One of the more stressful times for many grad students is securing the first traineeship. Depending on the program that one is attending, the options being presented can take a variety of different forms. Some schools provide all the options up front to students, which comes with the risk of overwhelming students in decision fatigue. Other schools limit a first round of options to preferred sites, then release other suitable placements to students after the preferred sites are allowed to select their best choices. In this case, students are forced into a Monty Hall problem of either having to secure a site that they might not think is the best for them, but based on not knowing what the other choices might be, feel the obligation to commit based on having been given an offer. Others still don’t provide much direction at all and might provide a list of acceptable placement sites, but may not even do that much. Regardless of the way that the opportunities are presented, students are faced with a decision of deciding “Is this the best placement for me?”
Assuming that there is some guidance provided by the educational program, there is at least some oversight of the type of program that students are allowed to begin their practicum work. This oversight allows for at least some degree of safety in the type of supervision and clients that will be seen. Well-meaning advice given at this point in a trainee’s career will often sound like “Get experience with the kinds of clients that you want to see when you are practicing in the future.” While helpful for those who have a clear idea of their future plans, many students may not yet know what career track they will be choosing. Without a direction, it may be tempting to take any position that will take you, oftentimes based on what your previous work experience guides you to do. For example, trainees with backgrounds in childcare, teaching, or applied behavior analysis may find themselves easily applying to and accepting positions that work with child clients. But the question that needs to be asked is “Is this something that adds to my resume, or does it merely just reinforce what I can already do?”
Each person’s situation is going to answer that situation differently, which is to say that there is not a universal correct answer. The subsequent placement is what ends up determining many people’s career paths, often times after graduation. This placement should work to address clinical concerns that were not addressed in the primary placement, whether it be by population, theoretical style, or some other factor. For the best future career prospects, having a rounded out clinical resume allows for the best variety of future positions available.
Even for the students with the best laid out career plans, having a rounded out resume helps to have the most options open in the future. Life changes can be unpredictable and may make someone with a plan to enter into private practice need to readily move into agency work. Positions that require in-depth training are often geared toward earlier career therapists, and therapists coming in with several years of licensure may find themselves looking at positions are relatively underpaid given their experience. Being able to rely on even a distant history of working with a clinical population allows for therapists to bolster their future opportunities.
In other words…you may feel pressured to pursue and accept the “best” traineeship, but make sure that it fits your plans as the best one for you and your situation. If it doesn’t, the pathway to being licensed is long enough that you can and should pursue a few different opportunities.