Practicum training is a term used in the field of mental health to describe supervised training activities performed by mental health students in a clinical or research setting, in conjunction with academic learning. Usually categorized under assessment, intervention or research, there are several types of practicum training that depend on the student’s emphasis of study as it relates to mental health. Students who participate in practicum training are usually in their second year of a master's level degree program and are often supervised by pre-doctoral interns who typically report to a licensed mental health professional. Such programs aim to prepare students for study at the doctoral level and to function competently with the application of mental health principles in a clinical setting. Training settings vary, with many located in community mental hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, psychiatric centers and school-based environments.
Encompassing a wide range of applications in the mental health field, practicum training is usually categorized under three main divisions: assessment, intervention and research. Some programs are designed to specifically focus on one division, while others may focus on a combination of the divisions, or all three. Assessment practicums will focus on administering a variety of assessments within the student’s mental health specialty, where intervention practicums will focus on planning and administering treatment strategies for mental health related illness within a specialty or across a range of specialties. Research practicums will focus on conducting research in a specific field of study, usually on a topic of interest to the student. Many practicum training programs, however, will incorporate training in all three components to provide students will a well-rounded application of academic knowledge.
Fields of mental health that make consistent use of practicum training include several disciplines of psychology, counseling, oncology, psychotherapy, social work and psychiatry. Students will often directly perform tasks related to assessment, intervention or research. Activities may include counseling, conducting experiments, directing research efforts, performing assessments, analyzing results of assessments, planning treatment programs, managing mental health cases, and administering mental health treatments. Tasks often take place in both individual settings and group settings.
A diverse range of practicum training programs are available to students in the mental health field, with a few universities offering multiple programs to meet the needs of a student’s specialty of study. Some major hospitals may offer programs as well and tend to cater to more health-related mental health disciplines, such as neuropsychology or oncology. Application to a specific program of interest will usually require contacting the practicum training provider directly and submitting an application along with requested qualifications.