Psychology Practicum Guide 2024 – everything you need to know

What is a psychology practicum?

A psychology practicum is a supervised training experience that provides students in psychology graduate programs with an opportunity to gain practical experience in their field of study. It is often one of the first clinical experiences that students will have.

Typically, practicums are completed during the second or third year of a graduate program and are required for graduation.

The focus of the practicum is on providing students with hands-on experience in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health disorders. Typically you will be supervised by a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional.

The length and intensity of a practicum can also vary depending on the program and the setting. Some practicums may be part-time and last for one semester, while others may be full-time and last for an entire academic year.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that students who completed a practicum reported feeling more confident in their clinical skills and more prepared for their future careers as psychologists.

What will you actually be doing?

Students have the opportunity to engage in a variety of clinical activities under supervision. The specific activities will vary depending upon the setting and the goals of the program.

  1. Conducting intake assessments: conducting initial assessments of new clients, which involve gathering information about the client’s history, presenting concerns, and current symptoms.
  2. Providing individual therapy: under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, practicum students may provide individual therapy to clients with a variety of mental health concerns.
  3. Conducting group therapy: the opportunity to co-facilitate or lead group therapy sessions with clients who have similar concerns.
  4. Administering psychological tests: administering and scoring a variety of psychological tests.
  5. Participating in case conferences: attend case conferences with other mental health professionals in order to discuss the treatment plan for a particular client.

When do you do a practicum?

Practicums are usually completed during the 2nd or 3rd year of a graduate program in psychology.

Some programs offer students the opportunity to complete multiple practicums throughout their degree program each with a different focus or in a different setting. This is designed to provide students with a wide exposure to a range of clinical activities which often helps students to identify which areas they would like to focus on in their career.

Where can you do a practicum?

  1. Community mental health clinics: Many universities have partnerships with community mental health clinics, which can provide practicum students with opportunities to work with clients who may not have access to other mental health resources.
  2. Hospitals: Some practicum students may complete their training in a hospital setting, where they may have the opportunity to work with clients who are receiving inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment.
  3. Schools: Practicum students may have the opportunity to work in schools, providing services to students with mental health concerns.
  4. Research settings: Some psychology programs offer practicum opportunities in research settings, where students can gain experience in conducting research studies and working with research participants.

How to find psychology practicums

Many psychology degree programs will have established partnerships which ensures students are offered practicum placements. Some programs however will require students to secure their own practicum but in this instance many universities will offer the assistance of their career center to facilitate finding and securing a practicum placement.

Do you get paid for a practicum?

Psychology practicums are generally unpaid however some settings offer a stipend or expense reimbursement to help cover the cost of student travel and other expenses associated with completing the practicum.

What is the difference between an internship and a practicum?

The key differences between an internship and a practicum is the timing, the level of training and the scope of the experience.

A psychology practicum is completed during the 2nd or 3rd year of a graduate program whereas an internship is usually completed after graduation as a requirement for licensure as a psychologist.

A practicum provides students with basic clinical experience. An internship provides students with more advanced clinical experience and the opportunity to work in a more specialized setting.

Interns are expected to take on a greater level of responsibility and may have more independence in their work.