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What do practicum

students perceive as
most beneficial about
their training program?
Sooin Lee
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Introduction
• During clinical training, student therapists build clinical competence and
cultivate a professional identity, often involving a great deal of self-
reflection (Howard, Inman & Altman, 2006); and many trainees experience
both personal and professional growth through supervision (Hensley, 2002).
• As clinical training is critical for student practitioners’ professional
development, many practicum sites are strongly committed to training
student practitioners (Hatcher, Wise, Grus, Mangione & Emmons, 2012).
However, few recent studies examined what makes an effective clinical
training program for student therapists.
• In this presentation, doctoral practicum students’ written evaluations of the
training program at The Village of Hoffman Estates, Department of Health
and Human Services (HHS) were analyzed to investigate what program
components were identified by students as the most beneficial to their
professional growth. It is expected that examining students’ perspectives to
their training experience will provide suggestions to improve training
programs.
Method
• Students’ written evaluations of the training program and supervisors at The
Village of Hoffman Estates, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
for the past five years were gathered.
• Forty-five program evaluations from 2008 to 2011 were analyzed. Responses
to the open-ended question “Which aspect of your training here stands out as
most beneficial to your professional growth?” were examined.
• The most frequently identified aspects were further investigated. For example,
as multicultural competence and community psychology seminar (MCCP) was
identified as one of the most beneficial aspects, responses to the open-ended
question “What was most helpful?” under the MCCP section were examined.
• One-hundred-forty-five supervisor evaluations by students from 2009 to 2011
were investigated using thematic analysis (Braun & Clark, 2006) as supervision
was most frequently identified as most beneficial about the training.
• Finally, themes across the different aspects were extracted by using thematic
analysis.
Results: What’s most beneficial about
your training?
Forty-five program evaluations by students at The Village of
Hoffman Estates, Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) were gathered from 2008 to 2011. Thirty-nine
evaluations responded to the question “Which aspect of your
training here stands out as most beneficial to your professional
growth?”
• Twenty two out of 39 responses mentioned supervision.
• Seventeen responses implied learning environment by
indicating relevant aspects.
• Nine responses identified multicultural competence and
community psychology seminar (MCCP) as most beneficial
about their training.
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21

20

17

15

10
9

5 6
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Results: What’s most beneficial about your training?
Forty-five program evaluations at HHS from 2008 to 2011 were analyzed. Students often
identified more than two aspects as most beneficial about their training.
Results: What about
supervision?
Thematic analysis of students’ descriptive feedback for
supervisors at HHS from 2009 to 2011 revealed that the students
found supervision beneficial when they perceived from their
supervisors:
• Non-judgmental acceptance that enables students to
discuss reactions to clients and difficult issues
• “I feel comfortable expressing and exploring my reactions to
clients.”
• Developmental understanding of students and trust for
students’ clinical abilities
• “…I felt she tailored her feedback and guidance to each of us.”
• “He consistently demonstrated that he believed in my skills as a
clinician…”
• Challenges that push students to self-examine and take
risks
• “…challenges me to consider how my personal experiences may
be affecting the treatment.”
• Openness to feedback from students and honesty about
their own vulnerabilities
• “…she modeled the importance of constant self-examination…”
• “…he expresses his own doubts and concerns about difficult
clients…”
• Clinical insight and guidance for diverse cases and
interventions
• “Her perspective on many issues regarding clients was so
refreshing and will stick with me…”
Results: What makes a
learning environment?
The students did not directly mention learning environment in their
evaluations from 2008 to 2011, but many students commented on
the overall atmosphere at HHS. Seventeen out of 39 responses
described some aspects about learning environment. The emerged
themes indicated:
• Supportive environment
• “The collegial spirit…”
• “Having the positive and encouraging environment that allowed for
creativity…”
• Overall emphasis on training and growth
• “There is a culture of promoting our professional growth and
development which allows us to take risks and be vulnerable.”
• “We inspired one another to take risks and strived for an
atmosphere of curiosity and constant growth.”
Results: About MCCP
Multicultural competence & community psychology seminar
(MCCP) is a combination of didactics, presentations, and process
groups for trainees at HHS. MCCP is to promote awareness of
how one’s personal culture impacts self and others as a clinician.
Nine out of 39 responses from 2008 to 2011 identified MCCP as
most beneficial about their training. Analysis of the question
“What was most helpful?” about MCCP revealed common
themes including:
• Openness & safety for self-exploration
• “…we were able to self-reflect in front of a trusted group and
receive feedback that assisted our growth.”
• “…allowed me to feel brave and safe enough to share my own life
without feeling judged.”
• Sense of cohesiveness & community
• “…allowed us time to really get to know each other and process
our reactions that come up related to multicultural issues.”
• Challenges to take risks and be vulnerable
• “While it was again challenging and confusing at times, it pushed
me past my comfort zone and pushed me to grow.”
• Increased self-awareness regarding cultural issues
• “…to examine parts of myself that I had not thought of or have
not realized have such an impact on me as a person and a
clinician.”
Results: Overall themes on
“What’s most beneficial?”
• The students perceived openness and safety as critical for their
self-exploration as a person and a clinician. Many students
valued personal growth as related to their professional growth.
• The students identified challenges to self-examine as growth-
promoting. Many linked increased self-awareness to their
development of professional identity and confidence in their
clinical work.
• The students appreciated directions and guidance from
supervisors as significant to their professional development.
Several students described their supervisors as role models.
• The students mentioned a sense of community in that they built
genuine relationships with supervisors and one another.
Results: Overall themes on “What’s most beneficial?”
Discussion
• Suggestions for training
• According to the results, a supportive environment is critical for
the professional development of practicum students and requires:
• Acceptance from supervisors and one another to explore self
as an emerging clinician
• Understanding of students’ developmental needs and guidance
tailored to each student
• Trust for students’ clinical abilities and openness to receive
students’ feedback
• Limitations of the study
• As the author is currently a trainee at HHS, the interpretation of
the data might have been biased by her personal experience.
References
Braun, V., Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in
psychology. Qualitative. Research in Psychology, 3: 77-101.
Hatcher, R. L., Wise, E. H., Grus, C. L., Mangione, L., &
Emmons, L. (2012). Inside the practicum in professional
psychology: A survey of practicum site coordinators. Training
and Education in Professional Psychology, 6(4), 220–228.
Hensley, P. (2002). The value of supervision. The Clinical
Supervisor, 21(1), 97-110
Howard, E. E., Inman, A. G., & Altman, A. N. (2006). Critical
incidents among novice counselor trainees. Counselor
Education and Supervision, 46(2), 88–102.