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An Actually Informative Post About Internship Match Day, North Carolina, and the Nature of Happiness

4 Mar

So here’s how it all went down.

Rewind to February 23: After a productive week of worrying, I spent the evening at a potluck at a friend’s house, where I ate baked ziti and watched the latest Twilight movie with Rifftrax and pretended that the Match process was just an uncomfortable dream sequence, like the eighth season of Dallas.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 was largely unbearable (see fine review here – it starts about a fourth of the way down the post) but turned out to be an excellent choice for Match Day Eve, what with all the soothing dialogue-and-action-free segments. I had this idea that I’d be lying awake in bed for hours that night, but the movie eased me into a blissfully somnolent state. Also, who am I kidding, I am really good at sleeping.

Before bed, I made a list of all the reasons it would be good if I didn’t get an internship and stayed in grad school another year (i.e., continued proximity to my friends here, more time to sell the house, ongoing access to my favorite cupcake shop). I also performed a rigorous emotional readiness exercise on my dude. “Let’s say I roll over tomorrow morning and tell you I matched in… VIRGINIA. How do you FEEL?!” “Fine. Excited.” “OK, I roll over tomorrow morning and tell you I matched… NOWHERE. How do you FEEL?” “Fine. Not as excited, but fine.” “OK, I roll over and tell you I matched in… INDIANA. How do you FEEL?” “You didn’t apply anywhere in Indiana.” The boy is good. Anyway, the point is that he was emotionally prepared, thanks to me and my fab psychology skills.

Applicants were told we’d hear about our match status by 8:00am MST, but a couple more advanced students in my program recalled receiving their notification emails earlier than that. I set an alarm for 6:30am, dreamed something about chapstick, woke up to my Super Mario alarm and checked my phone. No dice. An APPIC email had arrived when I checked again at 6:45, and I told Ted with bleary happiness that I had matched to one of my top sites in North Carolina. Thanks to our emotional readiness work, he was able to handle all the joyful feelings. Family members were called, friends were alerted, and my cohort-mates (whom, I am thrilled to say, all matched) and I swapped text messages. Most communications were excited, but there were also conversations that were mixed or sad… a conversation with best friends we’d hoped to live closer to; texts with friends from my cohort who hadn’t gotten the matches they’d wanted most; chats with people out here in Colorado that I’d have to leave behind. And as the initial high wore off over the course of the day, the Kitten Principle kicked into action.

When you decide that you want to get a kitten, you start thinking about all the things your kitten could be. Your kitten could be striped, calico, gray, black, green-eyed, yellow-eyed, short-haired, long-haired, feisty, snuggly, male, female. You imagine yourself playing with your long-haired black kitten or petting your blue-eyed Siamese kitten. Then you get a kitten, and he’s striped and long-haired and green-eyed and purry, and you love him. But because he’s striped, he can’t be calico, gray, black, or Siamese, and the little dreams you had involving hypothetical calico/gray/black/Siamese kittens will never be realized. Doors have closed, opportunities have been lost, and while you have a beautiful striped kitten, the reality of owning him includes some things that didn’t appear in your daydreams, such as him peeing in the sink and attempting to sleep on your face. You know you should be 100% happy with your striped kitten, but there’s a part of you that feels a little sad about the hypothetical kittens you missed out on, even though you know that if you’d gotten a calico kitten, a part of you would be mourning the fact that she wasn’t a striped kitten. That’s the Kitten Principle: the idea that the time of indeterminate possibility can be happier than the initial time of determined reality, even if reality gives you exactly what you want.

Now obviously, the Kitten Principle is not a new idea: it’s just a more adorable way to conceptualize what we already know about the negative effects of “choice overload,” the psychological impact of opportunity costs, and our bumbling incompetence when it comes to predicting how happy we’ll feel after future events (Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness does a nice job of covering this). Kittens… super cute, right? Not so cute when they’re peeing in your sink, let me just tell you.

The Kitten Principle has largely resolved itself now that Match Day is a week behind me, and I’m feeling super excited about moving to North Carolina. Extensive Wikipedia research this week revealed that North Carolina’s state mammal is the Eastern Gray Squirrel and its state vegetable is the sweet potato, which explains a lot about the mystifying Microsoft Word clip art in my last post.

