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Clinical Practicum Placement

The UCC houses approximately 30 mental health professionals, including full and part-time staff (professional counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and psychiatric nurse practitioners), as well as trainees at multiple levels (e.g., practicum students and pre-and-post doctoral interns/residents). Training at the UCC takes place in the context of a fast-paced and high acuity clinical setting. As such, we value readiness to function in a clinical role when considering applicants for all training positions.

The UCC offers a wide range of services to undergraduate and graduate and professional students. The majority of students seen at the UCC fall within the young-to-middle adult range. Vanderbilt students are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion/spirituality, gender identity, and sexual orientation, allowing trainees to gain exposure to the interplay between multicultural issues and mental health. There is also diversity in terms of presenting concerns, which typically range from moderate to severe in nature. Consequently, trainees have an opportunity to work with more complex clients, assuming that these opportunities are consistent with experience and skill level.

The dates of our training program correspond with the Vanderbilt academic calendar, beginning in mid-August and ending just prior to commencement in May. We are not able to accommodate practicum trainees during the summer. UCC staff and trainees have been providing treatment both in-person and via telehealth during the 2022-2023 academic year. Practicum trainees are expected to conduct all telehealth appointments from their office at the UCC. Clinical supervision is in-person at the UCC.

Counseling Track

  • Individual therapy represents the primary focus of the UCC’s counseling track. Throughout the course of the training year, practicum students are exposed to a variety of presenting concerns, which provides opportunities to engage in short-term, solutions-focused work. Adjustment, mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common presenting concerns seen at the Center, and specialty areas can include eating disorders, trauma, and substance abuse. Caseloads are generally built up through the initial intake process. Practicum students conduct initial appointments weekly, under the supervision of a licensed mental health provider, who follows the student throughout the course of the year, sits in on initial appointments, provides ongoing clinical supervision, assists in diagnostic formulation, and provides report edits.
  • When available, practicum students may also co-facilitate process, support, and psychoeducational groups. The UCC is very invested in group therapy as a primary treatment modality and has placed an emphasis on creating and maintaining a wide range of groups to meet the needs of our students. While group availability and the needs of the Center are factored into group placement, trainees’ clinical area(s) of interest and/or desired areas for growth weigh heavily in the decision making process. We encourage practicum students to let us know about specific groups in which they are interested, as well as provide ideas for new groups.
  • Practicum students may also be presented with opportunities to participate in outreach activities associated with the UCC and larger Vanderbilt community. Please note that outreach may occur at times that fall outside of a student’s scheduled clinical activities at the UCC. Trainees should check with their academic programs to determine whether outreach activities can be counted as direct face-to-face clinical hours. Therefore, it is incumbent on each student and their training program to decide whether such activities should be undertaken.
  • As a cohort, practicum students participate in the mandatory weekly practicum student seminar, which currently takes place every Monday from 8:30am to 10am. The seminar includes a combination of didactic lectures and case conference presentations by both students and staff. Topics are associated with the mental health field and address core competencies expected for professional development. Practicum students present cases to their cohort on a rotating basis and are given the opportunity to integrate feedback from their cohort as well as the seminar facilitators.
  • Supervision is another key component to the practicum student training experience. All practicum students receive two hours of supervision per week, one hour from a fully licensed mental health provider (staff supervisor) and one hour of supervision from a mental health professional who is: 1) at an advanced stage of doctoral training (pre-doctoral intern), 2) completing their post-doctoral residency, or 3) in the process of collecting their hours for licensure.
  • Prerequisites for Counseling Track: Completed graduate level courses in 1) Counseling Theory, 2) Psychopathology, and 3) Ethics. Monday morning availability to attend seminar and willingness to videotape counseling sessions are also required. Interview and curriculum vita are required for applications. Not required but preferred: 1) previous direct clinical experience and 2) Techniques of Counseling course.       

Advanced Practicum Urgent Care Track 

  • Our Advanced Practicum Urgent Care Track provides training on crisis assessment and skills. Our Urgent Care Team provides therapeutic support for students in immediate crisis and are available Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm. Urgent Care sessions are brief assessments focused on addressing the present needs or concerns of the students. Advanced Practicum students are provided training in crisis assessment, solutions-focused care, referrals, and suicide assessment. This practicum training also provides the opportunity for a smaller clinical caseload or follow up for students seen in Urgent Care. Advanced Urgent Care Practicum students are matched with a Urgent Care provider for supervision and are expected to participate in the practicum student seminar on Monday mornings. This Advanced Practicum position is recommended for those trainees with prior clinical experience in a university counseling center or similar setting.

Assessment Track

  • The Assessment Track practicum is open to doctoral students in clinical and/or counseling psychology programs.  Practicum students selecting this track will gain experience conducting 1-2 brief targeted evaluations each week of individuals suspected of having ADHD.  Students may also have the opportunity to be involved in providing more comprehensive neurocognitive evaluations of individuals who are suspected of having a neurodevelopmental disorder and/or serious mental illness that is impacting academic performance.  Training emphasizes the role of formal psychological assessment in the context of a multidisciplinary team which includes psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, social workers and licensed professional counselors. Under direct supervision by a licensed psychologist, practicum students will conduct clinical interviews; administer, score, and interpret tests of cognitive functioning and psychological symptoms; prepare psychological evaluation reports; and provide feedback to clients, other members of the treatment team, and, when applicable to families and campus partners.  Inter-professional collaborations often includes campus accessability services.

  • Assessment practicum students are expected to attend in the mandatory weekly practicum student seminar, which currently takes place every Monday from 8:30am to 10am. 
  • Students on the Assessment Track receive at least 1-2 hours of individual supervision with a licensed psychologist for each assessment case seen.  There is an expectation that the student will review with the supervisor video-recordings of clinical interviews and feedback appointments.   

  • Students applying for the Assessment Track are expected to have completed coursework on psychopathology, clinical interviewing, and cognitive and personality assessment.  They are also asked to provide a sample report as part of their application, which can be sent to Frances Niarhos, PhD at

The UCC does not identify with any specific theoretical orientation and is integrative in nature. Practicum students are not expected to adhere to any particular approach or orientation to therapy. However, the Center does place great emphasis on helping students cultivate an understanding of the interplay between one’s theoretical orientation, conceptualization, and intervention, as well as the centrality of assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning when caring for others.

Time commitment:

  • 15+ hours per week for Assessment, Counseling, & Urgent Care Practicum Trainees. Academic year commitment (mid-August through early May) is mandatory for all tracks.
  • This is an immersive experiential training program. We believe in learning by doing rather than only observing. Practicum trainees serve as the primary counselor for their clients and maintain a caseload of their own. They are expected to be present at the UCC for all hours indicated on their schedule unless approved by the Practicum Coordinator.

Number of Positions 

  • Counseling Track = 3 positions
  • Urgent Care Track = 1 position
  • Assessment Track = 1 position

Practicum Training Coordinator

  • Frances Niarhos, Ph.D., HSP

2023-2024 Practicum Application Dates and Deadlines:

  • Application Deadline: February 10, 2023 5pm
  • Interview notification period: February 13, 2023 by 5pm
  • Interview dates will be during the weeks of February 27-March 03, 2023 and March 06-March 10, 2023.
  • Selection offers are typically provided the week following the completion of interviews (i.e., week of March 13).