Clinical Practicum Placement



Thank you for your interest in a practicum position at the Vanderbilt University Psychological and Counseling Center (PCC) for the 2017-2018 year. The PCC houses approximately 30 mental health professionals, including full and part-time staff (professional counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and psychiatric nurse practitioners), as well as trainees at multiple levels (e.g., practicum students, psychiatric residents, pre-and-post doctoral interns/residents). Training at the PCC takes place in the context of a high-paced clinical setting. As such, we value readiness to function in a clinical role when considering applicants for all training positions.

The PCC offers a wide range of services to full and part-time undergraduate and graduate students. The majority of students seen at the PCC fall within the young-to-middle adult range. These students are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, SES, religion/spirituality, and sexual orientation/identity, allowing trainees to gain exposure to the interplay between multicultural issues and mental health. There is also diversity in terms of presenting concerns, which typically range from moderate to severe in nature. Consequently, trainees have an opportunity to work with more complex clients, assuming that these opportunities are consistent with experience and skill level.

To meet the needs of our students, the PCC offers several treatment modalities. Students also have access to psychological and cognitive assessment services at the PCC. Practicum students have the option of completing one of two tracks: 1) Counseling or 2) Assessment    

Counseling Track:

Counseling Track: Individual therapy represents the primary focus of the PCC’s counseling track. Throughout the course of the training year, practicum students are exposed to a variety of presenting concerns, which provides opportunities to engage in both short-term, solution-focused work, as well as depth-oriented, long-term psychotherapy. Adjustment, mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common presenting concerns seen at the Center, and specialty areas can include eating disorders, trauma survivors and substance abuse. Caseloads are generally built up through the initial intake process. Practicum students conduct initial interviews weekly, under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, who follows the student throughout the course of the year, sits in on intake interviews, assists in diagnostic formulation, and provides report edits.

Practicum students are also provided with opportunities to help facilitate process, support, and psychoeducational groups. The PCC is very invested in group therapy as a primary treatment modality and has placed an emphasis on creating and maintaining a wide range of groups to meet the needs of our students. While group availability and the needs of the Center are factored into group placement, trainees’ clinical area(s) of interest and/or desired areas for growth weigh heavily in the decision making process. We encourage practicum students to let us know about specific groups in which they are interested, as well as provide ideas for new groups. An updated list of groups currently offered at the PCC can be found here.

Practicum students will also be presented with opportunities to participate in outreach activities associated with the PCC and larger Vanderbilt community. Please note that outreach may occur at times that fall outside of a student’s scheduled clinical activities at the PCC and is not counted as direct face-to-face clinical hours. Therefore, it is incumbent on each student and his/her training program to decide whether such activities should be undertaken.

As a cohort, Practicum students participate in the mandatory weekly practicum student seminar, which currently takes place every Monday from 8 -10am. The seminar includes a combination of didactic lectures and case conference presentations by both students and staff. Topics are associated with the mental health field that address core competencies expected for professional development. Practicum students present on a rotating basis and are given the opportunity to integrate feedback from their cohort as well as the seminar facilitators.

Supervision is another key component to the practicum student training experience. All practicum students receive two hours of supervision per week, one hour from a fully licensed professional (primary supervision) and one hour of secondary supervision from a mental health professional who is: 1) at an advanced stage of doctoral training (pre-doctoral intern), 2) completing their post-doctoral residency, or 3) in the process of collecting their hours for licensure.

Prerequisites for Counseling Track: Prerequisites for Counseling Track: Completed graduate level courses in 1) Counseling Theory, 2) Psychopathology, and 3) Ethics. Monday morning availability to attend seminar and willingness to videotape counseling sessions are also required. Interview and vita are required. Not required but preferred: 1) Previous direct clinical experience and 2) Techniques of Counseling course.          

Assessment Track:

Practicum students will provide screening assessments and comprehensive diagnostic evaluations for LD and ADHD, as well as evaluations of other disorders that may impact cognitive and academic performance, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, Schizophrenia, Mood Disorders, and Anxiety Disorders. Evaluation of executive functioning is emphasized.

Practicum students will typically perform 1 or 2 screening assessments per week, for three weeks out of each month, and one comprehensive evaluation during the 4th week. Clientele includes both undergraduate and graduate students. Applicants must be able to commit to a minimum of 15 hours per week (including writing time), with a two semester commitment. Students must be available for several 4-5 hour blocks of time during the week in order to accommodate full test batteries.  Each student will have one hour of individual supervision per week and will participate in the weekly one-hour Assessment Practicum Seminar (day TBD).  This seminar includes presentations on topics related to psychological assessment, as well as case presentations by practicum students and psychology interns.

Prerequisites for Assessment Track: Completion of a cognitive assessment course and a diagnostic interviewing course. Students with prior practicum experience and a strong background in cognitive, psycho-educational, and diagnostic assessment are preferred. Interview and vita required.

The PCC does not identify with any specific theoretical orientation and is integrative in nature. Practicum students are not expected to adhere to any particular approach or orientation to therapy. However, the Center does place great emphasis on helping students cultivate an understanding of the interplay between one’s theoretical orientation, conceptualization, and intervention, as well as the centrality of assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning when caring for others.

Time commitment:

15+ per week for Counseling & Assessment Tracks. Academic year commitment is mandatory for both tracks.

Number of Positions 

Counseling Track = maximum of 3
Assessment Track = 1 position

Counseling Track:          
Melissa Porter, Psy.D., HSP
Practicum Training Coordinator

Assessment Track:
Frances Niarhos, Ph.D., HSP 
Assessment Coordinator

The deadline for submitting applications for the 2017-2018 has now passed. Applications for the 2018-2019 will begin in January 2018. Additional information regarding our interview process will be sent out via an email to programs/ directors of clinical training.

If you have any questions about uploading our practicum application process, please contact Kay Brown at (615) 322-2571.  Please direct all other questions regarding our training program to our Practicum Coordinator, Melissa Porter, PsyD, HSP. If your question pertains to a specific part of our Assessment training you may also contact Frances Niarhos, Ph.D., HSP.