Experiential Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA

The integration of coursework with field experience is a William James College institutional hallmark. Consistent with this focus, field placements are an essential aspect of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) MA curriculum for its entire, two-year (full-time) length. Throughout the program, great care is exercised to match students with field experiences that will enrich and enhance their classroom learning, and promote their professional and personal development.

Requirements for Practicum and Internship
Consistent with the institutional philosophy of integrating classroom work with supervised field experience, CMHC master's students are required to complete two fieldwork experiences during their academic training. 

Field placements run for the duration of the academic year and typically consist of two consecutive semesters (a minimum of 30 weeks) spent at the same site. The first-year field experience is called "practicum," and require a time commitment of 12 to 16 hours per week. The second-year placement is called "internship" and require a time commitment of 20 to 24 hours per week. It should be noted that the above weekly hour ranges represent the minimum. Some sites may request or require more hours per week and/or more total weeks (for example, some sites may require students to commit to as many as 40 weeks).

Practicum
Minimum of 360 total hours (12 hours per week for 30 weeks)

First-year full-time (entering) or second-year part-time counseling students must secure their field placements prior to the beginning of classes in the fall semester. Sites usually require students to submit a cover letter, resume, and two letters of reference before interviewing them. In the early spring, entering students receive detailed instructions about the application process from the Program Director and Field Education Office. Students in the program will be placed in a setting with the goal of acquiring beginning competence and confidence as a clinical mental health counselor.

Internship
Minimum of 600 total hours (20 hours per week for 30 weeks)

Second-year full-time or third-year part-time students must secure their field placements by the conclusion of classes in the spring term preceding the fall semester when the internship begins. Students are encouraged to complete their internship in a setting that complements the practicum experience by providing greater depth and/or breadth of clinical exposure. Those students who choose an area of emphasis or concentration will have the opportunity to apply to settings in which those specialized skills are an integral part of the experience. 

All field experiences are expected to follow specific, formalized, and organized plans that afford students supervised opportunities to learn as they practice and practice what they learn. The training goals of the first-year practicum are consistent with the curricular goals of the first year. Together, these should provide students with a foundation of fundamental knowledge and skills which they can build upon during their internship year, as they further refine their skills and deepen their understanding of the clinical process and roles of the professional counselor. Integrated closely with their practicum and internship, the year-long practicum seminar and internship seminar provide students with additional and ongoing opportunities to evaluate and practice their skills and address issues pertinent to their development as helping professionals. Students may not participate in practicum or internship seminar unless they also participate in an approved practicum or internship, as they are concurrent.

Evaluations
Students' performance at field sites is evaluated on a semester basis by the site supervisor, who provides students with oral and written feedback. The clinical seminar faculty supervisor and the Field Education Office maintain regular contact with field supervisors to ensure the quality of the field experience and the progress of students at the sites. Credit for the practicum and internship experience is awarded at the end of each semester, based on the student’s performance in both the seminar and the field site performance.

Work as Placement
Under certain circumstances it may be possible for MA students who are employed in the field to use their current workplaces as their field placement sites. However, every such potential arrangement must first be reviewed and approved by the Program Administration and Field Education Office to ensure that it meets programmatic expectations and pre-licensure field training requirements.