The Counselling Centre

Please Note: The Counselling Centre will not be taking on a Practicum Student for the 2017-2018 year.

The Counselling Centre at Saint Mary’s University
Practicum Program for
Professional Counsellors / Psychologists

The Counselling Centre at Saint Mary’s University provides a comprehensive practicum training experience for masters level graduate students in Clinical Psychology, Counselling Psychology, and Educational Psychology programs.

The program recognizes that prospective students bring with them a wide variety of educational and counselling experiences and is committed to providing placements that not only meet the needs of our clients (students at Saint Mary’s University), but also the training needs of practicum students.

To promote the development of professional counsellors and psychologists, students are offered opportunities to provide a wide range of services in a professional and supportive environment that values the unique skills and experiences of the counsellor-in-training.

While the primary focus is on providing one-to-one counselling for personal issues, students may have opportunities to pursue other counselling-related interests that could benefit our clients (for example, by offering a psychoeducational workshop on an issue relevant to the university population). Students seeking specific training and learning experiences will be accommodated when possible.

Practicum Students as Part of a Team

Practicum students will become part of the counselling team at Saint Mary’s University and will be able to contribute to numerous activities offered throughout the academic year (for example, on-campus training for Residence Assistants, professional development workshops, case consultation and promotional activities, etc.).

Supervision

Supervision is considered to be of critical importance to a positive training experience and in developing increased confidence in one’s skills and abilities.

Supervision will generally focus on the student’s ongoing work with personal clients but will also cover specialized focus topics and readings (for example, establishing rapport, assessing suicidality, guidelines for effective progress notes, self-care, working with diverse populations, ethical practice, etc.).

Students will be assigned a primary supervisor but may also receive supervision and consultation time from other staff members – thereby providing considerable breadth in this component of the training experience.

Theoretical Orientation

Our service offers short-term counselling (up to 8 sessions) for a wide variety of issues and as such, generally adopts a cognitive-behavioral or solution-focused approach emphasizing action, change, client independence, initiative, and responsibility. However, our staff members are experienced with a variety of additional models (e.g., person-centered, psychodynamic, motivational-interviewing) and often provide service and supervision using an integrated theoretical approach.

Clients

  • All clients are registered students at Saint Mary’s University from all over the world.
  • Clients are 16 years of age and older. Although we do see mature students in their 30s, 40s, 50s, the vast majority of our clients are between the ages of 17 to 25.
  • Although family members are occasionally involved in the counselling process, family counselling is not provided. Couples counselling is provided but will not be part of the practicum. The position does not offer training in formal assessment (e.g., cognitive, intellectual, or LD assessments).
  • Clients present with a wide range of clinical issues including depression, anxiety, stress management, anger, relationship issues, family difficulties, sexuality, grief and loss, suicidality, procrastination and motivation, eating disorders, self-esteem, shyness, identity issues, cultural adjustment, body image, and occasionally more serious mental disorders such as psychosis and schizophrenia.
  • In general, practicum students find that working with a university population is a rewarding experience as the clients have a positive view of counselling, are highly verbal and often very insightful, come from diverse backgrounds, and are generally motivated to make changes in their lives.

Setting

The Counselling Centre is part of Student Services at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Student Services also includes Career Services, Student Health Services, The Student Employment Centre, and many other departments focused on meeting the needs of students and helping them to excel both academically and personally. Opportunities for collaboration and co-operation with other departments are common. For example, this may include working with Student Health Services, Residence, or Career Services to provide multi-faceted interventions with clients.

The Counselling Centre is located on the fourth floor of the Student Centre – a centrally located building on campus and a very active place during the regular semester.

Duration, Hours, and Holidays

The practicum training program will operate from the last week of August until the end of April (approximately 32 weeks). We believe that it is very advantageous for students to gain experience for an extended period during the academic year. Doing so provides the opportunity to take on longer-term clients, explore individual counselling-related interests, develop close working relationships with colleagues, and participate in ongoing activities and services throughout the placement.

Practicum students will work 2-3 full days per week. We will attempt to accommodate student preferences with regard to preferred working days – although exact preferences may not always be possible.

The Counselling Centre is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday to Friday until the end of May. During the summer months our working hours are from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM.

The Counselling Centre is closed for holidays, and also for several university-specific holidays throughout the year. The University is closed from late December to early January (i.e., practicum students are not expected to work during the Christmas holidays).

Caseload

Practicum students will not carry a full caseload at the beginning of their placement. As they become more comfortable and gain more experience, they will increase their caseload to a maximum of four clients per day.

By the end of the 32 week placement, students who work two days per week will have accumulated 200 – 250 hours of direct 1:1 client contact in therapy. Students who work three days per week will have accumulated 300 - 350 hours of direct 1:1 client contact in therapy.

When not seeing clients, students will also accumulate additional hours via other activities during the placement (see below). A two day placement will provide a practicum experience with approximately 450 total hours (1:1 direct contact hours + other relevant activities). A three day placement will provide a practicum experience with approximately 650 total hours (1:1 direct contact hours + other relevant activities).

Responsibilities & Activities

  • During the first two weeks, prepare specific learning objective and goals for the placement
  • Provide 6 – 11 hours of individual counselling per week
  • Active engagement in at least 2 hours of individual supervision per week. Among other responsibilities, this involves adequate file review and preparing topics / questions / issues for discussion.
  • Audio review of client sessions before and during supervision
  • Review assigned readings which may be required for specialized topics in supervision
  • As necessary, review recommended readings to prepare for ongoing work with clients
  • Timely and professional case note reporting
  • If time permits, the student may be involved in the development of other programs and activities offered by The Counselling Centre (e.g., workshops, community resource guides, wellness activities, delivery of mental health information for residence, website resources, promotional work, etc.)

Requirements for Applicants

  • Enrollment in a Masters level clinical psychology, counselling psychology or educational psychology program
  • Mastery of basic counselling skills (for example, building rapport, assessing client needs, case conceptualization, developing a treatment plan, crisis management, assessing risk for suicide, etc.)
  • An eight month commitment (Late August – April)
  • Completion of graduate level “Intervention” class or equivalent (“in progress” may also be acceptable)

Application Package

Your application package should include:

  1. Letter of interest in the practicum placement at The Counselling Centre
  2. Curriculum Vitae or Resume
  3. One letter of reference – ideally from individuals who can comment on your counselling skills, professionalism, ability to work as part of a team, and potential as a  therapist
  4. Undergraduate and graduate transcripts

Applications should be submitted to:

Sarah Morris, Assistant Director, Student Services
The Counselling Centre, Saint Mary’s University
923 Robie Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3H 3C3


If you have any questions, please feel free to email sarah.morris@smu.ca.