Description of Practica

(Note: Both MA and PhD level practica are described below).

Practica are an integral part of the CPA accredited Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (CCAP) program and involve supervised placements in school boards, community mental health agencies, hospitals, and the Department’s in-house training facility, the Centre for Psychological Services (CPS). The sequence of practica provide opportunities for students to apply knowledge and clinical skills gained in coursework to develop and practice the professional competencies that are an essential part of the training program. Evaluated competencies on practica are also an important component of the PhD Qualifying Examination for determining suitability for Doctoral candidacy. Moreover, documented skilled performance and experience in practica are essential preparation for the required year-long CPA accredited clinical internship (PSYC*8000). Before applying for this internship year, students should have developed both breadth and depth of clinical training through a minimum of 300 direct contact hours  in interviewing, assessing or intervening with clients and 200 hours of supervision.

Guidance to students regarding practica is primarily provided by the Director of Clinical Training and the CPS Clinic Director. The typical sequence of clinical experiential training and course work that students follow across their studies is included at the end of this document.

The CCAP Program acknowledges the invaluable benefit that students receive from their practicum experiences.  Integral to our program are four clinical faculty supervisors whose central role is to provide individual and group clinical supervision at CPS in addition to other service and research roles within the department (Assistant Professor, Contract-Limited positions). Our program is also grateful for the time and expertise provided by external practicum supervisors. In recognition of the important educational and training role played by these external supervisors, Associate Graduate Faculty standing may be accorded by the University. 

Note that students must carefully balance their coursework, practica and thesis/dissertation work to ensure that they make good progress on their research. The department has clear requirements regarding the deadlines for thesis and dissertation proposals and overall program timelines which must be considered while acquiring appropriate practicum experience. On a term-by-term basis, particularly in senior years, students must consult with their advisors and the DCT to ensure that they are appropriately balancing the clinical training and research components of graduate study.

Broad Learning Outcomes Assessed Via Practicum Training

The following broad learning outcomes (comprised of numerous more specific competencies) are developed and assessed on our integrated series of practicum experiences.

Professionalism and Interpersonal Relationships: Demonstrates knowledge and ability to establish, develop, and maintain effective interpersonal and professional relationships (e.g., with clients, supervisors, students, research participants, colleagues) with consideration to diversity. This is a core competency that underlies all other competencies. Psychologists normally do their work in the context of interpersonal relationships. They must therefore be able to establish and maintain a constructive working alliance with clients and other professionals (e.g., colleagues, learners).

Assessment and Evaluation: Demonstrates knowledge about how and ability to assess, conceptualize, diagnose, and communicate the needs, challenges, and strengths of clients to inform practical plans of action. The skills required for assessment can and should be applied to many situations other than initial evaluation, including, for example, treatment outcome, program evaluation, and problems occurring in a broad spectrum of non-clinical settings. The primary purpose of psychological assessment is to provide an understanding that informs a practical plan of action. It may result in a diagnostic classification or in the identification of strengths or competencies.

Intervention and Consultation: Demonstrates knowledge about and ability to implement activities that promote, restore, sustain, and/or enhance positive functioning and a sense of wellbeing; this includes addressing clients' needs, concerns, distress, and impairment. A broad, comprehensive vision of the intervention competency should include explicitly theory as well as knowledge and skills.

Ethics and Standards: Demonstrates knowledge and application of ethical principles, standards of professional conduct, and jurisprudence in relation to psychology.

Required Practicum Hours

Students traditionally experience anxiety about how many practicum hours they need to accrue to be prepared and competitive for their internship. Directors of internship sites repeatedly stress that it is the quality of the practicum experiences rather than the sheer quantity of hours that sets the applicants for internship in the best stead.  The expectations in our accredited program are informed by practicum hours guidelines set by both the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) and recommendations from the Canadian Council of Professional Psychology Programs (CCPPP). 

“While 600 hours of practicum experience before beginning an internship has been set within the CPA accreditation standards as the minimum in which this competence might be gained, more typically 1000 hours of wisely chosen practicum experience is required to attain sufficient breadth and depth. This would include an appropriate balance of direct service, supervision, and support hours. Students and programs should strive in their practica for experience with cases varying in complexity in different service delivery settings, with a variety of populations, presenting questions, assessment and therapeutic models and methods, case conferences, and supervisors to acquire competencies for a successful internship year. This is more important than the number of hours recorded.” Excerpt from: Guiding Principles in the Preparation of and Selection of Applicants for Internship (Approved at CCPPP AGM, June 2007)

In keeping with CCPPP recommendations, the following table details the practicum hours that are expected throughout the program.

