Archive for January, 2011

Last Interview

I had my final internship interview today. Piece of cake. Here’s the info.

Site 10 – Phone Interview – VA Medical Center

I interviewed at this site on-site last year. They have a strong inpatient/outpatient PTSD program and strong Neuropsych program. They offer Biofeedback, EMDR, and hypnosis and I’m guaranteed inpatient experience. Nothing about this program really stands out other than it is a solid training experience.

Pros: PTSD + Neuro + Biofeedback

Cons: Lots and lots of assessment. Perhaps too much for my taste.

Best question asked of me: Tell me about your practicum experiences. Really, like you haven’t ready my stuff already?

That’s it. That’s all 10 sites. Gonna rank and move on with my life. I got a dissertation to work on now.


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Last week was my second interview trip. I visited two sites and spent time with Maggie and friends. There were fun times and frustrating times, but overall, I consider the trip a success. Site info and highlights to follow:

Site 8 – On-Site Interview – VA Medical Center

It took forever to get there, but I’m glad I made the trip. I encountered a  lot of travel problems enroute to this site (see previous post) and following my arrival in NH, I had to drive 90 miles to my hotel in VT. I’m talking speed limit 45 due to the icy mess that was the road with cops posted every mile or so to catch you for speeding. I’m talking arriving at my hotel at 1:30 in the morning for a 7:45 am interview time. But hey, I got a nice rental car. 2011 Ford Edge with heated leather seats, Sirius radio, AWD traction control, and only 4.5 miles on it (I was the first to drive it). Hella gas guzzler, but fun to drive.

The site was nice. Moderately sized campus,  as VA campuses go. The site offers pretty much everything I’m interested in in an internship site, including PTSD emphasis (with a connection to the National Center for PTSD), inpatient experience, broad assessment opportunities (including neuro and Rorschach), and outpatient opportunities at a local university counseling center. They also offer intensive training in Cognitive Behavioral and Brief Psychodynamic therapies. I knew going into it that this program would be intense and the interns confirmed it. One of the highlights of the trip was that I was interviewed by the executive director of the National Center for PTSD and, whatmore, he was intrigued by my dissertation topic.

Pros: Lots and lots of stuff that I want. I like that I get to try new things and challenge myself and I know that I will get good training at this site. There are a lot of unique opportunities at this site and it sounds like I’ll have some flexibility with my cases.

Cons: Less flexibility than other sites. Very intense 50-55 hr/wk program. Cost of living is moderately high, but hey, it’s New England, so the cost of living is high pretty much everywhere.

Best question asked of me: Nothing really out of the ordinary. I got grilled a bit on my theoretical orientation, but I used that as an opportunity to talk about their CBT and TLDP emphasis and how I want to explore additional theories to further strengthen my theoretical orientation.

Site 9 – On-Site Interview – VA Medical Center

I have to say I was a bit surprised by this site. It is ~1 hour from Maggie (which is a big selling point with her) and I was happy to stay with her and drive her car to the interview. I liked this site a lot on paper, but I like it even more now that I’ve made a visit. They seem very innovative in their thinking and program structure. They also offer a lot of flexibility and are doing things that no other VAs (to my knowledge) are doing, such as including family therapy as a mandatory part of an intern’s training. I’m very excited about their inpatient and outpatient PTSD programs and the manner in which they are organized. I will get opportunities to work with combat trauma and military sexual trauma and will learn several empirically supported treatments for PTSD. They offer a “come as you are” approach to training in neuropsychology seeking to teach the basics to interns who are new to neuropsychological assessment and preparing interns who are more serious for applying to a neuropsych post-doc. They also have training in, and opportunities to practice, hypnosis. The man who interviewed me also uses EMDR and is very interested in ACT and mindfulness, both of which are areas of current study for me. Overall, I’m pretty excited about this site.

Pros: Strong PTSD program, neuropsych and hypnosis training, and emphasis on group therapy. The staff were very welcoming and eager to provide a great experience for the interns. They even asked for feedback from us about the interview process. Cost of living is pretty good and, of course, it is near Maggie 😉

Cons: There is no peer supervision at this site and the opportunities for Rorschach are few given the time commitment to administering/scoring/interpreting/etc (which I completely understand, though I’m going to be a lot faster after this dissertation is done).

Best question asked of me: How would your friends describe you and how would you describe yourself?

So that’s that. I have one more phone interview on Friday and then I rank. I’m not gonna post my rank list here for obvious reasons, but I will keep you posted on how things turn out. Match Day is February 25th, so I’ll definitely post something about that.

