Internship Program Overview

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services’ Office of Forensic Mental Health ServicesInternship group Doctoral Psychology Internship Program, formerly known as the Western State Hospital Internship Program, is accredited by the American Psychological Association. The program was provisionally accredited by APA in 1986, and fully accredited in 1989. The most recent site visit by APA was conducted in summer of 2016. The next scheduled site visit will be in the 2023 training year. The Internship Program follows the practitioner-scholar model. The APA Commission on Accreditation can be reached at 750 First St. NE, Washington, DC 20002, (202) 336-5979.

The training year runs from August 1 through July 31. Each intern is expected to complete three four-month rotations and a program evaluation project. Rotation sites include the Gage Center of Forensic Excellence, OFMHS inpatient and outpatient units, Psychiatric Treatment and Recovery Center, Fort Steilacoom Competency Restoration Program, and Child Study and Treatment Center — all located on the grounds of Western State Hospital — as well as the Special Commitment Center. The rotation selection is intended to balance individual intern interests and training needs. Opportunities are available for year-long provision of supervised individual and group psychotherapy.

 

Training Philosophy

The OFMHS Internship Program seeks to train interns for independent psychological practice by exposing them to a wide spectrum of patients with severe psychiatric disorders, promoting a mentoring relationship with senior professionals, and combining psychological practice with didactic learning. Because OFMHS has a forensic focus, the internship has a forensic focus. However, it is the belief of the internship committee that training must solidify an intern’s preparation to work as a general practitioner, not exclusive to a forensic practice.

 

Goals and Objectives

Our training goals are twofold. First, we aim to educate interns in the specific knowledge and skills necessary to prepare them for independent professional practice as a psychologist. This goal is achieved by providing training in the treatment of people with a wide variety of psychological problems, understanding and choosing from various interventions for a given population, performing competent assessments for the courts and for treatment purposes, and soliciting appropriate consultation. Second, we engender core professional attitudes and abilities that will enable interns to function in a professional and ethical manner, conduct appropriate supervision with practicum students, and appreciate the role of individual and cultural differences within the field of psychology.

 

Applicant Requirements

DSHS is committed to providing high quality training experiences for interns. Only those applicants from APA-accredited clinical or counseling psychology programs are considered for internship positions. Applicants from standalone forensic psychology programs will not be considered, as these programs are not APA-accredited. Applicants from forensic psychology programs that are affiliated with APA-accredited clinical or counseling programs will not be considered.

Three years of graduate work and at least 500 hours of practicum experience are required prior to the internship year, with a minimum of 300 intervention hours and 100 assessment hours. Applicants of diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Applications from graduate programs outside the United States will not be considered at this time due to the limitations for retention beyond the internship year posed by the J-1 visa for non-U.S. students.

Application materials include:

  • The APPIC application form
  • Current curriculum vitae and graduate transcript
  • The academic program's Verification of Internship Eligibility and Readiness section of the application, signed by the director of training
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • A copy of a redacted psychological evaluation

A DSHS background check is required after interns have been matched with our site but before internship contracts are signed. This form includes information regarding prior criminal convictions or charges pending for any crimes. The background check also addresses a history of physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, or neglect of any person, a question regarding termination or revocation of contracts or licenses to provide care, and any court-issued protection orders. No contract will be signed with interns who fail to pass the background check. If an intern matched to us wants to work at the Child Study and Treatment Center or the Community Forensic Evaluation Service, further background checks are required prior to starting those rotations. The CFES background checks relate to entries into jails, and interns are required to provide information as to whether they have ever been charged with any crime, ever had a relationship with anyone who has been incarcerated, or ever bought, used, or distributed illegal substances.

 

Salary/Benefits

Interns are Washington state employees and receive a 12-month stipend of $46,500 for 2,000 hours of work, as well as vacation, sick leave, and access to state health care plans.

Financial and Other Benefit Support for Upcoming Training Year*

Annual Stipend/Salary for Full-time Interns  46,500
Annual Stipend/Salary for Half-time Interns 0
Program provides access to medical insurance for intern? Yes  
If access to medical insurance is provided:  
Trainee contribution to cost required? Yes  
Coverage of family member(s) available? Yes  
Coverage of legally married partner available? Yes  
Coverage of domestic partner available? Yes  
Hours of Annual Paid Personal Time Off (PTO and/or Vacation)  
Hours of Annual Paid Sick Leave   
In the event of medical conditions and/or family needs that require extended leave, does the program allow reasonable unpaid leave to interns/residents in excess of personal time off and sick leave?  Yes  
Other Benefits (please describe): Washington State benefits
     
*Note. Programs are not required by the Commission on Accreditation to provide all benefits listed in this table

Internship Program Admissions

Date Program Tables are updated:

 
Does the program require that applicants have received a minimum number of hours of the following at time of application? If Yes, indicate how many:
Total Direct Contact Intervention Hours   Y Amount: 300
Total Direct Contact Assessment Hours   Y Amount: 100
                 
Describe any other required minimum criteria used to screen applicants:
 

Experiences

Water sceneryInterns are allowed flexibility in structuring their activities during the year. Opportunities for supervision and training can be unique, varied, and adapted to suit different interests and training needs. Interns are free to explore rotations on any ward where a supervisor is available, and may obtain experience in the following areas:

