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  • Amy Smitke

Utilizing Mental Health Interns at Your Agency

Updated: Aug 31

Interns can be an assess to every company if they are utilized properly.


Yes taking on interns require more time and energy on us as an agency/practice/organization as well as resources. However, there are short term and long term benefits to utilizing interns both for them and for us.


Let's take a minute and look tips for setting up interns to be a benefit to the agency/practice/organization.


Tip #1 - Do proper onboarding.


Create a onboarding schedule for students that makes sense for them. Remember from an earlier blog, they are not an employee, so their onboarding may be similar to an employee but tailor it to an intern knowing their knowledge and experience may different from a hiring candidate. Ensure they know company policies and procedures, any other training that would be needed to be successful, and understand their learning plan provided to them on behalf of the university and what additional training and onboarding may be needed to fit the experience, knowledge, and need of the intern.


I personally have a check list of all the things an intern would need to sign and learn as part of their initial onboarding. Then we have a supervision that goes over the learning plan expectations.


MOST IMPORTANT! First week, put a consistent time EVERY week on the calendar for supervision and show up!


Tip #2 - Have a plan


The learning plan is a foundational piece the to plan for an intern while in placement. Know before an intern starts at least a few basic ways you can engage and utilize them. Don't rely solely on winging it or the learning plan filling in all the gaps. They are an asset if you choose to use them as such, just don't take advantage of them.


Tip #3 - Identify goals


Identify their goals for placement, outside of the learning plan, and your goals for them. And understand realistic time lines and expectations. We as supervisors may need to be honest with interns about the limitation for their goals in the time they will be in placement or if they don't have many goals we may need to coach and challenge them into having higher goals to strive for and achieve during their placement. Once goals are identified make plan on how those are going to be achieved and utilize supervision as a check in point for achieving those goals. Setting goals also keeps interns from having nothing to do and creating a need to identify ways to reach their goals.




Utilizing Students in placement - Let's look at how you can make that work for your place. Each placement is going to have their on unique opportunities and use of student interns.

#1 - Identify what you would have wanted to experience in placement


Students come in at times as a completely blank slate. We know there is a lot they may benefit from knowing. Teach them and then pass off to them to allow them the ability to grow and learn. For instance you may identify that there is a lack of understanding around appropriate and measurable treatment planning within the company, work with your student to understand the fundamentals of treatment planning and then have them create tools and resources to assist the current and future staff. They are learning important tools and knowledge while creating something helpful for the agency.


#2 - When appropriate for the intern build a small caseload

We are often looking for ways to serve more individuals, groups, etc. Students are a great way to do so. You may be offering them probobo or for a low service fee. Keep in mind the appropriate level of caseloads an intern may need based on many factors to ensure they are not taking on too much too fast or cases outside of their competency and capabilities.


#3 - Identify out of the box needs

Don't think so straight forward with an internship think outside of the box to help teach and challenge students while it an asset. For example, although the placement I offer interns is a clinical experience I find it important and helpful that they experience and learn skills outside of clinical. With the excepting to Marriage and Family Therapist whose hours must all be direct care to count, all other majors have some flexibility in some of their hours not being directly clinical. I have interns post and engage in a facebook group I run, I have them write blogs, I have the create content and freebies for others in the field, I have them do market research or other research and creation for projects I may have. This encourages them to learn and grow new skills and understanding, create confidence and improve understanding, while also taking small tasks off of my plate freeing me up to make time for supervisions, check in, other projects, etc.


#4 - Ask the student to be creative

Often the students can see things from a clean perspective and if given the opportunity can come up with things we may not see because we have been in it for a long time. They have so much value to give if we simply allow them the opportunity and listen. And frankly, many of them are younger and more savoy to the world that they bring a new and fresh perspective to the work environment.


Don't forget to have fun and enjoy having an intern

Although interns may be more work, they can be a fun and joyful experience to help the next generation grow and thrive in our field that already has so many challenges and barriers.



Until Next Time...Stay Motivated!

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