FUN FACTS, North Carolina Edition:

  • The State Beverage is milk. THAT’S RIGHT. While you’re drinking your orange juice or whatever stupid beverage is beloved in your state, I’ll be sucking down a cool glass of milk.
  • The State Blue Berry is… the blueberry. North Carolina, why did you even create this category?
  • The State Carnivorous Plant is the Venus Flytrap.
  • Home of the Mullet Festival (I think they mean the fish, not the hairdo, but it’s probably best to show up in a mullet just in case), the North Carolina Pickle Festival, and the previously mentioned Woolly Worm Festival

I’m sure there are many more fascinating NC tidbits out there, but I got Wikipedia fatigue and stopped searching. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to starting the next chapter of my life in North Carolina. Keep this on the DL, but my dude and I are thinking about taking the plunge into family life and adding new members to our household.

Specifically, we’re thinking a puppy and some chickens, although we may also be willing to consider some button quail.

Next steps: finishing my dissertation, staging the house, selling the house, terminating with clients, and closing out client files.



28 Feb

I landed an internship, and Ted and I are headed to the great state of North Carolina! That’s right, I’m going to be living in the birthplace of human-powered flight, where the squirrels roam and… is that a yam? I guess also where the yams grow. This Microsoft Word clip art is not very informative.

This post will also not be very informative, due to all the things I need to get done this week… but I promise to put up a real piece in the next few days.

Decisions, Decisions

26 Jan

I flew home from my last interview on Monday, and I have been gleefully soaking in the reality of sleeping in my own bed and talking about things other than An Ethical Dilemma I Once Experienced with a Client.

Don’t get me wrong. I got to spend time with several friends along the way, and there were parts of the trip that were really fun, including but not limited to getting lost in D.C., making Nutella Brownie Bricks, drinking the best milkshake in North Carolina/possibly the universe, snorgling kittens, watching horseback acrobatics, and reading trashy vampire urban fantasy novels (TVUFNs, as they’re known in the biz). And by trashy, I mean trashy. Twilight, please.

That said, I’m incredibly grateful that I get to hang up my suit and move on. Ranking lists are due on February 8, so Ted and I have been poring over weighted spreadsheets and working on an order of preference. I went into this process knowing that I had no interest in living apart from Ted for a year and that his opinions about where he’d like to live would have just as much weight as my own. I imagined that this might entail passing up an excellent site in a less-preferred area in favor of a more mediocre site in a location that would be a better fit for us as a couple. But throughout my interviews, I didn’t find any sites that didn’t have excellent training opportunities. Every site also seemed to have a class of happy interns, a friendly staff, and a positive work environment. There are some sites I liked slightly better than others, but overall, choosing favorites feels like trying to pick a favorite cupcake: maybe a red velvet cupcake would make you a tiny bit happier at a given moment than a vanilla bean cupcake, but they’re all cupcakes, you like cupcakes, and the amount of extra happiness the red velvet cupcake would give you probably isn’t all that meaningful.

That leaves location as the big deciding factor. My sites are all located in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, or Virginia. After much thought, I’ve determined that the pros and cons of living in each of these states are as follows:



  • Delicious tacos
  • I already own a Texas-shaped cookie cutter
  • Everything is bigger. Probably including my pants, because of all the delicious tacos
  • Close friends live there, eliminating need for perusal of shady Craigslist “platonic” section
  • Dude ranches?
  • When driving, tumbleweeds may obstruct view of road in a dangerous fashion
  • Armadillos? Texas has a lot of armadillos, right? Did you know that armadillos can transmit leprosy?
  • State looks like a giant tomato in political maps
  • Would sweat extra during scorching summers. Would probably have to spend more $$$ on deodorant



  • Biscuits!
  • Everything seems to have a picture of a peach on it
  • Friends and family in area
  • Large lightning bug population
  • Might run into Paula Deen and become friends and she would invite me over to eat peanut butter pie and I could gently tell her to stop wearing so much eyeliner because her magazine covers are creeping people out


  • If living in the vicinity of Atlanta, would need to purchase a helicopter to evade hideous traffic. Used helicopters difficult to find on Craigslist
  • People might call me “hun”
  • Pollen
  • Traffic. I’m going to list traffic twice for emphasis



