How can I find a counseling internship and complete my degree?

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family and couples counselingIrene at Long Island University – Hudson asked:

“I’m planning on completing my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy, but I’m required to find an internship in order to graduate. I’ve submitted dozens of applications, requested assistance from my school, and even used my Master’s in Gerontology to widen my opportunities, but to no avail. How can I find an internship and finish my degree on time?”

Thank you for your question, Irene. Your situation is not uncommon in counseling and care programs across the country. Students are often left in charge of finding their own practicum opportunities, and may feel lost, confused, or left out in the cold. There are ways to improve your chances of finding a great internship, even when it seems like you’ve exhausted all your leads.

Go off the books.

Your school will likely have an approved list of sites that have taken students from your school before. As a result, these sites will probably be inundated with applicants in your exact situation, and it may be wise to avoid them. Dig around for yourself, and find possible internships sites that may not be mentioned on any recommendation list.

Searching for a site on your own does have it’s risks though, since your school cannot guarantee your free-labor won’t be taken advantage of. It’s up to you to be your own advocate, watch out for yourself, your education, and your best interests.

Network with your professors and faculty.

Professors in your program are likely Marriage and Family Counselors themselves, and may have room for an intern in their practice. If not, they likely have connections with other practicing counselors, and may be able to give you some leads or drop your name with a colleague. Even if your professors cannot help you find a practicum, getting your name out there in the counseling community can only help you.

It’s important to avoid dual-relationship situations: your boss is also your teacher, or your employee is also your student. You do not want your performance at the internship to impact how your professor grades your papers, so ask professors who are not currently your instructors, or insist on a recommendation to another therapist out side of your school.

Network with your professional associations.

Now is the time to lay the ground for your professional networking. Practicing counselors may be your future colleagues and coworkers, and this is the best time to get your name out there. Associations like American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, or National Council on Family Relations often hold continuing education programs on the local, regional and national level which you can attend at a reduced Student price, and can include on your resume.

Find local chapters of professional associations in your area, research their websites (which often include job posting boards) and reach out to local professionals. Use your informational interviewing skills to pick their brains, learn how they began their practice, and begin building professional connections.

People are more likely to hire people they know, and if they can connect a face to your name, you immediately stand out from other applicants.

Best of luck out there,


About the Author

Esme Smith

Esme received her M.A. In Counseling from St. Edward's University, and worked with students at Concordia University Texas' Career Center. She developed a passion for Career Counseling after leaving undergrad without much guidance, and grappling with unsatisfying work. She strives to help others bridge the gap between graduation and "the real world."

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