April 14, 2023

Securing A Practicum | Masters in Counselling Psychology (MACP) at Yorkville University

This blog post is all about the process of securing a practicum within the MACP program at Yorkville University

This has been a highly requested blog post since this can feel like the most daunting process of the whole degree. This was the part of the degree that worried me the most in the beginning, but it was a fairly straightforward process. I’m going to be transparent with all of you aspiring or current MACP students that it was a process that takes some real motivation and persistence.

If you’re looking to apply to the MACP program at Yorkville, you may want to read other blog posts I've written about the program:

Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology Application Tips at Yorkville University

My First Course at Yorkville University Pursuing My Masters in Counselling Psychology (MACP)

One-Year Update: Pursuing The Online Masters in Counselling Psychology (MACP) Degree Through Yorkville University

For those of you who are new here, I’m a student pursuing a Masters in Counselling Psychology (MACP) at Yorkville University, and I’ve been documenting and sharing about the process on my blog, Instagram, and TikTok. I am going into the final portion of my degree, which is an eight-month practicum placement. I will also start off by saying everyone has a different experience with finding a practicum, some more difficult than others, so keep that in mind when you hear how the process was for me. Also, Yorkville has a lot of practicum information on its practicum portal, so be sure to look through that if you are already a student. Okay, let’s get into it.

Get Your CV Ready

If you’re unfamiliar with a CV, it stands for curriculum vitae and is basically just a resumé with a heavier emphasis on education and academic achievements. If you have no idea where to start with this, I highly recommend going on Etsy and finding a CV template you like and using that as an outline. You want to try and make it appealing to the eye and easy for your potential supervisors to read. If you don’t have much mental health experience, take a breath. It’s okay! A lot of students have little if any experience in the field before practicum. If you don’t have field experience, I highly recommend taking some certifications that can make you stand out to potential sites. There are many free certifications, including Brain Story that is put on by Alberta Family Wellness. There are also some great trauma certifications and more specific modality certifications that are out there as well. Other certifications include Suicide Prevention Training or Mental Health First Aid that may assist you throughout practicum and help with your CV.

Research Potential Sites

Yorkville has a practicum portal with a long list of sites around Canada that have accepted practicum students in the past; this was very helpful and how I ended up finding my site. However, there is a portion of these places that Yorkville lists that are not updated; either they do not accept students anymore, they’ve changed business names, or they are not in business anymore. This was frustrating, but they do their best to keep the list as up-to-date as possible. As a student, you are responsible for finding your own placement. I have received many messages from aspiring or current students that think this is daunting; however, I felt that it gave me great experience for the future.

I would highly recommend making a list of places from the Yorkville practicum locator on sites that you feel align with you as a place you would like to do your practicum. When you’re done with that list, do your own research and find places in your area that may not be on the practicum locator from Yorkville where you may want to do your placement. I will also mention an important note here: do your research about what your supervisors credentials are and the standards from the future regulatory college or association. Some colleges and associations have specific standards for supervisor credentials during practicum, so you must do your own research about this. When looking for potential practicum locations, take a look at their website and what the company’s values and core modalities are, and if they align with you and how you want to practise as a future therapist. You can search places by doing a Google search, looking through psychology today, and even the affordable therapy network for different potential placements. This process of creating a list can take a while and I recommend you start this process as soon as possible so that you are not as overwhelmed when it gets closer to the practicum application deadline.

Contact Potential Sites

This was the most difficult part of the practicum process for me. I emailed so many potential places that either said they were not accepting students, that they were not equipped to take students, or I just got no response from them at all. Some people in the program opted to make a separate cover letter for each potential place they apply to; if this is your style, you go for it; however, this will slow you down.

The Initial Email

I sent out an initial email with this info:

  • Introduced myself
  • Mentioned therapy modalities and specific challenges I enjoy working with
  • Included a short sentence or two describing why I’m confident I would be an excellent fit as a practicum student (relating it back to something specific about their clinic, company values, or philosophy with why I would be a great fit)
  • Asked if they are currently accepting students for May 2023 (my practicum start date)

The key to this initial email is to show that you care and have put some effort and research into learning about their clinic. Put yourself in the shoes of these practicum supervisors; they want to bring on students who show that effort into their practise and are not just mass-emailing a bunch of places with some generic email.

The Next Email After Receiving A Response

If I received a response saying they were accepting students, I sent them my CV and personal statement/cover letter in this email. You might be reading this and want to do this a different way, and that is totally okay; this is just how I did it, and it was successful for me. Also, not one site asked for my transcripts and I haven’t heard of any of my classmates being asked this either in my personal experience. If there is anything you can do to stand out to the clinic, do it during this email. Everyone has their own strategies and techniques to stand out when job searching, do your thing. Put yourself in their shoes of what they might want to see in a potential practicum student for their practise.

The Interview Process

If you’ve got an interview, stellar job!! This is where it can be nerve-racking since you will not know what to expect. There are many different ways the interview can go which is why I wanted to give you all my experiences of how my interview was along with another perspective of a fellow colleague in the MACP program since our experiences had some differences. Also, remember that your future interview might be completely different than our experiences. I’m sure you will do great, believe in yourself; you’re being given this awesome opportunity for a reason!

