased as an emphasis was placed on obtaining American Psychological Association-accredited internships, which can only occur through the match. Beginning in 2017, the match will only include students from accredited APA doctoral programs, like Indiana State’s, and will lead to some reduction in the number of students entering the match.

“It wasn’t like this when I applied for internship 20 years ago,” O’Laughlin said. “But it’s become a bigger deal as more and more applicants registered for the match, in part due to free-standing professional schools that admit a large number of students.”

Applying for internship begins more than six months before “match day” when students develop a list of sites where they plan to apply, revise their curriculum vitae and prepare several essays. They also complete a 10-page, online application and a detailed document of all their clinical experiences, as well as a cover letter to each site they apply.

During December and January, students attend in-person interviews across the country and three to four weeks before match day, programs and applicants evaluate each other and submit rankings to the National Matching Service.

“On match day, I got an email around 8 a.m. telling me where everybody matched, so I sent an email to the group,” O’Laughlin said. “It’s a big deal for them because not getting an internship can put your entire trajectory on hold because you have to have an internship to graduate.”

With the self-doubt behind her, Lasswell of Ypsilanti, Mich., is eager to begin her internship at a psychiatric hospital in San Diego, where she will expand on her interests in substance use disorders and in-patient psychiatric treatment.

“It’s a nerve-wracking process until you know that you’ve been matched, but when I got Dr. O’Laughlin’s email it was like a wave of relief, fear and excitement,” she said.

Because of the competitive nature of the process, O’Laughlin encourages students to broaden their searches beyond a specific region and choose about 15 sites, looking first at training experiences offered and student “fit” with the site, as well as stipends and benefits, location and ratio of applications to positions offered.

Being APA-approved and recently ranked No. 3 out 50 nationwide, Indiana State’s Psy.D program is well-respected in part to the high match rate for internships, and O’Laughlin said it is preferred students do more competitive, APA-accredited internships, which will become a requirement for all APA doctoral programs in 2020.

Students’ applications receive multiple faculty reviews before submitting their materials. Because some of the more competitive sites can get 400 applications and may only take a handful of students, the application packet is a crucial step in the process.

“You’re asking people who have never met you to make a judgment about what kind of psychologist you will be and if they can train you, so you really hope that someone picks up on how much you want to be a psychologist,” Lasswell said. “Once the first interview came through, it got better but there’s a lot of self-doubt in this process.”

Interviews run mid-December and through January, with match day in February. Indiana State students were placed in top quality internship positions across the country, including at veteran’s affairs hospitals and medical centers and a university counseling center.

“I was really excited because I interviewed at a lot of really good places, so anywhere I would have matched I would have been excited about,” said Schuder of Wisconsin who will intern at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago — the nation’s only joint Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense hospital.

“I love the Chicago area, though, and I really love the training program at this site because the atmosphere of the hospital is very teaching-oriented,” said Schuder, who will work primarily with people who have schizophrenia — her area of specialty. “This has been a long process. For me, fit was one of the most important things when choosing a site because I wanted to be at a place I would be happy. I think I found it, and now I’m excited to get started.”

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