Mental Health Services doctoral internship receives national accreditation

The American Psychological Association officially accredited Mental Health Services’s doctoral internship.

MHS went through three years of program development and a review by the APA to receive accreditation as an internship site. Gillian Berry, the interim director of MHS, said in an email that she expects more aspiring counselors will apply to the program now that it has approval from the U.S.’s top psychological group.

MHS recruited the first class of interns in fall 2013, and they arrived on site the next fall. The internship was designed using American Psychological Association standards but had yet to be formally approved until this year, Berry said.

Interest in the internship has increased steadily as the program’s reputation has improved, Berry said. College counseling centers are popular internship locations for students working toward psychologist licenses, she added.

“We expect a significant increase in applications now that the internship is accredited,” Berry said. “Accreditation ensures that our internship is adhering to the highest standards of training for psychologists.”

The process for accreditation began with a self-study, which examined all aspects of the internship program and the training site, Berry said. She added that once reviewers approved that document, APA representatives visited the center for two days.

“The site visitors met with various stakeholders around the University to assess the extent to which the internship program achieves its training goals,” Berry said. “We were awarded seven years of accreditation — the maximum length of accreditation a program can currently receive.”

Berry said MHS has increased the opportunities for interns to develop skills in multicultural competence by participating in a drop-in group for students at the Multicultural Student Services Center, working diverse student walk-in hours and participating in a weekly diversity-focused seminar.

Amber Cargill, the assistant director of training and education in MHS, directly oversaw the accreditation process and was instrumental in creating and implementing the training program, Berry added.

Cargill declined to comment on her role in developing the internship accreditation program.

Some graduate programs do not allow students to apply to an unaccredited internship, Berry added.

“We will be able to recruit a national pool of qualified applicants from respected graduate programs across the country with full accreditation status,” she said.

The internship year begins Aug. 1 and runs through July 31 of the following year. The internship requires 2,000 hours of practice with an expectation of at least 500 hours of direct clinical service and offers an annual salary of $26,000 paid on a monthly basis.

Bong Joo Hwang, assistant director and training director for counseling services at Arizona State University, said more students are attracted to APA-accredited programs. ASU’s internship program has been accredited since 1989.

Hwang said accreditation ensures that trainees are well-prepared to work in the field and assures the quality of the services that the trainees will provide. All internship programs may be required to have accreditation soon, he added.

“The state licensing body has been moving toward the direction that applications from only accredited programs can obtain licensure to practice,” Hwang said. “We are not there yet, but it may happen in the future.”

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