My interview process was quite straightforward. I actually only had one interview, which is my current placement. I did have another interview following that one but did not move forward with it as the place I got the offer from was my dream practicum placement. It is a virtual placement, and my supervisor uses modalities such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which is where my interests are. The interview was filled with questions about the potential schedule I'd be looking for, what therapy modalities I'm interested in, and we talked a little about some of my certifications and experience on my CV. I probably contacted 20 potential sites before getting an interview and accepting a practicum offer. I know my experience was pretty straightforward, and I feel very lucky with how I received my placement. I also wanted to include my colleague's experience so that you can hear someone else's journey to finding a placement as well.

Annelise’s Practicum Process

Hi! My name is Annelise and I am in the MACP program through Yorkville University planning on starting my practicum in September of 2023. My area of interest is in perinatal mental health and I started an Instagram account called the perinatal book reviewer (@theperinatalbookreviewer) that highlights books for parents as well as educational resources for perinatal mental health professionals.

I applied at 25 potential practicum sites starting in January for my practicum starting in September. I used the Yorkville site locator to start as well as doing my own research on different spots that fit my interests and location. I did research practices that focus primarily on perinatal and maternal mental health, but I wanted to find a practicum placement where I could get a wide range of experience working with clients with a variety of presenting problems and concerns.

My goals for a practicum site included somewhere that had taken students in the past and had no problems with meeting the required hours, a practice with multiple practitioners with different areas of focus, and a supervisor that I connected with on their method of supervision and therapeutic approaches. A bonus was if they didn’t charge for supervision. I interviewed at three places before accepting my position. The first place I interviewed at was a fully virtual practice. Their main focus is on perinatal health. I enjoyed interviewing with this practice because it was clear how much they value mothers and really wanted to know about my personal experience that led me on this path. Ultimately they were not able to guarantee enough hours and I was concerned about not getting enough experience with mental health concerns outside of the perinatal focus. The second place I interviewed at had just opened and so they were also not able to guarantee hours. I found this to be a great experience connecting with a psychologist close to where I live and she was kind enough to offer her contact information if I had questions in the future or wanted to connect once I became provisional. The place where I was accepted was my third interview. I was immediately excited because it was clear that the supervisor felt comfortable in her role and knew what she was looking for in a student. The first interview I had with her was focused on why I had decided on counselling as a profession and what approaches interested me. I was called a few days later and asked to meet via zoom for a second interview. In this interview she asked scenario based questions based on her own experience. I really enjoyed this interview because it was an opportunity to apply some of my learning and it made me excited for practicum. She called me a few days later to offer me the placement.

Annelise’s Tips for Success

Make sure to personalize your cover letter to the site you are applying to. I changed a couple sentences for each site. It took some additional time but it was worth it. I also think it’s worthwhile to create a resume and cover letter that are aesthetically cohesive. I did mine through Canva and received compliments in each interview.

I also made sure to show my ‘toolbox’ of skills in my cover letter. I connected my work in a medical office to my understanding of confidentiality and ability to bill insurance. I discussed my experience teaching yoga to my ability to watch for subtle cues from students and build an authentic and inclusive relationship. I also chose to tie in my personal experiences like being a spouse to someone in the military and becoming a mother this year. I do not think this was necessary but it opened up the conversation with each supervisor and gave an opportunity to find commonalities with each of them.

One question that I asked in each interview was: where do you think students are lacking knowledge or confidence in before starting practicum? Their answers were a great place to start to build some additional competence before starting practicum. One of the supervisors I interviewed with said she always pays for her students to take a note taking workshop before starting practicum and this is something I am planning on doing.

Final Notes About the Process

If you’ve gotten to the end of this post, first of all, thank you! I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from posting these blogs and social media content about the program. The practicum process seems daunting, but I’m here to tell you, you can do it. You are capable, knowledgeable, and qualified for this. I will quickly touch on the imposter syndrome I experienced throughout the process because it feels isolating if we don’t talk about these feelings and normalize them. When I first got offered the placement, I was so freakin happy and excited. As time went on, I began to convince myself that it was a mistake and that the offer would be pulled from me. These types of thoughts are 100% normal and was my anxiety talking. There’s a great metaphor from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that explains that you are driving a bus full of kids. You are the driver and you know your route and where you’re going; you’re in control of the bus. However, there are kids yelling at you and trying to tell you what to do “turn left here” or “go there”, but you’re the bus driver and you’re in control of the bus, nobody else is. As you can probably infer, the kids trying to tell you what to do are supposed to be your thoughts. This is a super nice diffusion tactic for me to separate myself from my thoughts and remind myself that I’m in control of what I believe and know. Not sure if it’s helpful for you, but thought I’d share it since it helped me move through those thoughts.

I also recently got asked about how I plan to get ready to see clients for the first time during my practicum. I love this question. I’m very excited to get to put all my knowledge from the textbooks, assignments, certifications, and experiences into practice. I have been going through my notes about interventions and skills to remind myself about them to prepare. I have also been finishing up a trauma certification to be extra knowledgeable surrounding trauma since many people have some trauma in one way or another. My practicum supervisor is fantastic, I seriously couldn't have asked for a better supervisor for me. She has been very supportive throughout the process and has so much knowledge. I am very excited to learn from her. I haven’t talked much about where I’m doing my practicum yet on the blog, but since I’m starting in a couple of short weeks, I will share that I’m doing my practicum as a graduate intern and Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) at a virtual psychotherapy clinic called Joy Sereda Psychotherapy. I will also link my Psychology Today profile HERE if you'd like to take a look at it. I'm very excited to start seeing clients soon and will continue documenting and sharing my academic journey with this wonderful audience. Thanks again for all your support!

Hope you all have a great rest of your week. Thanks for reading! Take care!