Practicum and Internship Experiences in the MSMHC

The MS in Mental Health Counseling (MSMHC) degree at Suffolk University includes practicum and internship training, which is an essential component of the program. Our students work through case material and have direct client contact, which enhances and reinforces classroom-based instruction. Both the practicum and internship training experiences are closely aligned with the goals of the MSMHC program, and are required by the Massachusetts Board of Licensure for mental health counselors.

Below, you will find additional information about our supervised training experiences in the MSMHC program from Professor John Smolinsky, Assistant Professor of Clinical Practice. 

Generally speaking, what is the difference between a practicum and an internship?

While the use of these terms is not uniform across the field, the Massachusetts Board of Licensure uses the term practicum to refer to the first year experience and internship to refer to the second year. The training demands during practicum vary depending upon whether the student trains through role-play or in the community. While the practicum requirement can be fulfilled with a minimum of 100 hours, community placements generally require two days (16 hours per week) on site for a total of at least 210 hours and as many as 400 hours with a requirement of 3 - 5 ongoing clients, 40 face-to-face hours, and 25 hours of supervision. The role-play option occurs on campus and through intensive supervision of video-recorded sessions. During the internship year, trainees should expect to be on site three full days (24 hours per week) for a total of 600 hours, 240 direct client contact hours, and 45 hours of individual supervision. There is no role-play option for internship.

How do practicum and internship placements influence a student’s academic experience?

The MSMHC program is designed to support participation in practicum and internship training. Courses are held in the late afternoon and evening to offer maximum flexibility in selecting a training rotation. Working at sites, particularly during the internship year (year 2), is the MSMHC student’s opportunity to get a feel for a particular mental health service provision setting, develop skills related to site-specific treatment modalities, and begin to form a professional network.

"The MSMHC program has cohorts of 20, which makes it a small and intimate program. At the same time, the program is embedded within a larger psychology department, making it an environment rich in scholarship, professional clinical experience, and community partnerships. The faculty in the MSMHC program are licensed practitioners with extensive past and current clinical experience."

John Smolinsky, PhD

How do you engage with students in the placement process? How do you approach guiding students into a location?

In the first year of the program, students have a choice between on-campus role-play training, which is an intensive weekly supervision of role-played therapy sessions, or seeking community-based placement. First-year students who choose to pursue community-based placement begin by meeting with the clinical training coordinator (CTC) to review the state and the MSMHC program requirements for training. Based on information gathered about geographic location, transportation access, and prior experience, students are then provided with potential sites to contact and are encouraged to explore additional placements on their own. Students generally remain in regular contact with the department about the results of their efforts and are alerted to any new opportunities about which the CTC learns. In early December of each year, a meeting of all students in the program is held. At that time, students are guided by faculty, current interns, and members of the MSMHC alumni network about the internship search for the second year.

What kinds of practicum and internship training sites does the MSMHC program partner with?

Training sites are diverse and the list of partnerships continues to expand each year. We typically have practicum and intern trainees placed in community mental health clinics, public schools, jails & prisons, college counseling centers, hospitals & medical centers, and residential treatment facilities.