How Do I Make the Most of My Clinical Experience in Counseling?

If you’re studying to become a counselor, clinical experience is one of the most important components of your education. In most states, counselors are required to complete 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised counseling in order to become a licensed professional counselor. This is the perfect time to hone your skills, to learn from a mentor and to become an expert in your chosen niche within the mental health realm. Read on for some tips on how to make the most of your supervised internship experience in counseling.

Prepare for Your Clinical Experience

While supervised clinical hours are a requirement for licensure, you should also think of it as a unique opportunity to grow as a counselor. To that end, take some time before you start your program to think through the type of counselor you’d like to be, and how supervision can help you achieve that goal. Think about the attributes that you’d like to develop, and talk through those goals with your supervisor early and often. He or she can help ensure that you’re on the right path.

Prepare for Meetings with Your Supervisor

While the structure of education programs in the field varies, you’ll often meet with your supervisor every few weeks to talk through cases, clients, and challenges. Take notes in between meetings so you’ll remember what you want to discuss, and come prepared with questions for your supervisor. Keep in mind that although this is a mentoring relationship with a supervision component, your supervisor is not criticizing your technique and personality, but helping you grow as a counselor.

Invest Time Between Supervisory Sessions

The real work of becoming a counselor happens when you’re seeing clients, between your sessions with your supervisor. But to ensure that you are best able to serve your clients and that you are growing into your role, reflect on your conversations with your supervisor often as you go about your on-the-job training. Think about the topics you discuss with your mentor and apply them to your practice.

Explore the Resources Available to You

Your mentor is an important touchstone as you complete your supervised experience, but he or she is not the only resource available to you. Be sure to keep up with reading and research in the field to ensure that you are at the top of your game. A great place to start is the American Counseling Association, the national professional association for all counselors. Members have access to exclusive professional development opportunities such as conferences at a reduced student rate for those still in training. A similar organization to check out is the American Mental Health Counselors Association.

In general, the most important way to make the most of your clinical counseling experience is regular personal reflection. By take the time to think about the counselor you want to become and how your early clinical experience in the field is supporting this goal, you’re taking the steps needed to truly become a valuable mental health resource and support for your clients.