  • Home of the Woolly Worm Festival
  • Small colony of friends established here
  • Seasons do what they’re supposed to do
  • Could have a banana pudding Cook-Out milkshake whenever I felt like it
  • Access to beach AND mountains


  • Somebody might make me go to a NASCAR race
  • NASCAR is the official state sport
  • Of the states on my list, “North Carolina” takes the longest time to write
  • Having a banana pudding Cook-Out milkshake whenever I felt like it might take a serious toll on my health



  • Easy access to Baltimore (and a close friend who lives there), D.C., beaches
  • Chincoteague ponies
  • Seasons do what they’re supposed to do, and they do it even better than North Carolinan seasons
  • Could grandly tell people that I live in “Old Dominion”


  • State slogan is “Virginia is for lovers.” Gross
  • Someone might make me go watch people “bring history to life” (e.g., play a fife in a sweaty wool waistcoat) in Colonial Williamsburg
  • Would always have vague concerns about likelihood of nuclear attack if living anywhere in the vicinity of D.C.
  • Dangerous environment for my friend Laurie due to ubiquitous presence of the beloved Virginia peanut

Ted and I have a lot to ponder. Obviously I hit the highlights in my pros/cons section, but for those of you who live in the states in question, are there any other factors we should be considering?

Interview Blues, Part Two

13 Jan

The Grand Interview Tour began last Friday. Yesterday I woke up on a friend’s couch in Maryland, and tonight I will be situated on another friend’s couch in Georgia. Eight interviews down, one interview and an open house to go. I am tired. I had thought that interviews would start to feel easier after a while; they would become a performance I knew by heart, and the dread would ebb away. Lol! I still feel like vomiting before every single one.

My last couple of interviews have been held on organized interview days, meaning that I’ve been spending a lot of time with other applicants in addition to site staff and current interns. This has been making everything infinitely worse. The problem is that these other applicants are nice. They’re funny, they’re polite, they’re well-spoken, they’re well-dressed. I sit with them during lunches and meet-and-greets, and we are a small sea of nearly indistinguishable suits and smiles. I enjoy talking to them, they seem to enjoy talking to me, we could easily be friends. When I send thank you emails after interviews, I sense the other applicants typing in tandem with me from their hotel rooms. How in the world am I supposed to stand out here? Every minor mistake I make during interviews – realizing I forgot to  add something during a case conceptualization, stumbling over a word, pausing too long to think – feels like a death knell when my fellow applicants are this good, this likable. I have no idea where I stand.

This process has been an enormous investment of time, energy, and money, and it’s really discouraging to think that a fourth of this year’s applicants (maybe including me) will have to go through it all a second time. Or a third time. The price of my flights, car rentals, gas, suit, and hotel stays will be around two grand when all is said and done, and that’s after cutting travel costs wherever possible (staying with friends for all but two nights, choosing economy cars, and not visiting every site on my list). Two grand. That’s average. That kind of price tag doesn’t jive with psychology’s professional value of improving economically disadvantaged groups’ access to opportunities. I was able to rely on my partner to cover the costs of the internship application process, and I know some others who have been able to rely on their parents… but there seems to be an implicit assumption that everyone applying has access to those kinds of resources, and that’s absolutely not the case. Many university counseling centers, blessedly recognizing the magnitude of the financial burden associated with the internship process, have begun to move toward phone or Skype interviews, but there are just as many sites that continue to insist on (or “strongly prefer”) doing things in person. There are some applicants out there who are going to spend $2000 this month that they don’t have, and then be expected to do it again next year.

And the internship crisis doesn’t seem likely to be resolved anytime soon. Every Monitor or gradPsych I’ve read lately has included articles about what’s being done to address the problem, but the “things being done” seem to consist primarily of holding meetings to discuss what should be done. The last gradPsych described two “landmark victories” achieved last year: securing continued access to federal funding, and restoring intern positions in New York that were temporarily cut last fall. These are important achievements and I’m grateful that APA made them happen, but they represent maintenance, not improvement.

