Match Day: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

For doctoral students in clinical, counseling, and school psychology who are applying for internship for the 2014/2015 training year, today is the day that many have stressed over and dreaded since they began the application process last summer.

For many, the overwhelming sensation will be one of relief. However, for others the reality of their match results will be more complicated. Perhaps they matched to a site that will require a move away from their families. Even worse, a critical mass of students will not match at all. They will feel heartbroken, shocked, and angry.

The internship crisis remains one of the biggest challenges for psychology graduate students. While trainees must secure a doctoral internship to meet the requirements for graduation and licensure, there are simply not enough positions to go around. The crisis is even more severe when the number of accredited positions is considered.

2014 Data

Today’s preliminary match statistics show the following:

  • 4,335 students entered the match, with 3,974 completing the process and submitting a rank-order list
  • 3,501 positions were available through the match, with 2,588 of those positions accredited
  • 3,173 students matched to any internship site, with only 2,474 matching to an accredited internship site

This makes the 2014 match rate for doctoral students to an APA- or CPA- accredited internship 62%. This is unacceptable.

2014 Internship Match Day Blog - screensot w refsThe Crisis Lives On

While this year’s numbers are an improvement from last year, the number of trainees who did not match to an accredited internship position should be of grave concern to the training community. Students from accredited doctoral programs in good standing, who have been deemed ready and qualified to obtain an internship position, should be able to do so.

There is also much more to the internship crisis than the match rate. Qualitative data from APPIC’s 2011 survey on the internship imbalance found that, for students with both positive and negative outcomes, the internship process was experienced as being “extremely stressful,” “overwhelming,” “inhuman,” “demoralizing,” and “traumatizing.” When asked how they felt on match day, responses ranged from “defeated,” “angry,” and “betrayed” to “heartbroken” and “devastated.” The system, with significantly fewer positions than the number of students seeking an internship, takes a substantial emotional toll on applicants.

Things need to change. Now.

APAGS’s Response

APAGS cares deeply about the internship crisis, and it has remained a top priority for the committee over the past several years. Along with key stakeholders in the training community, APAGS continues to tirelessly advocate for solutions to ameliorate the imbalance. Here are some highlights on what is being done:

  • In 2012, APA passed the Internship Stimulus Package, which provided $3 million in grant funding to increase the number of accredited internship positions.
  • APAGS regularly advocates for increased funding for doctoral training through the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) program and the Health Research Services Administration (HRSA).
  • Working with state psychological associations, APAGS is advocating for interns’ services to become eligible for Medicaid and insurance reimbursement (which could potentially create a sustainable source of funding for creating new positions).
  • Most importantly, APAGS is leading an effort with doctoral training councils to develop a thoughtful and comprehensive plan to solve the internship crisis.

Moving Forward

Unfortunately, change has been slow. The internship crisis is a systemic and multifaceted problem that will require complex solutions to eradicate. However, there are several things that you, as a trainee, can do to help solve the problem.

  • Encourage your doctoral program to create an affiliated internship or develop internship positions in the community. Programs, in this way, would contribute positions and not just applicants to the pool, and would be able to create placements for a number of their own students.
  • Participate in advocacy efforts at both the federal and state level, on issues that affect funding for training and reimbursement options.
  • Finally, APAGS welcomes the input and collaboration of passionate individuals on this important issue. Consider writing a blog post that features your thoughts and ideas.

If you were one of the students who was able to match to an internship today, congratulations. We hope you can celebrate and enjoy your accomplishment. If you were unable to match this time around, please know that you have support. APAGS has resources for students who did not match. As fellow students, it is important to support our colleagues during this time. The internship crisis is a stressful and grueling process for all involved. Many well-qualified and exceptional students do not match through no fault of their own. The system is broken. If we all continue to work together as students and advocates, change is possible. But we must fight for it, fight together, and fight now.

Join the conversation! Please comment.