By Lisa Denenmark January 7, 2016
On December 11, Namaste Hall was the place to be for those pursuing a degree in one of CIIS' five Master's in Counseling Psychology programs. More than 70 Social Service Agencies were present at the 2015 Annual Practicum Fair, which this year overflowed into an adjoining room.
CIIS trains many of the Bay Area's mental health clinicians. One year of approved clinical fieldwork experience, or the equivalent of six semester units, are required as a part of each student's degree program. At the Practicum Fair, both beginning and well-seasoned clinicians have a chance to interact.
"This is a deeply motivating day for both CIIS counseling psychology students and Bay Area social services agencies," says Becky McGovern, Director of MCP Field Placement and Clinic Sites. "For students, academics and classroom clinical practice come alive at the Fair, as directors working in the field showcase opportunities, answer questions, and in some cases, accept resumes on the spot."
For agencies that attend the event by invitation, witnessing the skill sets of CIIS students and their commitment to social justice and community service is energizing. There are students well qualified and eager to begin vital work with people in need. Practicum Fair is a festive and inspirational day all around--and an attestation, especially for those present, of why they entered the counseling profession: to serve.
Staffing and on-hand at many of the tables and booth were CIIS interns who spoke candidly about the process of choosing a practicum site and offered advice to students. Drama Therapy's Kate League, a second-year intern at Albany Children's Center (part of Albany Unified School District), says that new interns should, "Follow your gut instincts and just go for it. If you're not sure, try something out. Now is the time to practice and make mistakes, and figure it out."
Echoing that is Mark Stelzner (ICP), who is interning at Lakeside Park. Mark, who originally thought he'd go the private practice route, became a dad, and it all changed. After a stint at CIIS' Church Street clinic, he began working working at Lakeside Park with people with dementia. He also facilatites a group for new dads. "It's been an interesting little dance," he says. His advice: "Realize that you can change your mind at any point, and you may not know what you want to do until later. I feel like I might have found what I wanted."
Many CIIS Counseling Psychology graduates return to the Practicum Fair, becoming licensed clinicians, staffing mental health agencies, and working in those organizations in leadership positions to train beginning counselors and therapists. Among the alums present at this year's fair were TJ Alton (PDT) representing the Center for Discovery, a residential eating disorder recovery site in Fremont with other East Bay locations; Molly Higginson (SOM) of Hanna Boys Center, Sonoma; and Alex Thomas (ICP), from the Community Institute for Psychotherapy.
"I'm so excited to be back here--it's really nice to be on the other side of the table," says Higginson, a recent graduate who works with at-risk teenage boys aged 13-18 at a residential high school. My praticum site hired me as a full-time case worker. It was a steep learning curve, but also a lot of fun." Her advice: "Be open to things. This is not where I thought I would end up--I had no idea that I wanted to work with teenage boys. This is definitely setting me on a course I am happy with."
MCP Field Placement Office supports the clinical training component of the Master of Counseling Psychology Programs, which specialize in Community Mental Health, Drama Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapy, Integral Counseling Psychology, or Somatic Psychology. It assists students, faculty, and staff in identifying clinical field placements that are appropriate to academic program requirements, mandates of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, and students' individual educational goals and interests.
The Office, located at the Mission Street campus Rooms 200 and 200A, holds Practicum Information Workshops during the Fall and Spring semesters. Group and individual consultation, resume review and practicum interview preparation are available by appointment.