There are several factors to consider when applying for internship:
- Internship applications are typically due in November.
- You may want to start researching internship programs the summer before your plan to apply for internship (e.g., several months before applications are due).
- Think about what kind of training are you interested in obtaining. Do you want general training, training that includes health psychology rotations, or training that emphasizes health psychology?
- Think about whether you want broad health psychology experience or if you have a specific experience that you want to get. For example, do you want to work in an inpatient setting, outpatient setting, or both? Do you want to work in primary care, specialty care, or both? Do you want to work with any specific population regarding types of presenting problems (e.g., chronic pain, oncology, smoking cessation, weight management) or types of patients (e.g., pediatrics, adults, Veterans, rural populations)? Do you want to learn any specific treatments (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, acceptance and commitment therapy for chronic pain)?
- Consider any other preferences you may have about internship, such as living in a certain geographical region, in an urban/suburban/rural area, etc.
- You may want to research whether internship sites also have postdoctoral fellowships that will be of interest to you. Although many students relocate for internship and again for postdoctoral training, some students are eager to find an internship that offers the possibility of staying on for more than one year.
- Visit the APPIC (Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers) website https://www.appic.org to identify internships that fit with you interests.
- Here you can use search terms like “health psychology” and “behavioral medicine” (and at some sites “rehabilitation” may also be relevant).
- When searching by ‘Program Criteria’ you can specify ‘Training Opportunities’ and select ‘treatment modality’ options (e.g., primary care, evidence-based practice, or evidence based research) and supervised experience options (e.g., health psychology, women’s health, HIV/AIDS, rehabilitation psychology, pediatrics, integrated health care – primary, integrated health care – specialty).
- Using “Health Psychology” experience on internship as the only search criteria can yield several hundred programs. Limiting the search to only Veterans Administration Medical Centers (VAMC) may still yield over 100 programs. It is helpful to narrow this down with other search criteria such as accreditation, setting (e.g., VAMC, medical school), or geographic region.
- Reading APPIC program descriptions can help you determine if the health psychology experiences are a major or minor part of the internship. For example, if an internship has a track specifically for health psychology, behavioral medicine, or rehabilitation psychology, they may offer more in-depth experience than an internship site that only has a minor rotation in health psychology.
- The APPIC program descriptions usually link to the internship sites’ program brochures that can provide even more detail about the internship.
- Brochures may provide additional detail about factors related to specific settings, treatments and populations of interest and information about the location of the site and surrounding attractions/amenities
Other tips for identifying internship sites:
- Ask others for input – ask your training director, advisor, faculty, clinical supervisors, lab mates, classmates who have just matched for internship, and students from your program who are currently on internship. They can talk to you about where people from your program or lab have interviewed or attended internship in the past. In the case of recently matched students and students on internship, they can share their recent impressions of the internship sites and talk with you about the pros and cons of the sites they visited.
- Take advantage of attending internship meet and greet activities that occur at various conferences such as SBM and ABCT. This will give you a chance to talk to internship directors and to get a feel for different programs. Students at any level are free to attend these activities, but at least plan to go the year prior to applying.
- Network, network, network. Besides attending internship meet and greets at conferences, be sure to network. Along the way, you’ll learn where people you look up to completed their training, or if they are involved in training somewhere that you may be interested in applying.
- Recommendations on writing internship essays, interviewing, and information on the match process and on ranking internship sites can be found on the APA website at: https://www.apa.org/apags/resources/internships
- APA’s Graduate Student Organization publishes a book called “Internships in Psychology: The APAGS Workbook for Writing Successful Applications and Finding the Right Fit” which many students have found useful when navigating the internship process.
- Hear advice from health psychology experts to graduate students on applying for internship.
- Hear health psychologists talk about their experiences with health psychology training during internship.