Not that I have any bright ideas for how to fix the problem. Getting an accredited internship program going is a labor-intensive project, and interns must be (sparingly) paid and provided with benefits. Making intern pay optional might create more positions, but it would also create serious difficulties for interns, many of whom already carry a heavy load of student loan debt. Psy.D. programs tend to have class sizes that significantly larger than those of Ph.D. programs, and some really nasty stuff went around on graduate psych listservs a while back about how Psy.D. students were “taking up internship spots” that rightfully belonged to Ph.D. students. Right… because it makes sense to blame other students for the shortage. Students who have devoted years and thousands of dollars in loan money to their educations, and who need APA-accredited internships to legally practice in many states. Much like… Ph.D. students. Not cool, guys. Maybe regulation of the maximum number of students allowed in incoming graduate psych cohorts (Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs alike) could reduce the internship disparity, but I get a headache thinking about the logistical and financial nightmares that a move like this would spawn. Best of luck to the APA.

But… deep breath. If I don’t get an internship, I have good backup options. During the interview process I’m getting to spend a lot of time with friends. And on Sunday I get to go home for a brief interview-free hiatus, ditch the makeup and heels, hang out with my dude, and do regular grad student stuff. I will also get to use as much shampoo as I want without fear of emptying my tiny TSA-approved bottle. It’s going to be magical.

On Breaking the Interview Seal

15 Dec

My first internship interview is over, and I think it went pretty well. I didn’t say anything stupid, had answers ready for everything I was asked, joked with the training director about lawn care, and didn’t subject myself to a wardrobe malfunction by failing to hook the back of my skirt closed over the zipper… although that was only because my friend Laurie caught me before I got in the car and hooked it for me.

I didn’t even get asked anything out of the ordinary. My friends had drilled me with a series of creative questions the night before the interview to prepare me for anything the the interviewers might throw at me. “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” “What would you do if your interviewer turned into a snake?” “OK, let’s say you’re being chased by a giant poisonous snake and you have two options: You can run, or you can chop off its head with a hoe. If you run, turn to page 46. If you chop off its head with a hoe, turn to page 47.” “Oh, you ran. Sorry, you fell into a pit and died.”

So, given the extensive level of my preparation, I was a little bummed out when they didn’t even ask me to name the movie that has influenced my life the most. (Which is obviously Cool Runnings. Either that or Weekend at Bernie’s 2.)

Here are the questions I was asked, for anyone out there looking to prepare for their own upcoming interviews. This was an hour-and-a-half interview with three individuals at an integrated care facility with child and adult rotations.

  • What are some of the things that attracted you to this program?
  • Tell me about your assessment experience.
  • Tell me about the clinical experiences you’ve had in your program.
  • What are your career goals?
  • Tell me about the client you’ve worked with the longest.
  • Tell me about the work you did with a typical client recently. By typical, I mean someone with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, something like that.
  • What’s the status of your dissertation?
  • Are you familiar with [this city]?
  • Which rotations are you most interested in?
  • What kind of exposure have you had to projective testing?

Only about half of my time was devoted to me answering questions – my interviewers seemed more interested me asking questions of them than vice versa. Here’s what I asked:

  • What kinds of characteristics does an intern need to be successful here?
  • I’m really interested in [these 2 rotations], and they seem to focus on fairly similar populations. Could you tell me a little more about the differences between these two settings?
  • How does your program balance support and autonomy for interns?
  • A former intern here told me she enjoyed her supervision experiences at your site and felt really well-prepared for her career after internship. Is her feedback pretty representative of what interns say?
  • How would you describe your supervision philosophy?
  • You have so many clinical and didactic opportunities available here, and I’m wondering how they fit together in a typical week.
  • I loved this area the last time I visited, but I was only able to spend a couple days here. What would you say is unmissable in [this city]?

One down, lots to go – although I think the others will be a little easier now that I’ve gotten the first one out of the way. At this point I’ve got two interviews left in Texas, two in North Carolina, two in Georgia, and two in Virginia. Still waiting to hear back from one, but I think the waiting game should be over by next Tuesday, and I’ll be free to focus on more important things, like making Christmas cookies and watching Cool Runnings. Next interview isn’t until the first week of January.

First interview is… tomorrow!

