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Internship options in the Child and Adolescent Developmental Psychology program at NCU

By Dr. Pam MacDonald, Program Lead

In most of the psychology master’s degree programs at Northcentral University (NCU) students are able to choose between completing a capstone course or a non-clinical internship. Many students may wish to complete an internship instead of a capstone, but are not sure what would be appropriate and what types of places to contact to ask about internship opportunities.

First, I would like to review some information about the internship and how it differs from the capstone. The capstone course is a traditional 8-week class where a student works independently on a project that showcases what they have learned throughout their program at NCU. Because this class can be completed on a student’s own time without set face-to-face hours, it is a popular option among our students. The internship is a 12-week class and requires the completion of 100 hours at an internship site (virtual options have been available to students during COVID-19). In addition to the contact hours, students also complete an internship project that benefits the internship site and also showcases what the student has learned throughout their graduate program.

In the Child and Adolescent Developmental Psychology (CAD Psych) program, we have had many students successfully complete an internship in a variety of placements, where they have gained “hands-on” experience with children and/or adolescents in non-clinical settings. Many places are appropriate to complete CAD Psych internships, including schools, day care centers, child development centers, after school programs, programs for at-risk youth, social services, juvenile detention centers, government programs, hospitals or research centers. I would like to highlight three internship experiences that former CAD Psych students completed that I believe provide excellent examples of the kinds of internship experiences that our students have and may spark some ideas for future students.

Summer Camp Curriculum: A former student worked with a summer camp developing an alternative curriculum plan for children with developmental delays or other mental or physical difficulties. The camp had numerous activities and curriculum available for developmentally typical children, but they were basically “winging it” for the many children who attended their camps who had autism, ADHD, dyslexia, physical impairments or other challenges. This student applied their knowledge of child development to modify existing materials to better serve these populations and created new materials when modification wasn’t possible. They used evidence based practices to make sure the camp’s curriculum options were appropriate for all the children who attended.

Anti-Bullying Program: Another former student completed an internship at an elementary school. The school had a well-developed anti-bullying plan except it was missing one thing. The plan did not provide any services or support for the bullies, just for the victims of bullying. Knowing that children who bully other children do so for a reason and that children who bully their peers are often in pain and acting out, our student thought that this needed to be addressed. The student utilized knowledge of child development and collected evidence based research on children who bully, why they bully, and effective intervention strategies for those children. They developed another component to add to the school’s existing anti-bullying program. The school quickly adopted it and found it to be so effective that they expanded its use across the school district.

Support for adolescents released from detention centers: This internship could have been appropriate for CAD Psych or forensic psychology students. A recently graduated NCU student was able to complete an internship at a juvenile dentition facility. She faced a unique challenge a couple of weeks into the internship, when the pandemic hit and the internship supervisor contracted COVID-19. We quickly switched gears and the student moved to a completely virtual internship, working with the on-site internship supervisor online and through Zoom meetings. She was still able to complete her internship project by investigating what was missing at this facility. She also researched empirical studies that addressed recidivism among incarcerated youth and how to help them become productive and successful members of society and avoid another incarceration. Sometimes these adolescents and young adults were released after serving their time and had few resources in place to help them. Our student reached out to numerous programs in her community and interviewed them (via telephone and Zoom) about the services they provided and how former detainees might be able to utilize those services. She created a handbook that detailed all of the services available in the community and made it widely available, providing an invaluable resource document. Her goal was to help make the transition easier and provide support for these youth that would help them with basic services, education, jobs, etc. while preventing recidivism.

For more information about CAD Psych internships, please contact Dr. Pam MacDonald, Program Lead and Internship Coordinator, at: