Along with it being a requirement for the completion of most Master's in Counseling degree programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), counseling internships are essential learning experiences in the road to becoming a professional counselor. When students participate in internships, they are able to network with other mental health professionals in the field, hone their interests to a specific specialty area, and acquire practical skills from experienced mentors. If you are a graduate student pursuing a degree in counseling, read on to learn more about the best counseling internship opportunities to ensure you have the credentials to transition smoothly from the classroom to the workplace soon after graduation.
Most Popular Types of Internships in Counseling
While it is common for many graduate students to participate in an internship at the on-campus counseling clinic at their college or department, these counseling internships typically come in short supply. Therefore, it is usually necessary for students to identify which internships would be best for their counseling specialization in off-campus facilities. When searching for internships, remember that the best internship opportunities will familiarize you with same duties and obligations you will be responsible for in your desired work environment.
Depending on your personal career interests, there are endless opportunities for internships in the diverse counseling field. Some students find an internship working in a mental health treatment center as a patient advocate, working on another college campus to counsel students on career options, or working in a K-12 school setting with children and adolescents. Furthermore, others may gain experience providing counseling services to inmates in correctional facilities, the elderly in nursing homes, individuals battling addictions in substance abuse treatment centers, and patients undergoing medical treatments in hospitals.
Top Tips for Finding Counseling Internships
Once you have determined the type of counseling internship fits your future professional goals, the next step is to shuffle through the numerous internship opportunities available for the one that best needs your learning needs. The National Board for Certified Counselors suggests that students start with their academic advisor or another faculty member to learn about the internship placements that students have previously used. At every opportunity, expand your professional network with professors, alumni members, professional counselors, and local counseling associations for the most current news on internships available locally.
Furthermore, you should also conduct research to find professional organizations that specialize in preparing counselors for the type of counseling setting in which you want to intern. For instance, if you are studying to be a mental health counselor and are looking for an internship in a clinical mental health setting, you should check out the nationwide listings from the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) for the best opportunities in your chosen field. After you find counseling and case management internship programs that might work for you, do not hesitate to contact the organization to set up an interview immediately.
While there are many different internship options available for graduate students pursuing a degree in counseling, it is still important to start the internship search early to distinguish yourself from other students competing for the same opportunity. If possible, you are strongly encouraged to apply at least six months in advance to land the perfect counseling internship that fits your career interests and school schedule. After landing one or more counseling internships, you will benefit from strong practical learning opportunities to gain relevant experience and boost your resume for future success as a professional counselor.