Your Practicum in Psychology A Guide for Maximizing Knowledge and Competence

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Edited by Janet R. Matthews, PhD, ABPP

and C. Eugene Walker, PhD

2006 APA

In Your Practicum in Psychology, Loyola Professor and licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Janet Matthews, along with Oklahoma colleague and coauthor Dr. C. Eugene Walker, provide practical guidance for students in their first mental health field setting. In a conversational, straightforward style, the authors address both theoretical and practical concerns encountered by the novice as he or she enters the applied setting for clinical psychology.

The authors decided to write Your Practicum in Psychology because they found that a wide range of experiences were being offered to psychology students and there was a need for a complete review of both basic information and larger issues impacting this “fundamental and formative educational experience.”

The authors explain in their introduction that students find themselves in all types of service positions in their mental health practicums, yet most instructors were still using a collection of assigned readings and journal reprints, making it difficult to fill gaps and cover information effectively. So, the authors note, “We therefore decided to look at our previous book and then develop one that would be an even better match for the variety of undergraduate courses in this area.”

In eleven chapters, the authors neatly and attractively lay out a complete set of ideas for the practicum student. The writing tone and approach demonstrates empathy and understanding of the students’ perspective that could only come from the authors’ years of supervision of young professionals. Likely situations encountered by students are explained in case examples, helping the student to anticipate, avoid, and resolve the issues.

The chapters are “…analogous to having a guest lecture for each topic,” note the authors. The tone of the work is consistent throughout. The text avoids overloading the neophyte with too much scientific background, but includes a wide array of essential topics in theory, methods, special populations, ethics, and legal.

The topics range from the simple to complex issues encountered by the novice as he or she begins to formulate and build their identity in a helping role. While some of the topics might seem basic, e.g., what to wear, the text is full of nuggets of information and wisdom masquerading as simple concerns. (I remember a practicum of my own where all of us somehow started wearing black, until someone asked, “Where’s the funeral?”) Topics unlikely to be covered elsewhere will be appreciated in this volume, facilitating the student’s transition from classroom to field setting. “Psychology departments train students to become psychologists,” write the authors. This supportive text can help smooth that beginning and allow the student to gain the broadest understanding of their developing role, identity, and the contributions they will eventually make in society.

The textbook benefits from the contributions of three other Louisiana psychologists: Dr. Theresa Wozencraft of the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Dr. Bruce McCormick of Shreveport, and Dr. Lee Matthews, Janet’s husband also from New Orleans.

In Chapter 1, “How to Maximize Your Training Experience,” Dr. Wozencraft provides the reader practical information on “Discerning Your Training Needs,” and “Major Types of Practice Sites.” Theresa builds on her own research and supervisory experience with students to guide the reader along in sections on “Establishing Yourself in the Practicum,” providing advice on “Taking on New Roles,” where she describes the professional role and the practitioner role in terms young students can understand. She also covers work environments, work relationships, diversity, and the student-supervisor relationship.

Chapter 2, “Characteristics of a Helping Relationship,” is a delightful little chapter about the nature of helping behavior, drawing on the basics of Carl Rogers and Robert Carkhuff. With concise and interesting examples the author quickly makes the distinction between helping communications and those that are less than useful, beautifully illustrating the core skill needed by students and expanding it in “Helping Applied to All Stages of Life.”

Drs. Janet and Lee Matthews coauthor Chapter 3, “Getting Started and Developing Rapport.” In this chapter they provide a frame of reference for entering the applied setting, explaining some of the issues that arise that students can find challenging and confusing. Basic information as in “What Should I Wear,” to more complex problems of “How Do I Build Rapport,” “Being a Participant-Observer,” and “How to Foster Acceptance,” balance the chapter with a knowledgeable view of field settings and the realworld problems that can arise for students.

Chapter 4, “Confidentially and Other Ethical Issues,” provides essentials for new students with descriptive vignettes such as “Deciding Not To Great A Former Patient,” “Duty to Warn or Protect Third Parties,” and sections on multiple roles, boundaries, informed consent, and competence.

Chapter 5, “History of Treatment of People with Mental Illness,” and Chapter 6, “A Review of Psychopathology,” outlines the basic knowledge for students that may be needed in mental health settings.

Louisiana psychologist Dr. Lee Matthews again contributes by authoring Chapter 7, “Psychological Assessment.” In this clear-cut review Lee describes the basics of tests and measurement theory, then looks at the importance, use, and differences between screening and full battery assessments. He provides a review of the most commonly used clinical psychology tests, then moves into a thorough section on psychological screening methods, including mental status exams, attention and concentration tests, intellectual and cognitive tests, achievement tests, mood and personality tests, visual spatial tests, language tests, memory tests, neuropsychological tests, and behavioral tests. He reviews full assessment batteries in the final section.

In a straightforward and well-documented overview authors of Chapter 8, “Interventions: Empirically Supported Treatments,” provide the student with the major diagnostic categories encountered in most field settings and outline treatments that are empirically based and proven to be effective.

Louisiana medical psychologist, Dr. Bruce McCormick, authors Chapter 9, “The Use of Medicine in the Treatment of Mental Disorders.” Bruce lays out the basics and background in the use of psychotropic medicines, noting that these are commonly included in mental health treatment plans. He includes sections on “How Do Medicines Work to Treat Mental Disorders?” and “How Do Medications Affect Nerve Transmissions?” In “What Medications Are Commonly Prescribed for Mental Disorders?” he describes the most common antidepressant, antianxiety, antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers, and psychostimulants in clear and meaningful terms for the practicum student. A section on the issues regarding the choice of medicine, psychotherapy, or both, completes the chapter.

In Chapter 10, “Special Issues in Working with Children,” highlights important issues for those students who will be placed in field settings with preschool and schoolage youngsters and the complex issues sometimes encountered.

In the final chapter, “Mental Health Professions,” Drs. Janet Matthews and Eugene Walker provide an interesting and positive look at the types and contributions of different mental health professionals. While Your Practicum is aimed for students who will eventually be trained as psychologists, the information about the training and professional activities of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, psychiatric nurses, creative arts therapists, occupational therapists, and recreational therapists is both interesting and important for those seeking a career in today’s mental and behavioral health services.

Your Practicum in Psychology can be purchased from APA or online booksellers. (Note the correction card that comes with the text on MAOIs.)

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