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Athabasca University

Practicum

Students in the Master of Counselling program are responsible for making their own practicum arrangements. Your practicum is an integrated sequence of learning activities. The major portion is the field placement, in which, under supervision, you will see clients in a community setting. The assignments and learning activities complement the field placement. They are sequenced intentionally to address typical issues you will encounter in your placement and to match the rhythm of your progression through the practicum year. Accordingly, it is not possible to compress your practicum or start it at a different time. You will enrol in GCAP 685: Advanced Counselling Practicum, for two semesters (6 credits), starting in the fall semester, typically of your third year.

Practicum Placement Guidelines

Students in the Master of Counselling program are responsible for approaching practicum sites directly. Our database lists practicum sites that have previously hosted our students, or you may develop a practicum placement with any site that meets the requirements described in these pages. Please review the prerequisites for students and the requirements that a practicum site must meet before you apply for a practicum placement. The following guidelines are designed to assist you in negotiating an appropriate placement.

A. General Expectations

You are required to be on site for 500 hours and deliver 250 hours of direct client contact.

  • You will normally complete these hours in the fall and winter semesters (26 weeks), in which case you will be on site an average of 19 hours per week, and deliver an average of 9.5 direct client contact hours per week. Under exceptional circumstances, a minimum of 250 hours may be completed during this time period.
  • If you are unable to complete the full 500 hours from September to April, you may apply for a course extension to complete these hours. Each course extension is for a one-month period and is subject to the course extension fee. For example, if you plan to spread your practicum hours out from September to June, this would involve a total of 34 weeks, averaging 15 hours on site and 7.5 direct client contact hours per week.

As a condition of the practicum, some agencies may require you to spend more than the minimum time required by the University, or to participate in activities not required by the University (e.g., training seminars, telephone intake, etc.). These activities are strictly between you and the agency, and must be specified on the practicum contract at the time it is initially developed.

Definition of Direct Client Contact

Direct client contact is defined as an activity in which the student interacts face to face with the client(s), and includes:

  • Individual counselling (see minimum expected hours below);
  • Family or couples' counselling;
  • Group counselling;
  • Active participation in reflecting teams with the client; students may count the time that they spend in the view of the client(s) when interacting;
  • Face-to-face interviewing and/or testing as part of a formal assessment;
  • Face-to-face intake sessions, provided the tasks are clinical in nature;
  • Case conferences when the client is present;
  • Co-counselling is acceptable provided the student's role is to interact with the client(s), and not simply observe. Generally, co-counselling is a more appropriate activity at the beginning of a placement.

Normally, at least 60% of direct client contact is comprised of individual counselling.

Case preparation/treatment planning, psychological test interpretation, writing case notes and reports, telephone intake/contact, case conferences and case management activities without the client(s) present, and observing others perform counselling are not considered direct client contact.

Supervision Hours

You must receive 1 hour of supervision for each 5 hours of direct client contact. At least 50% of supervision must be individual supervision; the rest may be group supervision. At least 50% of supervision hours must be based on direct observation of the your work (live supervision, co-therapy, video and audiorecording); the rest may be based on case discussion, review of notes, etc.

B. Criteria for Practicum Placements

Appropriate practicum settings include, but are not restricted to:

  • educational institutions (K-12 and post-secondary),
  • community counselling agencies,
  • youth treatment agencies (residential and day treatment),
  • addictions treatment agencies,
  • domestic violence support agencies,
  • inpatient and outpatient mental health services,
  • health care services that provide psychosocial care,
  • government departments providing counselling services, and
  • private practices.

The organization or agency must meet the following criteria:

  • Provide counselling services to individuals and couples, families or groups. Individual counselling is the primary service that will be emphasized in the practicum. However, services such as assessment, family and couples' counselling, and group counselling are also appropriate.
  • Employ professional staff who hold a minimum of a masters' degree in a counselling related discipline, and professional credentials/designations that permit them to practice within their jurisdiction.
  • Make available an appropriate physical environment (counselling space, work space for administrative duties, secure storage of client records).
  • Provide necessary administrative infrastructure to process referrals and manage client data.
  • Have a policy (or agree to GCAP policy) that supports the video-recording of students' counselling for supervision purposes and for presentation at weekend seminars.

C. Supervisor Eligibility

In order to be approved, practicum supervisors must possess:

  • a graduate degree in a counselling-related discipline, approved by the Practicum Coordinator.
  • a recognized professional designation that permits them to practice counselling or psychotherapy in their jurisdiction, including, but not limited to:
    • Registered Psychologist (Provincial College of Psychologists); (Note: In some provinces, Provisional Psychologists [or the equivalent registration status] are permitted by law to supervise students, if supervised by a qualified psychologist);
    • Certified Canadian Counsellor (Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association);
    • Registered Clinical Counsellor (BC Association of Clinical Counsellors);
    • Clinical Membership (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy);
    • Authorization for the Restricted Activity of Psychosocial Interventions or Membership on the Clinical Register (Alberta College of Social Workers);
    • An equivalent provincial or state professional designation/licence approved by the Practicum Coordinator.
  • a minimum of two years post-masters professional experience.

Because of the distributed delivery format of the GCAP program, practicum supervisors must also meet the following criteria:

Updated June 02 2015 by Student & Academic Services

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