  • Evaluation of social, cognitive, psychological, behavioral and organic factors in psychopathology. Training in clinical interviewing, and in the use of structured and unstructured psychological assessment techniques is provided. Among the assessment issues considered are diagnosis, suicide risk, effects of trauma, amenability to treatment, dangerousness, need for involuntary commitment, and potential for recidivism.
  • Report writing and communication skills. Effective written and verbal skills are important in communicating useful treatment recommendations to other colleagues, other professionals (e.g., court) and to patients. Interns are responsible for administering and interpreting psychological test batteries and preparing written reports during each rotation.
  • Individual and group psychotherapy. Therapeutic approaches used by psychology staff members include behavior modification, cognitive-behavioral methods (e.g., dialectical behavior therapy, motivational interviewing, illness management and recovery), crisis intervention, trauma resolution, and skills building. Interns are expected to use these and other evidence-based treatments, as appropriate, to facilitate growth and recovery.
  • Consultation. Interns will be provided opportunities to collaborate with multidisciplinary treatment teams. Intern responsibilities as a team member will include consultation regarding diagnosis, treatment plan formulation and implementation, management of difficult behaviors, and discharge planning.
  • Forensic psychology. The interface between psychology and the legal system is prominent at Western State Hospital because most patients are involuntarily committed under civil or criminal commitment statutes. Psychologists serve as expert witnesses to the court for determining the patient's danger to self, danger to others, and/or grave disability in cases of involuntary civil commitment; and determination of competency to stand trial and criminal responsibility for cases involving forensic commitment. Interns will assist psychologists in various methods of evaluation, including standard psychological assessments, forensic assessment instruments and other testing related to psychological evaluations (e.g., response style/malingering measures). Interns also assist in preparing affidavits and reports for the court and have the opportunity to observe expert testimony and participate in our annual mock trial.
  • Clinical research. Interns are encouraged to pursue their independent research interests and/or to participate in ongoing research projects. Up to 10% of the intern's time is available for research and may be used for dissertation work.

 

Didactics

Assessment Seminar. The assessment seminar is a biweekly series designed to help interns gain familiarity and proficiency in using assessment tools in various areas relevant to the practice of clinical and forensic psychology. We strive to adapt the seminar each year to meet the unique training needs of the interns. In recent years, our interns have expressed primary interest in forensic assessment instruments; however, we are committed to ensuring coverage of as wide of a range of instruments as the year permits. To that point, invited speakers specializing in a broader range of topics have participated in past seminars.

The assessment seminar aims to improve interns’ understanding of considerations for selecting a testing battery as well as their ability to think critically about the measures and how to incorporate testing into forensic case conceptualization. In general, the assessment seminar is broken down into a few sections/topic areas of interest across the training year (e.g., competency to stand trial, malingering and symptom validity, risk assessment, etc.). For each measure, we cover the basic administration and scoring guidelines, as well as information about the reliability and validity of the measure. We also spend time discussing and understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each measure — particularly within the context of a forensic inpatient population. Throughout the year, interns will work together to complete a testing database of the measures covered in the seminar. By the end of the year, they will also have created a semi-structured interview for an assessment type of their choice (e.g., competency to stand trial, violence risk, etc.). Finally, the interns create templates for the covered measures that can be used when using the various testing instruments in future practice.

Case Law Seminar. The case law seminar is a biweekly series that focuses on federal and state case law pertaining to the practice of forensic psychology and psychiatry in the legal system. The seminar is intended to complement the Forensic Seminar by focusing on the legal precedents that dictate our interactions with the court. Cases covered include landmark cases in the suggested reading list from the American Academy of Forensic Psychology, as well as Washington state-specific cases. Participants will gain practice in reading and summarizing case law, learn from professionals with varied experiences in the field, and complete the seminar series with a collection of case briefs that can serve as reference/study materials.

Forensic Seminar. This weekly seminar addresses a wide range of basic to advanced topics related to forensic practice, forensic research, and professional ethics. Topics follow the specialty training the American Board of Professional Psychology reading and focus list. Seminars are three hours long and provide a deep dive into the historical progression, critical conceptual underpinnings, associated case law, and recent research of each topic. Presentations are given by local as well as national experts. Previous speakers have included Stan Brodsky, Sarah Desmarais, Stephen Hart and Richard Rogers.

Internship Seminar. The internship seminar is a biweekly series of presentations on topics pertaining to general clinical practice (e.g., psychological disorders, case formulation; treatment modalities; psychological assessment) and professional development. Presenters consist of WSH and OFMHS staff, as well as outside providers. Topics include ethics, diversity, licensure, private practice, and psychopharmacology.

Program Evaluation. Interns are required to participate in a program evaluation project, supervised by OFMHS staff. Program evaluation is distinct from research in that it focuses on the processes, implementation, and outcomes of a system- or facility-wide program, and as such, program evaluation may be a new experience for some interns.

Interns will collaboratively complete a project, the scope of which will be defined in consultation with supervisors at the beginning of the training year. Interns will meet with supervisors on a biweekly basis to discuss the progression of the project, to learn about issues relevant to program evaluation, and to discuss relevant readings. At the end of the training year, although projects are not required to be completed in total (as some projects are multi-year endeavors), interns will prepare a presentation, to be given to the training committee and other interested stakeholders, regarding their progress and any findings.