Travel Highlights:

  • Flights canceled: 2
  • Flights delayed: 3
  • Total layover time: 8+hours
  • Airports visited: 5
  • Cars rented: 1
  • Hotel stays: 1
  • Days with Maggie: ~4.5
  • Meals with friends: 3
  • Parties attended: 1
  • I got to stay in a sweet suite in VT for approximately 5 hours (check in to check out)
  • I attended Maggie’s Alexander Technique class, which was a lot of fun
  • I met more of Maggie’s friends at a party/get together
  • I got to drive a couple fun cars
  • I got to hang out with Carl and play video games
  • I got to see snow mounds that were ~7′ tall

That about sums it up. I’ll update on my final interview later and find something else interesting to talk (or complain) about soon.

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So, things turned out about as I had expected. Given the snowfall in New England, my flights have been delayed and/or canceled. I was originally to fly from Louisville to Laguardia at 12:30. That got pushed back to 1:30, then 2:00, then 3:00. Thankfully they found me a different city to travel to first, since NY was just a connecting flight anyway. Sadly, that has lead to my current situation.

I have been stranded in the Philly airport since ~3:00. My 4:00 flight was canceled and I was able to get put on standby for the 6:15 flight…I am 13/15 on the list, but that was 2 hours ago. So, I opted to book passage on the next flight…at 9:00. I know I have a seat on that one and I am still on standby for the 6:15 flight.

So, the 6:15 plane arrives at 5:30 but the crew for that flight won’t arrive until ~8:30.

I didn’t stutter.

I have a feeling enough people have gotten fed up with the 6:15 flight that I’m now higher on the standby list, so that’s good news. The main difference at this point is whether I arrive in Manchester, NH at 10:15 or 10:30.

It gets better.

From Manchester, I still have to drive ~90 minutes north to my hotel, putting me there as early as 11:45. But let’s be realistic. I’m sure there will be additional delays for whatever reason. And that 90 minute drive? That’s in the snowstorm that is the culprit for all of my delays/cancellations today.

I have a feeling I’m not going to get much sleep tonight. My interview is at 7:45am. I still have to shower, study, and relax when I get to the hotel. All of those things take time. Here’s hoping the hot tub is all hours 🙂

So that’s the update for people who have been following along on Facebook. I have 2 hours to kill, but I’ve found the internet and it’s free, so that’ll definitely help. I’m thinking I may stream some Netflix or go wild and play Guild Wars. Really. Anything to pass the next 2 hours more quickly.

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As of this post I have interviewed with 7 of my 10 sites. I have had 3 phone interviews and 4 on-site interviews. I have 2 on-site interviews and one phone interview remaining. Here’s the skinny.

Site 1 – Phone Interview – University Counseling Center

My first interview, right off the bat, was on Monday the 3rd. This interview was conducted sitting in my car in a parking lot in Nashville while Maggie had lunch with Lauren. So, from the get go I was missing out on Mexican food. Lame. The interview was pretty straightforward as conference call phone interviews go. I spoke with two staff psychologists for about 40 minutes and answered questions about my goals, interests, experience, and why I chose their program. Following that interview I had a brief phone interview with the training director which was less formal and served as both an introduction and an opportunity for me to gather information about the site.

Pros: This site was very flexible as far as creating a program around my needs and the have a strong emphasis in diversity.

Cons: Supervisees (i.e., students I would supervise) are pulled from other universities in the area and the area itself is relatively isolated. There are some opportunities for Maggie to teach or perform, but noting major.

Best question asked of me: How have your experiences with diverse/multicultural clients affected you?

Site 2 – On-Site Interview – University Counseling Center

I am pretty excited about this site. I interviewed here on the 4th. The interview process was very personable and I met each staff psychologist and intern personally, usually in a one-on-one interview. I had a great many opportunities to ask questions about the site and was assured that the interview process was more about getting to know me and learning my interests. The interns are very happy about their experiences and I got the feeling that a couple of the staff psychologists really took a liking to me. I’m excited about the opportunities for learning biofeedback and having a lot of control over the diversity of my caseload.

Pros: Emphasis area in stress/anxiety and biofeedback, great atmosphere, a lot of control over my training experience, opportunities for supervising students, lots of opportunities for outreach, and every staff/intern interaction involves food 🙂

Cons: Limited opportunities for assessment and difficulty keeping group program afloat. Larger city with more opportunities for Maggie, but I think she’s less excited about the fact that it is in a large city to begin with.

Best question asked of me: What events led to your interest and subsequent commitment to the field of psychology?

Site 3 – On-Site Interview – University Counseling Center

Beautiful site, but very cold and windy. Interview on the 5th. Special thanks to Maggie for driving up that mountain. I am excited about this site for a number of reasons. They provide a broad university counseling training experience and include career counseling in their training curriculum. Plenty of opportunities for group. In addition, the site is well known for its work with the transgendered population and allows for opportunities to do individual and group psychotherapy with this population.

