One of the biggest difficulties faced by international students is getting the necessary funding to pursue a graduate degree in psychology. After all the struggles of applying – getting the GRE, TOEFL, letters of recommendation, and personal statements – you’ll likely want a site that will fund you, especially given international students are not typically eligible for financial assistance or loans in the United States.
This can put some international students in a conundrum – between what they are able to do, what they would like to do, and what the department would like them to do. Most international students would like to have a well-rounded experience, developing their practical, teaching, and research skills. At the same time, they are not usually able to work outside of their department, and cannot be funded by federal grants. This leads international students to find departmental funding – which mostly means being a TA.
As a part of their graduate coursework, all students in the applied psychology fields (clinical, counseling, and school psychology) are required to obtain clinical training. International students in these graduate programs often experience unique challenges in their training to become mental health professionals. In addition to problems typically experienced by their domestic counterparts, they face unique challenges such as adjusting to a new culture and, for many, learning to conduct therapy in a new language (Mittal & Wieling, 2006). These language and cultural barriers affect more than just the academic, counseling, and supervision experiences of these trainees; they take a toll on stress-levels, health, and well-being (Nilsson, 2007).
Although international students face several challenges on their clinical work when compared to U.S.-domestic counterparts, they can provide a unique perspective that might help them provide more culturally sensitive counseling. It is important to look at ways in which international trainees can be supported in developing their clinical skills and address their own needs and concerns. Here are some ways that international students can overcome challenges in clinical work: