Psychologist Dr. Amanda Wolf, psychology intern program director Dr. James Morrison and psychology intern Celina Gasparian offer big smiles alongside youthful offenders White and Sanchez at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility this year.

By Gordon Rose, Ph.D., Senior Psychologist, Supervisor
Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, DJJ

Feb. 17 was a proud day in the history of the psychology practicum training program at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF), which has trained Master’s level psychology students since 2007 and currently has six trainees from different local universities under the supervision of Dr. James Morrison.

On that day, the Association for Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) held its annual match for assigning prospective interns to accredited internship training sites. For psychologists, “match day” is a long-anticipated and much-feared trigger for anxiety as it is a big milestone.

Students in psychology doctoral programs train part-time every year of their schooling in practicum programs in a variety of settings, working with different populations. At VYCF, under the supervision and mentorship of clinical psychologists, the students in the year-long program receive training and provide services.

After they have completed all coursework and other requirements of their school’s training program, students go to a pre-doctoral internship, which is a full-time training program under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. The successful completion of this process leads to the scheduling of the student’s final year of doctoral training, and perhaps the beginning of a career. Over the last decade, there has often been a surplus of student applicants compared to available internship training slots, meaning that not all students are able to be matched to an accredited program. Slots at the top internship sites become extremely competitive.

That is what happened on Feb. 17 and VYCF had three doctoral students who matched with APPIC pre-doctoral internships.  They are student-volunteers receiving training at VYCF in providing mental health services. Every year VYCF usually has one or more students applying to pre-doctoral internships and has had some notable successes. This year was one of the best results ever seen for the institution. Students Angie Reyes and Celina Gasparian matched with Federal Prison Terminal Island, in Long Beach, and student Lizette Lares matched with Federal Prison Metro Detention Center, in Los Angeles.

Internships at federal prisons are extremely competitive for several reasons and are highly sought after, and are also one of the highest paying internships in existence.

Also, former student Jennifer Nehme, who trained at VYCF last year, matched with Children’s Hospital at Stanford University.

From previous years, one VYCF student, Titus Hamlett, had the notable recognition of being featured in a cover profile story of a national psychology journal, the Register Report, in their Spring 2015 issue. Hamlett completed his internship at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and is now Lt. Dr. Hamlett in the Navy.  He also served as staff on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics. Other previous students training at VYCF have gone on to be hired as psychologists and supervising psychologists at a federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida; Coalinga State Hospital, Los Angeles Police Department, and SATF/Corcoran.