Year 1
PSYC*7991 Internal practicum which includes policies and procedures of CPS, CPS intake line, risk assessment training, and two assessments (intensively supervised).
Hours required: 50
Direct contact hours: 20
Supervision hours: 20

Year 2
PSYC*7991 PSYC*7991 Internal practicum which includes participating on in-person intake team (IPIT) and substantially contributing to a minimum of two full assessments at CPS.’ PSYC*7992 External practicum which involves completion of approximately four cognitive, social/personality and learning disabilities assessments; Consulting with teachers, school administrators, parents.
Hours required: 150
Direct contact hours: 50
Supervision hours: 50

Year 3
PSYC*7994 CBT practicum course with didactic, practice and supervision components within the CPS (1 therapy case min); Within PSYC*7991 carry one additional therapy case at minimum and contribute to a minimum of one assessment case at CPS.
Hours required: 200
Direct contact hours: 45
Supervision hours: 45

Year 4
PSYC*7993 is a two-day per week, 400 hour external practicum (typically hospital or community clinic based; therapy and assessment).

In years 4 and 5 students return to CPS for PSYC*7991.  Students are expected to carry 1-2 therapy cases and have involvement in at least one assessment case per year.  Leadership on IPIT Team is an expectation for at least two semesters during years 5 and/or 6 as is involvement in supervised supervision of junior colleagues in assessment, intake, or therapy.
Hours required: 450
Direct contact hours: 200
Supervision hours: 100

Hour Totals:

Hours required: 850
Direct contact hours: 315
Supervision hours: 215

Description of Practicum Courses

Clinical Psychology Practicum I: (PSYC*7991) taken in most semesters of the graduate program

Approximately 350 hours (120 Direct; 120 Supervision)

Faculty Instructor (Coordinator): Clinic Director

Throughout their MA and PhD studies, students are required to undertake ongoing supervised clinical work with children, adolescents and their families at the CPS. This practicum is undertaken in multiple semesters to permit a broad variety of case and supervisory experiences. This includes experiences from shadowing cases and performing intake duties early in MA training to participating on the In-Person-Intake-Team (IPIT), handling complex assessment and eventually therapy cases during PhD training. Senior PhD students will also participate in supervised supervision activities.  Supervision of clinical work at CPS is provided by the Clinic Director and several Clinical faculty.

Note: In senior PhD years, some students elect to take PSYC*7991 as an external practicum (i.e., outside CPS). If a student would like to complete and additional PSYC*7991 in a setting other than the CPS, the student must obtain approval from the Director of Clinical Training.  It must be clear that the potential site offers sufficient quality clinical training and supervision and that the particular experience is not readily available at CPS within the same timeframe.

Clinical Psychology Practicum II: Masters Level Practicum (PSYC*7992) 

Approximately 150 hours (50 Direct; 30 Supervision)

Faculty Instructor (Coordinator): Clinic Director

This practicum is intended to provide students with a broad range of experience in psychological assessment and typically occurs in the psychological services department of a school board.  Under supervision, students are expected to conduct initial interviews, plan assessments, administer a range of tests, score and integrate assessment data, generate preliminary formulations, consider differential diagnoses, and write integrated, informative psychological assessment reports. Although the breadth and complexity of cases and level of involvement of students will vary depending on the abilities of the individual student, the client population, and the practicum setting itself, PSYC*7992 students have exposure to a range of presenting problems, including learning, attention, behaviour, social-emotional, developmental, and/or other mental health concerns. Usually students take on between 4 and 6 assessments over the course of a semester depending on the complexity of the cases and depth of the assessments. Students may also be involved in consultation or other in-service work.

CBT Practicum: PhD Level Practicum (PSYC*7994)

Approximately 100 hours (20 Direct; 20 Supervision)
Faculty Instructor (Coordinator): Faculty Member Assigned to Teach PSYC*7994

This practicum course is taken in the first year of the PhD and is intended to provide extensive support for first psychotherapy cases.  The course will foster graduate student training in early therapy skills with a focus on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and will include didactic and experiential components. Students will gain competency with the practice of CBT for child and adolescent mental health challenges within the CPS, be exposed to treatment manuals, and undertake at least one ongoing therapy case utilizing a CBT approach.

Practicum III: PhD Level Practicum (PSYC*7993)

Approximately 400 hours (100 Direct; 50 Supervision)

Faculty Instructor (Coordinator): Clinic Director

This practicum is intended to provide students with in-depth experience in the assessment of and intervention for complex social-emotional and mental health problems. Often this practicum takes place in a hospital or community mental health setting.  On this practicum, students continue to develop assessment, therapy and consultation competencies. Most students apply to sites that comprise the Toronto Area Practicum Group. An electronic resource about external practica available through the Toronto Area Practicum Group can be found here: Practicum brochure

Preparing for Practicum

Practicum I (PSYC*7991) can usually be arranged on a semester by semester basis, consistent with ongoing training objectives.

