Psychotherapy Bulletin

Psychotherapy Bulletin

Ten Ways to Feel Connected on Your Doctoral Internship

Has reality set in? You are preparing to start your internship. A lot of changes will occur when students leave for internship. It is an exciting time, but also a time of great transition. This transition impacts students who are moving across the country and students staying put. Routines to which students were once accustomed are now in the past. Your identity changes and so does your caseload. With all that occurs, most importantly, internship allows interns to learn greatly about themselves and prepares them to enter into the field as psychologists. Therefore, this list was created as a way to help ease the transitions that come with adjusting to new changes in your environment. The list is set up in no particular order, but utilizing one or all may help address any changes, challenges, and uncertainties interns have during their internship year.

Stay in Contact with Peers

As you adjust, it is helpful to have connections to supports. In today’s social media landscape, there are now multiple ways to engage with and stay connected with friends. You can use Facebook, Skype, Facetime, Twitter, Vine, or Instagram. You can also connect through classic venues such as text messages, emails, phone calls, and holiday cards. Peers can set times to connect online and engage in activities in which they would have done when together. This can include, but not be limited to, watching TV shows and sports events. Peers can also send each other care packages with local finds from their new community.

Build Relationships within Your Community

A great way to establish yourself in a new environment is learning about organizations, groups, and events you can join and be a part of the community. Joining local organizations, a spiritual organization, a club, or volunteering can create opportunities to build relationships that last longer than internship year. These relationships and connections to the community can create networking opportunities for interns. This also adds to the support system of an intern, and an intern can have greater information about the area from locals who know the ins and outs of the intern’s new home.

Connect with the other intern(s)

Going on internship, interns leave their familiar cohorts. The internship year is a time you are likely able to connect with a peer who is experiencing the same challenges as you. This person can be someone with whom you interact at work as well as after work for support. As interns, you can plan events, dinners, or trips together to relax and learn more about your new community, but also about each other. You can be partners in self-care and balance. The interns can celebrate achievements and milestones together. Relationships with your fellow interns can last beyond internship year and can build into long-lasting professional and personal support.

Bring/engage in things that remind you of home

Pictures, mementos from home, and cooking your favorite meal will help the transition, but also try to continue to stay engaged in activities you were involved in before starting your internship. For example, interns who may have been involved in a yoga class or active in a bike club should try to find those opportunities in the new community. However, do not let the things that remind you of home keep you from exploring the new things. You do not want to be focusing on the past to a point where new opportunities are missed.

Engage in self-care

This is a message that graduate students always tell their clients, but it is vital for a successful internship year. The workload changes and internships sites vary in terms of work demands. At some sites, interns will be done at five at night; other interns will come home to work on reports. Some interns will have their dissertations complete, while others will spend the year working on theirs. Interns must find a way to strike a balance in their lives during a stressful internship year. Potential self-care activities include golfing, biking, running, hiking, exercising, participating in yoga, sleeping well, eating healthy, and making time for yourself. You can set times to disconnect from technology, get outside, get a pet, eat new or favorite foods, read a book, or connect with family and friends. Maybe try to check something off your bucket list.

Find cultural points of interest

Going online or talking with colleagues at the internship site can help interns learn about exciting places in their new community. You could also get out and explore and learn what locals like to do. Interns can find unique places that might not be advertised. If you did not move far, go to the places you have always wanted to see, but could not because of school. Creating weekly-to-monthly outings to the cultural points of interest are great ways to learn about the area, learn something new, and create memories from the internship year.

Plan for the future

It never hurts to start planning for a postdoc or a future job in academia. Having goals in mind for the internship year will make the transition into internship easier and help interns to see the value in this change. You can make this the year you pass the EPPP or submit an article for publication. Future plans give purpose to your current actions during internship.

Plan mini trips outside of the city

For those moving halfway around North America or for interns staying close, trips outside of your city are an excellent way to reenergize. Internship year may also allow interns to be closer to multiple regional attractions, national parks and monuments, as well as thriving metropolitan areas and charming rural communities. Opportunities to see these sights may be limited in certain interns’ futures and this may be the right time to enjoy these experiences. It will give a lifetime of memories and insight into areas you may want to live in the future. The mini trips may also be chances to meet up with and connect with friends, graduate peers, and family.

Realize being on internship may only last a year, but expanding your professional network lasts longer

It is important to take advantage of networking opportunities within the community, but do not neglect chances to network with the clinical staff at your internship site. Making connections through the relationships made with staff may be as important as the relationships made with professionals within the community. The clinical staff have established relationships within the intern’s new community, and they also may have networks created outside, where interns may have opportunities to teach, continue research, develop a postdoc, or get a job. Staff connections are an excellent resource for interns starting out after graduate school.

Again, realize internship will only be one year

Breathe in and breathe out…repeat. You might be away from family, friends, and loved ones, but remind yourself this is a transitional point in your life. When you realize you or others from your cohort are moving across the country, when reality sets in, or when you “hit the wall” during internship year, try to remember this is not permanent. Still, make an effort to utilize the opportunities that present themselves, because this internship is a one-time experience and a capstone for many. Do not miss out on the chances to grow as a clinician and person.

Overall, interns must utilize what will work for them. These options provided are intended to be helpful ideas to create a smooth transition into and during internship year. As an intern who is wrapping up a wonderful internship year, I know firsthand how the changes and challenges expand you as a clinician and a person. Furthermore, relationships built, fostered, and continued during this year create feelings of connectedness and help you have a rewarding experience on internship. So remember, internship may only last a year, but the opportunities created and friendships continued can last a lifetime.

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Cite This Article

Leonard, C. (2015). Ten ways to feel connected on your doctoral internship. Psychotherapy Bulletin, 50(1), 46-48.

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