Internship Content and Structure

Since students intern in a wide variety of settings and bring with them varying degrees of training and experience, it is not possible or desirable to require a specific set of activities for all interns. The outline below is only a guide for structuring a well-rounded, mutually beneficial internship experience. There is a logical sequence built into the outline, but many activities may overlap in time or continue for the duration of the internship.

Orientation

Orientation to the agency/facility should include an introduction to staff and tour of the physical site as well as an overview of policies and procedures including hours of attendance, use of technology (phones, computers, etc.), chain of command, confidentiality, and crisis procedures. Orientation will also incorporate information regarding the history of the agency/facility, funding sources, client populations served, referral sources, client services, case management procedures, and client eligibility criteria. Orientation can last from a few days to a few weeks.

Observation

The second component of internship can include observation of intake interviews; diagnostic and/or assessments procedures; and individual, group, and family counseling sessions; as well as available therapies and trainings such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, recreational therapy, vocational training, and activities of daily living training. Students may observe and/or participate in staff meetings that incorporate client reviews, in-service trainings, and administrative responsibilities. The final element of observation includes participation in field visits. This experience may include home visits, job development and/or placement activities, and collaboration with community agencies. This phase can vary from several weeks to the majority of the internship experience.

Participation

As students develop competencies through observation and supervisor feedback, they will take on greater responsibility for providing direct client services. Depending on intern competencies, supervisor preferences, and specific site regulations, participation activities will vary greatly. The observation and participation phases are not arbitrary points in time but reflect an increase in assigning students responsibility for direct client services as the internship progresses.

RHS interns expressing interest in related professions, such as the allied health specialties (e.g., occupational or physical therapy), may concentrate on such activities if graduate training is being considered. A good rule for selecting activities for student participation is that the skills developed should be applicable to the student’s career goal.