Psychology programs are using novel
strategies to tackle the internship shortage.
BY TORI DEANGELIS
Three years ago, José Pons, PhD, found himself in a difficult situation. As chair of the psychology department at the Ponce School of Medicine in
Ponce, P.R., he received a letter from APA’s Commission on
Accreditation saying that only 40 percent of his students
were placing in internships accredited by APA or approved
by the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship
Centers (APPIC) — much lower than the rates of 75 percent
or higher that many other psychology programs enjoy. The
commission asked Pons to discuss how his program could
ensure students had a quality education when his internship
placement rate was so low, since doctoral programs cannot be
accredited without high internship placement rates.
Pons knew he had to act swiftly. Over the next three
years, he convinced his school to invest money in seeking
APPIC membership for its internship program; to pay for
new psychology internship slots in his school’s psychiatry
and psychology clinics; and to fund the development of an
internship consortium made up of several hospitals and
clinics in southern and central Puerto Rico. He also convinced
Puerto Rico’s Department of Labor to nominate psychology
interns as “people in need of training” — a move that paid for
10 student interns in 2010 and 10 other interns in 2011 under
a work-incentive program.
The result? “We’re now placing more than 75 percent of
our students in internships,” says Pons, even more than the
average doctoral program.
Pons is just one of several program directors who are
tapping their creative skills to develop more psychology
internships. Psychology programs nationwide have been
forced to look for such solutions since only about three in
four students have been securing internships over the past