If you are enrolling in the European Clinical Psychology Practicum, here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
Q/ Will I be shadowing a psychologist?
A/ This practicum does not consist of primarily shadowing a psychologist due to ethical reasons as well as the language difference. Instead, you will take an active observant role in community psychiatric settings with the goal of building fundamental clinical psychological skills.
Q / How many times will I go to my practicum site?
A / In order to complete the course you will need to complete a minimum of 30 hours over the course of the semester. In general, there are 10 possible weeks throughout the semester. The times and day will vary depending on your schedule as well as the site’s schedule (some are earlier in the morning, and others are later in the afternoon).
Q / What kinds of placements are there?
A / In European Clinical Psychology Practicum we work mostly with community psychiatry institutions within the social psychiatry sector. The main goal of social psychiatry is: “…to provide social support for people with psychological disabilities who are not admitted to a hospital. Social psychiatry strives to provide citizens with the ability to recover and create a fulfilling life of their choice. The aid can be both individual, to support the person’s ability to master everyday life, and/or it can be group based, focusing on creating a framework that allows the person to develop and participate in meaningful communities – for example in work, training and networking.” (Source: National Board of Social Services).
The practicum placements are called social psychiatry cafés as they have the function of a café. They often have a smaller kitchen where coffee, tea and hot meals can be bought. Depending on the site, different activities are offered (music, yoga, IT training, creative workshop, sports activities, etc.), as well as support and counseling (e.g. legal and financial advice). Most of the sites are anonymous drop-in centers with the aim of offering their participants/service users a non-judgmental free space with the possibility of networking with other people similar to their background. An example of a social psychiatry cafe is Ottilia.
Depending on availability, other types of sites might also be used as placements such as residential housing for mentally ill, activity center for mentally disabled, nursing homes, etc.
Q/ What is a “service user”?
A / The people who attend the site are not called patients or participants but “service users”. In Danish the word “brugere” or “users” simply refers to the participants’ use of the services offered by the café.
Q/ What is the participants’ psychological background?
A / The service users typically suffer from psychological disabilities such as OCD, anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, etc. They are often lonely, isolated with low self-esteem. Some of them are in employment while others have been given an early retirement or may be homeless. Please note, that the sites are mostly anonymous drop-in centers and do not keep an official record of the service users’ medical or psychological history nor are they allowed to ask about it.
Q / How am I assigned to a site?
A / You will be sent out a questionnaire before semester start to evaluate your previous work experience, and your expectations in terms of learning outcomes for both class and practicum experience. However, your class schedule ultimately determines your final placement. Practicum placements can be placed on any day of the week, Monday through Friday between 8:00 – 18:00.
Q/ Where are the sites located?
A / The sites are located throughout the greater Copenhagen area. DIS will provide you with additional transportation passes should you require it. Please expect a minimum of a 40-minute commute to your placement.
Q/ Who is my site supervisor?
A / Your site supervisor will be a staff member from the site that speaks English, and who has been instructed by DIS to follow a set of rules ensuring you the best possible practicum experience. The supervisor is responsible for your well-being and safety, is the one you can ask questions about everything you encounter, and is also responsible for signing your Practicum Time Card. The supervisor must always be present during your visits and if absent must appoint another staff member to cover for them.
Most site supervisors usually have an educational background within pedagogy or social work. Other staff members that work at the site could be psychologist and/or therapists such as occupational therapists, but rarely, as the sites are not meant to give treatment.
Q / What is my role at the site?
A / As a practicum student, your role is to be there from an academic perspective. This means that you are neither to function as a professional staff member nor as a volunteer (no cooking, no cleaning, etc.). Overall, your role is to:
- Analyze, investigate and explore concepts, theories, and research from the core class and from the practicum course itself
- Engage in the daily routines of the center, interact with the service users, and be available for participating in a variety of activities and discussions
- Use the already existing activities at the site to interact with the service users, but you can also plan your own activities with the help from the site supervisor
- Offer support and interact with the service users in a constructive, positive, and non-judgmental manner.
Q/ Will I experience language barriers?
A / In general, most service users speak English but at different levels. You will experience that some are able to express themselves while others struggle to communicate. The language barrier is part of the experience and you should discuss these challenges in supervision to understand non-verbal communication and if there are alternatively ways to understand how to overcome them and make use of non-verbal communication.
Your assigned site supervisors speaks English so should you have any questions or thoughts, it should not be a problem to discuss these with the supervisor or other staff at your site. This is a chance for you to get first-hand information about the ideas and theories you are learning in class. If you are unsure – always ask!
Q / How is my experience at the site connected to theory in class?
A / Once a week you will have class supervision, with a trained psychologist that will guide your practicum experience and help connect theory with practice. The main focus of social psychiatry is the concept of “recovery”. In class, you will examine and discuss the origins and meaning of recovery and how it is shown in real life at your practicum placement. For more information, please look at the syllabus.
Q/ Do you have any advice from previous students that I can benefit from?
A / We certainly do. Here is a selection of useful tips from previous practicum students:
- Be open and honest with yourself about any prejudices that you may hold upon entering the site. Only by being aware of your own cultural biases will you be able to challenge them and re-shape them through your experience at the site
- Try to immerse yourselves early, go past your comfort zone, and do not be afraid of silence
- It should be noted that this course is a significant time commitment, but it was a great experience!
- Be ready to sit with the site users but even if you feel like not much is happening that might not be the case. Every conversation is making a difference
- Approach this with an open mind and if you’re uncomfortable, talk about it, and the reasons why.
- Embrace it going in and don’t let your awkwardness get the better of you. The more you put in the more they give back. You can really learn a lot from these people and it is a valuable opportunity
- I would tell future students to open up about what they are doing at the site. The users want to get to know us and have a ton of questions about life in the US. The users are all very friendly, and for the most part it is hard to tell that they have a mental illness. Mental illnesses are not just what you read in textbooks, they are actual people and for the most part they can lead normal lives, they may just need a little bit more help. Practicum is a great way to understand how psychology works in Denmark. I would also tell the students to not be afraid to ask questions. The supervisors are more than happy to answer. They are there to help you understand what is happening, and they want feedback on how they can enhance your experience
- Be curious, ask many questions, observe without feeling the need to participate by talking, speak up if something happens that makes you feel uncomfortable, establish appropriate boundaries with residents