Selecting a Site

For all practica, students should meet with the Clinic Director to identify training objectives and potential practicum sites and to develop a rough plan of activities for the practicum to be finalized in consultation with the on-site practicum supervisor. When applying for practica, students should have ready an up-to date curriculum vitae that includes coursework, clinical experience, and research completed and planned for before the practicum begins. 

For Practicum II (PSYC*7992), students need to meet with the faculty instructor for this course 4-5 months in advance of placement to review possibilities for placements at different school boards. Students should supply a recent CV to the instructor who will initiate  contact with the chief psychologist and gain potential matches for students to follow-up on. If students are interested in placement with school boards (or other assessment placements) that are part of the Toronto-Area Practicum Group, they will need to apply one year in advance.

For Practicum III (PSYC*7993), preparation should begin at least a year in advance, as considerable lead-time is required for some settings. Students who are interested in completing practicum in one of the popular Toronto Area Practicum settings including, CAMH, SickKids, Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Reach Out Centre for Kids, Hamilton Health Sciences, among many other sites, are advised that this group of settings has organized into a Toronto Area Practicum Group with a coordinated application date (usually early February) notification date (usually March) and procedure.  Reference letters, transcripts and cover letters will be requested when applying for Practicum III. 

Insurance

Work completed as part of required studies is covered under the Canadian Universities Reciprocal Insurance Exchange insurance policy. Practicum settings may request proof of this Insurance Certificate. This documentation can be arranged through the faculty instructor or the DCT.

Police Checks, Vaccination Coverage, and Tuberculosis Clearance

Many practicum settings require that all regular and visiting personnel have a criminal record check with a vulnerable sector screen, proof of vaccination coverage/history, and certificate of being free of tuberculosis. Policies vary from setting to setting and may change from one year to the next. Students must determine what the policies are at the setting and ensure that appropriate documentation is submitted in advance of beginning the practicum.

Registering in Practica

Registration in each practicum course requires the consent and initials of the faculty instructor or Clinic Director (depending on the course).  It is students’ responsibility to supply the instructor of these courses with the appropriate Add Form. Once a practicum setting and supervisor has been determined, the student completes three copies of the Practicum Agreement Form: one for the onsite supervisor, one for the Clinic Director, and one to keep for their records.

Students must register for a practicum before undertaking any clinical work. Clinical work undertaken while the student is not registered for practicum will not count as program sanctioned hours. This is to ensure that appropriate experiences and a suitable supervisor are in place for optimal clinical training.

With respect to practicum work at the CPS, students must register for PSYC*7991 for any type of work that may affect clients including shadowing cases and intake duties.  Registration must be done in paper format and not through Web Advisor. The Graduate Secretary will assist students with getting the proper form and signatures before submitting the registration to Graduate Program Services. There is no charge for adding a course after the add period as long as the student is currently registered for the semester.

Practicum Responsibilities

Responsibilities of the Student

Students are responsible for establishing training goals and objectives and monitoring their experience in conjunction with their supervisors. At minimum, progress toward these goals should be discussed with the supervisor at the mid-point and at the end of the practicum. Students must also keep a record of their hours and activities and submit these to their practicum supervisor for approval and signature. The Department also subscribes to the software program Time2Track to facilitate tracking practicum experiences and students are required to use it for their benefit and also so that their clinical training hours can be cumulatively tracked by the DCT and Clinic Director. Students are expected to resolve issues in a professional manner and to seek advice from their supervisors should any difficulties arise. Students are also able to bring any issues related to their clinical training to the DCT and/or Clinic Director for discussion.

Responsibilities of Onsite Clinical Supervisors

Clinical supervisors should provide students with information on the policies and procedures for the setting, as well as identify particular professional and legislative standards that apply. Ongoing feedback should be provided to the student through scheduled supervision. Based on the ASPPB Guidelines for Practicum Experience (October 2008) face-to-face supervision is to be provided for no less than 25% of the time the student spends in service-related activities. In addition as per the CPA Accreditation Standards, on average, one hour of face-to-face supervision is to be provided for every two hours of direct, face-to face client work. Supervision is expected to follow the students’ levels of competency. Typically, more supervision is required when students undertake new or more complex tasks. For example, students at earlier stages of training or undertaking new responsibilities on practica may require more intensive supervision ratios. Client work may also result in other service related activities such as report writing, scoring, progress notes, and classroom observations that also require supervision. In addition, supervisors should expect to be contacted one or two times by the faculty member responsible for evaluating the training experience to discuss the student’s progress.