Pros: Strong training program to prepare for a career in university counseling, opportunities to work with the transgendered community, and the site is in a quaint mountain town. Also, it’s close to Maggie 🙂

Cons: The site is very remote and there are fewer opportunities for assessment than I would like. The campus is very White and there are few opportunities to supervise advanced students (but I do get to supervise!). There is less emphasis on empirically supported treatments (EST) and the tendency is to adapt treatments based on the needs of the population, which really isn’t all that uncommon in a rural community.

Best question asked of me: Standard fare really. Tell me about your theoretical orientation and how you conceptualize clients was prolly the most difficult question.

Site 4 – On-Site Interview – VA Medical Center

Interviewed here on the 6th and could see the ocean from the site! The directions I was given were less than helpful and even though I arrived 30 minutes early to my interview I still ended up being 10 minutes late due to getting lost on the campus and in the hospital. The interview itself was pretty neat. I was the only person being interviewed at the time so I had all of the staff and interns to myself. The whole process was very informal, even when I was sitting in a panel interview of 6 psychologists. I felt like I had control over the room and they seemed to respond well to my answers. Standard fare as far as questions were concerned. What stood out about this site was the thorough training offered in PTSD (including single event traumas, complex trauma, military sexual trauma, combat trauma, individual and group formatting, etc) and the large female veteran population (12%). The interns were very happy with their experiences and were also intrigued by my dissertation topic.

Pros: PTSD program, female vet population, willingness to allow a male therapist to work with females who have experienced military sexual trauma (you’d be surprised how often I hit a wall here), and favorable reception to the use of Rorschach, including supervision and some training.

Cons: Cost of living is pretty high. I was told I could find an apartment for ~$800 a month, but I wouldn’t want to live in it or in the neighborhood where it might be. Interns typically paid $900-1,000 a month for rent. There is also an emphasis on group therapy and fewer opportunities for individual therapy.

Best question asked of me: Why do you want to work with veterans?

Site 5 – On-Site Interview – VA Medical Center

Interviewed on the 7th. This experience was a bit intimidating at first as I was placed in a room with 17 other applicants. Thankfully one of them was from my program, but this was by far the most applicants I’ve had to contend with in one interview period. I was happy to find out that nearly everyone I interviewed with and spoke to has connections to my university. There were plenty of opportunities at this site to gain inpatient, assessment, and crisis experience as well as a strong PTSD program. I am also particularly interested in rural outreach program they offer to gain more experience in this regard.

Pros: Strong PTSD program, rural outreach, good inpatient experiences to complement my outpatient experience. Has connections with my university has taken students from my program in the past. Unique diversity project requirement that allows for some creativity.

Cons: The training opportunities in PTSD are somewhat limited as far as ESTs. This is primarily due to the effectiveness of different treatments on the rural populations. Some of the major ESTs for PTSD (e.g., Cognitive Processing Therapy) have been found to be less effective than Prolonged Exposure with this population. There are also no opportunities for research or dissertation time whatsoever.

Best question asked of me: Tell me about an experience you have had treating PTSD.

Site 6 – Phone Interview – University Counseling Center

Very straightforward phone interview done today. I was asked to provide a case conceptualization and was asked several questions about my training experiences and goals for internship. I was particularly prepared for this interview because I interviewed with this site last year. I like that this site emphasizes both clinical and counseling approaches and I believe it will do a good job preparing me for a career in university counseling. Of particular interest with this site are the opportunities available for training and intervention with hypnosis (squee!!!).

Pros: Strong generalist program that will prepare me for university counseling career. Hypnosis.

Cons: Campus is less diverse than I would like and the emphasis this site places on ADHD/LD assessments is a bit much for my tastes.

Best question asked of me: Tell me your description of a multiculturally competent psychologist.

Site 7 – Phone Interview – University Counseling Center

Skype/phone interview today. Skype fail. I’m torn about this site. The interview went decent and I was asked to respond to a case vignette about my clinical impressions of a hypothetical student presenting with X, Y, and Z symptoms. Cake. Where I was having trouble was I found myself to be very rambly on the phone. I’m not entirely sure why. The questions weren’t difficult and they were a mix of standard fare and specific to the site (e.g., tell me about your experience with substance abuse/crisis/assessment). I just didn’t feel as confident after this interview as I have with other interviews. I like the site and its developmental training model and emphasis on generalist training. I am also particularly fond of the training opportunities in biofeedback.

Pros: Strong generalist training with mandatory rotations in substance abuse, psychiatry, and crisis. Biofeedback. Adequate stipend.

Cons: The site is relatively isolated and has few opportunities for projective assessment, favoring ADHD/LD assessments (not uncommon for university counseling, but still a bummer).

Best question asked of me: You are given the opportunity to establish an outreach program. What topic do you choose, how do you get students involved, and why?