13 Dec

Got the plane tickets. Got the suit. Got the fancy haircut. Got the shoes. Got the $7.50 boring black Wal Mart purse to temporarily replace my rainbow-colored one, which looks sort of like something a kindergartner would tote dolls around in. Can’t say I’ve got confidence exactly, but I can hide lack of confidence better than a rainbow-colored purse. Full rundown and other updates coming soon.

The Editor Pant, and Other Clothing I Reluctantly Purchased This Weekend

6 Dec

Interview suit has officially been purchased, courtesy of Express and two friends who were willing to walk my woeful self through the shopping process and tell me what looked good and what didn’t. Here’s what I got:

The Studio Stretch One-Button Jacket in Medium Charcoal: “Sophisticated style and shape is a wear-to-work must-have. Midweight stretch fabric hugs your curves for a flattering fit. Pair with our Editor Pant for a chic office look.” And pair it with the Editor Pant I did, albeit reluctantly, since of course the pants are the wrong length and I’ll have to get them tailored. (Note to self: learn to hem pants.) I also got the Studio Stretch High-Waisted Pencil Skirt, described as a “stylish update to your workday repertoire.” Since my “workday repertoire” currently consists of long sleeve tees that I try to disguise as work-appropriate shirts by wearing them with silk scarves, thrift store pants, and the same two pairs of shoes in endless rotation, I guess just about anything would constitute a stylish update. I also got a couple shirts in Red Lacquer and Bright Salmon, one long-sleeved and one short-sleeved. The short-sleeved one has squeezy sleeves, definitely on my list of Things That Drive Me Crazy, but Bright Salmon apparently brings out the undertones in my skin (says one of my friends, who knows about such things), and I am grudgingly willing to make a sacrifice in the name of successful interviews. I gulped when the sales associate told me the price – let’s just say I could have bought a lot of long-sleeved tees and accessorizing scarves with that kind of money – but it was a good deal for the quality and quantity of what I got. Next up: shoes and jewelry. One week until my first interview. 

In Pursuit of a Suit

2 Dec

Be here in 15 minutes... and suit up! (image from

My first internship interview is happening in a little less than 2 weeks, and I’m going to be expected to wear a suit. The suit I owned in college is a flimsy one that suffers from Problematic Gap Syndrome (PGS) in the chest area. I got it from the JC Penny junior section for $25, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything better. No, it’s time I owned an Adult Suit, one that will carry me through internship interviews and job interviews and dazzle all who lay eyes upon it.

Unfortunately, shopping for work clothes is really challenging for me. I don’t have a great handle on what’s fashionable, I have almost zilch tolerance for discomfort or inconvenience in the name of fashion, and my list of shopping rule-outs borders on unreasonable. (No clothes that need ironing.  No leather. No clothes that need dry cleaning. No clothes that need hand-washing. No squeezy sleeves. No see-through shirts that always have to be layered with other shirts. No shirts that aren’t long enough to cover pants pockets. No pants without back pockets. No skinny jeans. No clothes that are tight in the wrong places. No clothes that are loose in the wrong places. No sweater dresses. And so on.) Suit shopping has all the challenges of shopping for regular work clothes, with the added pressure of the knowledge that people are going to carefully scrutinize you when you’re wearing this suit. Also, you will probably have to spend a lot of money. Also, you are unlikely to find a suit that is machine-washable and never has to be ironed.

Thankfully, some of my more fashion-adept friends have agreed to go suit shopping with me this weekend and steer me in the right direction. I’m hoping to find a gray suit, since I think a gray one will be formal but less severe than a black suit. It makes me a little sad that suits in nontraditional colors are off the table – I saw a fire-engine red one at Macy’s that I liked a lot – but I don’t think they’d make the impression I want to make. Better to be seen as unique for your accomplishments than for your outrageous attire.

Is anyone else in the process of hunting for a suit?

Internship Blues

29 Nov

In the grand scheme of the universe, there are many things that I should probably be more worried about than the APPIC internship application process, including but not limited to climate change, international strife, global food shortages, the terrifying implications of the Singularity should it ever come to pass, what Diet Coke is doing to my body, etc. But like most 4th or 5th-year doctoral students in counseling/clinical psych programs, lately I’ve been directing the full power of my anxiety toward the question of whether or not I’ll get an internship.