At the conclusion of the practicum, the supervisor completes an evaluation form regarding the student’s competencies, recommends future training goals, discusses this with the student, and verifies that the documentation of hours and experiences compiled by the student is accurate. At any point during the practicum, supervisors are to convey any serious or immediate concerns regarding the student’s practicum work to the faculty instructor identified on the Practicum Agreement Form or the DCT.

Responsibilities of the Course Instructor

Currently, the Clinic Director is responsible for coordination and evaluation of PSYC*7991, PSYC*7992, and PSYC*7993 whereas a clinical faculty member is responsible for PSYC*7994. The instructor assists students in locating and setting up practica. Once a practicum supervisor is determined, the instructor invites the supervisor to submit their CV and then forwards this to the graduate secretary along with the student’s name and anticipated start and end supervision dates requesting that the supervisor be nominated to Clinical Associated Graduate Faculty.

The faculty instructor is also responsible for monitoring the progress and experiences of students while on practica and helping to resolve any problems that might arise. Monitoring is typically handled through a combination of scheduled cohort meetings and one-to-one consultation. Following the Guidelines of Council of Chairs for Training Councils Voluntary Guidelines for Communication between Graduate Program and Internships, the faculty instructor should make 1-2 informal (telephone or email) contacts with the site supervisor to elaborate on or answer any questions on the nature of the program and expectations for supervision and accountability and to monitor student progress. In cases in which a site supervisor expresses concerns over a student, the instructor is to document these concerns as they are conveyed, address them with the student, and follow-up with the on-site supervisor accordingly. These communications should be brought to DCT’s attention.

At the end of the practicum, the instructor is to write each supervisor thanking them on behalf of the CCAP Program for their contribution. The instructor also ensures that all practicum documentation for each student is complete and signed and that the final grade is submitted. Practicum documentation for each student is to be collated, provided to the graduate secretary for entry into the database, and then placed in the student’s practicum file. This file may be periodically reviewed by the DCT and Clinic Director.  The PhD Qualifying Exam takes place following completion of PSYC*7993. At this time, the Clinic Director utilizes the information in the student practicum file to write a summary and recommendation as to whether the student demonstrates clinical competency commensurate with a senior PhD student.  This letter will be weighed when making overall decisions about student PhD candidature.

Responsibilities of the Director of Clinical Training:

It is the responsibility of the DCT to consult with the Clinic Director who coordinates PSYC*7991, PSYC*7992, and PSYC*7993 and with the course instructor for PSYC*7994 to be aware of the progress made by students in the various practica. The DCT meets with individual students as needed to address any questions/concerns about progression in the program including practica. The DCT will also be available for consultation about professional and ethical matters pertaining to the practica and to ensure that the accreditation standards of CPA are adhered to.

Practicum Credit

Evaluation

The faculty instructor in conjunction with the clinical supervisor decides whether the regular practicum evaluation form or the short practicum evaluation form should be used, depending on the nature of the student’s involvement on practicum. Students are graded on a pass/fail basis by the faculty instructor based on written evaluation and verbal feedback from the clinical on-site supervisor. Practicum evaluations are reviewed by the Clinic Director at various times to gain an overview of student progress and provide guidance for future training experiences, as well as to provide a summary of clinical competence as part of the PhD Qualifying Examination. Unethical, irresponsible, incompetent behaviour in practicum activities that is egregious (e.g., harming a client) and/or which continues after explicit corrective feedback to the student would likely be grounds for failure in a practicum course. Should a student fail a practicum, the CCAP area will review the case to determine a recommendation that may range from remedial work to withdrawal from the program.

Incomplete Practica

On rare occasions, typically due to circumstances beyond student control (e.g., personal illness, strikes, changes in clients) a student may not be able to complete sufficient practicum work or gain enough experience to be evaluated within the semester in which they are registered for a practicum. In such cases, the faculty supervisor in consultation with the on-site clinical supervisor may deem the course to be incomplete and the student receives an interim grade of Incomplete (INC) on their end of current semester transcript. Automatically, the student carries the practicum into the next registered semester and should not re-register for the practicum.

In the following registered semester, with the exception of extraordinary circumstances, the practicum must be completed and the appropriate paperwork submitted to the faculty instructor as per Practicum Responsibilities above. An evaluation of satisfactory or unsatisfactory will be assigned by the faculty instructor, replacing the INC on the student’s transcript.

Funding

To prevent dual relationships and ensure focus of all practica is centred on student learning, program-sanctioned practica are unpaid clinical training experiences. 

Currently our program will review and occasionally grant permission for a site to offer a small honorarium to students to defray the expenses associated with training (e.g., travel, parking). If the practicum setting is able to offer this one-time amount, it should be provided to the student directly and should first be discussed with and approved by the DCT.