Road Trip Highlights

So that’s all of the sites so far and my experiences interviewing with them. Here is a list of highlights from my road trip for your enjoyment:

  • Total mileage = 1,928.6
  • Number of fill ups = ~ 5 tanks of gas
  • Number of hotels = 2
  • Number of couches upon which I crashed = 2
  • Number of lunches with friends = 3
  • Maggie and I found out that Lola has a drinking problem and continually purchased oil throughout our trip
  • Stayed at a decent hotel outside of Atlanta, played Super Scrabble, and ate Thai food. The old man who delivered it gave us free drinks because we were from out of town and he thought we needed them.
  • Interns paid for my lunch at a noodle shop
  • Missed out on seeing my friend Jen because she was apparently dieing from the plague
  • Got to walk a mile in my new dress shoes across campus to a parking garage (my heels were not happy)
  • Got to drive in an HOV lane for the first time. Added bonus of having Maggie with me.
  • Got to pet my kitty cats and play “avoid the cat hair” with my suits
  • Got to have lunch/dinner with Carl at an Italian restaurant where he swears our waitress thought we were a couple
  • Listened to a whole bunch of Shrink Rap Radio and Wise Counsel on my iPhone
  • Stayed the night with a fraternity brother I had never met and got my paddle signed
  • Got to see the ocean and drive under it (ok, I technically drove under the bay…)
  • Walked another mile in my dress shoes–this time indoors at least
  • Met my friend Ann in Richmond, VA for lunch as she was preparing to interview in that city
  • Listened to a lot of Cake
  • Crashed at my mother-in-law’s on an air mattress (ok, so technically it wasn’t two couches above)
  • Saw my friend Belinda’s doppelgänger
  • Interviewed with my friend Kari Ann
  • Drove I-64 from the east coast to Indiana (I have now officially driven it from end to end)
  • Crashed hard, watched all my DVRed shows, and finished the rest of John’s “Flat On Your Beak” from New Years

And those are the highlights. I have another trip coming up next week that involves airplanes and rental cars, but ends with me spending time in Greensboro hanging out with Maggie, Carl, and Courtney.

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It has been quite some time since I last posted. I can blame it on whatever, but suffice it to say I have neglected this blog. I intend to remedy that, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. I’ve said I will be more consistent before and look where that got me. I’m off Spark People and off P90. Let’s just take this one post at a time, shall we?

Tomorrow I embark on a 5 day, 1,800 mile road trip. This is the first leg of my internship interviews with a phone interview on Monday and 4 consecutive days of on-site interviews through Friday. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Monday – Drive with Maggie to Atlanta, GA with a stop in Nashville to meet Lauren for lunch and conduct my 60 minute phone interview with XXXXX
  • Tuesday – Interview at XXXXX in Atlanta then drive to Boone, NC
  • Wednesday – Interview at XXXXX in Boone, then drive to Greensboro to drop off Maggie, have lunch with Carl in Burlington, and drive all the way out to Hampton, VA where I am told a friend of a friend of Maggie’s, who happens to be a Sinfonian, will put me up for the night
  • Thursday – Interview at XXXXX then drive ~10 hours to Lexington, KY to crash with my mother-in-law
  • Friday – Interview at XXXXX then drive home to Louisville

I have 2 interviews on the 11th (one phone and one Skype), an on-site interview in White River Junction, Vt on the 19th, an on-site interview in Salisbury, NC on the 21st, and another phone interview that has yet to be scheduled. In all, I have 10 interviews, and in case you’re wondering, I’ve redacted the site names for now because it is easy to do a Google search on my name and find this blog.

That being said, I plan to update throughout the month of January about my experiences during internship interviews. I’ll talk about the time spent in different cities (the ones I travel to anyway) and my general thoughts about the process. Once the match process is past in March, I’ll share more about my experiences at sites. During the process, however, I will be careful not to talk about specific sites and will only give my general impressions about my experiences. My goal is to keep friends and family informed about my travels and offer some general advice to people going through this process. I will not be talking about matching, ranking, or fit with sites in this blog. This is a big internship no-no. APPIC Match Policy states: “Participants in the APPIC Match, including applicants and internship programs, may not communicate, solicit, accept, or use any ranking-related information pertaining to either Phase of the Match prior to the release of the results for Phase II of the Match.” There is an outside chance the sites I’m interviewing with will/have Google(d) me and I don’t want to imply fit or ranking status here.

This is a big step and a busy month for me and I simply want to share it with my readers. Following match in March, I will post a list of all the sites to which I applied, but I will refrain from writing about my interviews and experiences with each site. I will provide contact information if you are interested in hearing about my experience at a particular site. You can also message me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/jason.schwenker).

That’s all for now. Expect more updates this week and the rest of January. Once the interviewing is over I’ll prolly start back up with P90X. I have too many things going on now whooping my butt mentally and emotionally to add something that will do so physically. Also, I don’t have a pull-up bar and I’m not ready to limit my intake of comfort foods.

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