Doctoral Internship: Aims, Philosophy and Model

The aims of the internship program at Appalachian State University are:

  1. to prepare interns for generalist practice in health services psychology, and
  2. to assist interns in the development of a professional identity that includes the integration of evidence-based practice, professional behavior, ethical practice, and sensitivity to/appreciation of individual and cultural differences.

The staff of the Counseling Center holds the following principles which underlie the training of doctoral psychology interns:

  1. The competent practice of health service psychology entails the development of advanced skills in a broad range of generalist activities.
  2. Competent practice must involve modification within different groups to meet individual and culturally diverse needs.
  3. Psychological practice is based on the science of psychology.
  4. The emergence of a health service psychologist is the culmination of a developmental process which begins prior to internship training and extends beyond the completion of the internship.
  5. Psychologists should exhibit a high degree of professionalism.

These principles form the basis for the practice of health service psychology by the staff of the agency and therefore the training philosophy maintains consistency with the mission, goals, and culture of the sponsor institution. The model of training is a "Practitioner-Developmental" model emphasizing the goal that interns will become highly competent practitioners through a developmental process.

Generalist Practice

A well-rounded health service psychologist is competent to independently and ethically practice a broad range of activities. Interns are therefore required to develop professional competence in the following areas:

  • Research
  • Adherence to ethical and legal standards
  • Individual and cultural diversity
  • Professional values, attitudes, and behaviors
  • Interpersonal skills and communication
  • Assessment
  • Intervention (including individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, and outreach)
  • Supervision
  • Consultation and interprofessional/interdisciplinary skills

The development of specialties in the above areas, or components of those areas, is permitted and encouraged, but may not take precedence over the development of competent practice in each of the required profession-wide competencies. It is expected that graduates of this internship will be prepared to practice psychology in a counseling center or similar setting.

Individual and Cultural Diversity

The competent practice of psychology must involve modification within groups and individuals to meet unique needs. Cultural differences, gender, sexual orientation, challenges for non-traditionally aged students, special needs of the physically disabled, as well as the unique concerns or issues that individuals may present, are all taken into consideration in the planning and implementation of services. Interns are expected to develop sensitivity, appreciation, and awareness of the needs of various groups and individuals and to be skilled in the implementation of interventions which appropriately address such needs.

Science of Psychology

The science of psychology provides the foundation from which psychology is competently practiced. Interns are required to increase their awareness of the theoretical and empirical underpinnings of their work and integrate this knowledge with locally-acquired information. This integrated knowledge guides practice. Additionally, interns are expected to develop skill in scholarly inquiry which will enable them to continually develop and maintain competence in an ever-changing scientific field.

Developmental Process

The "developmental" component of this model reflects the belief that the emergence of a professional psychologist is the culmination of a developmental process that is begun long before students reach their internship and will continue throughout their professional careers. As students attend graduate school in psychology, they are expected to develop beginning to intermediate skills in the understanding and practice of psychology. They may even develop advanced skills in many competency areas. The doctoral internship consists of an intensive experience in the supervised practice of psychology, accompanied by didactic training, which allows students to continue their development from an intermediate level to the advanced level that is required of a professional psychologist. This may involve further developing deficient skills, but in most situations involves advancing and refining already well-developed skills. The internship training consists of a sequence of training activities which allow for increased complexity and independence in practice as the intern progresses. Early in the training experience, interns are provided with extensive didactic training through an orientation program and are encouraged to observe staff psychologists in their work. Interns are closely supervised and are provided with considerable direction in defining internship goals and beginning their practice. As the internship progresses, interns are provided with less direction and are encouraged to act with increasing independence. Topics covered in the didactic training are revisited throughout the internship year, allowing them to address various issues at an increased level of complexity. By the end of internship, interns are expected to engage in collegial relationships with training staff and contribute to the training staff's ongoing learning as well. Interns are encouraged to recognize the need for continual learning throughout their careers.

Since interns enter this program with varied interests and skill levels in different competency areas, the approach to training is highly individualized, according to the developmental needs of each intern. Training and experience is provided in all of the competency areas that are critical to the development of psychologists, but each intern's experience is also tailored to meet the developmental needs and desires of the particular interns who participate in this program. Interns are encouraged to evaluate their own professional development and design an internship program for themselves, within a given structure, that will allow them to develop and refine their skills in those areas that they believe to be critical to their own development. This approach to training requires that trainees develop and value both personal and professional awareness, and are self-motivated to advance their growth as psychologists.


Psychologists should practice with a high degree of professionalism. Adherence to professionalism includes behaving in a legal and ethical manner, developing an awareness of "self" and its impact on others, contributing to a respectful work environment, being committed to self-directed continued learning, confidently practicing within competency areas, functioning responsibly and independently, identifying and managing one's own psychological issues, appropriately giving and receiving feedback, maintaining awareness and skill with individual and cultural diversity, and taking a scholarly approach to one's work.

The staff strive to provide a training and working environment that is supportive, respectful and relaxed; that is, an environment that will allow for optimal growth and health. There is a shared commitment to create an atmosphere conducive to professional and personal growth. The staff strives to provide practice and training experiences which create a challenging, intellectually stimulating, open environment where new ideas and skills can be explored and nurtured.

Emergency Services

The Counseling Center offers after-hours emergency coverage for urgent mental health concerns such as suicidal thoughts, sexual assault, and other trauma.  Call the Counseling Center at 828-262-3180 and select the option to speak with the counselor on-call.

For additional resources see our Emergency Services page.

Prevent Suicide Block