For those reading who aren’t familiar with the internship process, APPIC stands for the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. Doctoral students in clinical or counseling psychology programs who have finished their coursework and comps are required to complete a 1-year predoctoral internship approved by the American Psychological Association in order to receive their doctorates. All approved internship sites are registered with APPIC, which facilitates the application and match process. Eligible students labor feverishly over applications and submit them to internship sites of interest (usually around 15 sites) during October, November, and early December. APPIC encourages sites to inform candidates whether or not they qualify for interviews by December 15, but every site operates on a slightly different timeline. Some students may hear back about interviews before Thanksgiving (causing dark fears to bloom in the minds of their cohort members, who will spend the next two weeks wondering why no one wants to interview them and asking themselves, Did I actually hit the send button on my applications? What if I didn’t hit the send button on my applications?). Other sites may not notify candidates about their interview status until after December 15, a date that will by that point have cemented itself in students’ minds as the Absolute Deadline for Hope and what if I hit the send button on some of my applications but not all of my applications? Interviews take place in December and January, and students rank the sites at which they interviewed in order of preference. Sites also create ranked lists of candidates, and students are informed on Match Day in late February whether or not they’ve been matched with a site. Those who aren’t matched go through a sort of clearinghouse process called Phase 2, which I don’t know much about because it makes me unhappy to think about it. There is no guarantee you’ll be matched during Phase 2.

There is currently a shortage of APA-accredited internships. Last year, almost a fourth of applicants were not matched with a site, and not matching has major implications for students. It means another year between you and your degree, another year between you and your career, and potentially nasty financial consequences (many programs, mine included, do not guarantee funding for students who stay beyond their fourth year). I guess that it’s little wonder that the message boards and listservs frequented by internship applicants exude all the cheer and calm of a fire evacuation. Dr. Greg Keilin, the psychologist and training director who sacrificially agreed to coordinate the Match and its listservs, sent out a message on the APPIC Intern Network last night that had a certain tone of parental exasperation:


Before everyone on this list has a heart attack because one person has reported hearing back from a site, let me state categorically that it is VERY EARLY FOR ANYONE TO BE HEARING BACK ON THEIR APPLICATIONS OR GETTING OFFERS FOR INTERVIEWS!  Some application deadlines haven’t even passed yet, much less have sites had the opportunity to review materials and contact applicants to set up interviews.

So, if you haven’t received any notification yet, all that means is that you are one of 4,000 other applicants who also have not yet received any communication from sites and who feel like they are the only one in North America who hasn’t heard anything… If you want to make yourself really anxious for no good reason, you can:  (a) wonder how each site notifies applicants (alphabetically?  by date the application was received?  by astrological sign?, etc.) and how you will fit in that process, (b) start worrying two weeks before the “interview notification date” in the Directory about why you haven’t heard anything and then assume it must be bad news, and (c) assume that if a classmate hears from a site before you do, it means you’re toast.  All of these are tried and true methods of generating gobs of anxiety while waiting to hear from sites.

Seriously, go by the dates in the Directory, and assume you’ll hear at 11:59pm on those dates and not a moment earlier.  Will some notify you days earlier?  Yes, but some won’t.  One year, I sent out my notifications the evening of my interview notification date, and I was surprised how many applicants told me that they had assumed they weren’t getting an interview because they hadn’t heard anything from me.

In the relatively infrequent event that you don’t hear from a site by the end of that ‘interview notification date,’ you should call or e-mail the site the next morning to inquire about your status.”

Unfortunately, graduate students are very talented in the area of making themselves really anxious for no good reason. I’ve found that the best way to address my anxiety is to develop excellent backup plans in the event that I don’t get an internship. Current frontrunners include starting an adorable pie shop like Keri Russel in Waitress or becoming a “dog enrichment coordinator” at a doggie daycare, which is apparently a real job.

I might change up the uniform a little.

I applied to 15 internship sites in North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, and Virginia. My husband Ted and I would like to move back in a southeasterly direction to be closer to family and college friends, and for some reason, Ted requested that we move somewhere where he could enjoy continued employment. I’ve gotten an invitation for one interview in Texas (instant elation!) and a regretful email from a site in North Carolina (instant desolation). Guess I’ll twiddle my thumbs, contemplate how my astrological sign might affect the manner in which I’m notified about interviews, and hope for the best.

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