Saturday, May 11, 2013

I Can't Find A Site! [Classic Beginning Counselor]

To celebrate the new blog location for Beginning Counselor, I've collected and updated some classic blog posts for you. Enjoy!

Ever lost any sleep over the possibility that, despite your best efforts, you won't be able to find a practicum site to earn your hours? If so, you're not alone. 

We all went through worry about finding our prac site. Or, we all will. Finding a site is just so fundamental, it kind of takes over everything else.  

Don't be discouraged, though. Most people will find a place to begin their training. But it will be because they work hard at it.  Here’s some tips to make sure you get the best situation possible.

(1) You cannot start too early. Seriously. Many sites have to make decisions by committee, which for busy agencies or groups could meet only once a month. Many also only “hire” at certain stages of the business cycle, or in certain months. Also, the good sites are going to be on the top of everybody’s lists.

(2) Compile a list. A master list, which will allow you to be the master of your future. Write down names and numbers, as well as names of facilities. Make notes as you go along, to make sure you’re not calling the same people twice and that you’re not missing up on a chance to follow-up on a call that hasn’t been returned.

For help creating a master list, check out The Beginning Counselor's Survival Guide Workbook. 

(3) Get the names on the list from three major sources. The internet is a great resource: try searching “counseling” and your zip code. Psychologytoday.com has a specialized search engine for therapists in group or private practice, as well as selected counseling facilities. For the third option, use your own brain to get creative about what other places might offer therapy: a hospital? A parenting center? Your church?

(4) Have an “elevator pitch” ready. I’ve called to ask to speak to the counseling director and ended up giving a preliminary phone interview with the receptionist, who happened to be the director’s wife. You have to be prepared that whenever you make that call, you might be asked who you are and why you want to be there.

(5) Know your terminology. If you’re looking for a practicum site, you’re a “practicum student”. This tells whoever you’re speaking with that you need less hours and less supervision, as you are still being monitored by your school. If you’re looking for an internship, you say you are an intern.* Then the place knows you will want significant hours and likely be there a long period of time.

(6) Interview the site while you’re allowing them to interview you. It won’t do any good to get a place that cannot provide you the right number of hours, or if you think you’re getting a supervisor on-site and later find out that person is not qualified to do the job.

(7) Network! Who do you know that is a counselor, or social worker, or nonprofit center director? Have you worked previously at a place that would be willing to recommend you? Do you know a person you could name-drop while you’re placing those calls?

This part of the process can be discouraging. Some areas are glutted with counseling students, and some places aren’t willing to nurture a new counselor. Don’t give up. It only takes one place to say yes. I firmly believe there are clients that need something that only you can bring. You have a purpose in this field. Go for it! 

*Some states and some graduate programs do also have a separate PRE-graduation internship in addition to a practicum. If this is the case for you, just specify "internship for licensure" or "supervised post-graduate internship" and that will hopefully clear up any lingering confusion.

Originally Published 12/10/10