Internship Goals and Philosophy of Training
Professional Psychology Doctoral Internship Program
The Harris County Children's Assessment Center (HCCAC) accepts two full-time interns for a 12-month internship, which begins September 1st and ends August 31st. The psychology doctoral internship program is a member of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) and is currently not accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). However, The HCCAC has received a grant from APA to support the internship program’s efforts in achieving APA-accreditation. Questions specifically related to the program’s accreditation status should be directed to the Commission on Accreditation:
Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
American Psychological Association
750 1st Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 336-5979
Interns must currently be enrolled in a doctoral program in Psychology (Clinical, Counseling, or School Psychology). During the course of the year, interns are required to complete a minimum of 1750 clock hours to be used toward licensure and must meet expected levels of performance in each of the nine profession-wide competencies. Interns are expected to work at least 40 hours per week, and at least 25 percent of this time is devoted to direct services. The internship is both therapy- and assessment-oriented. Interns receive supervised experience in psychotherapy, psychological assessment, diagnosis and treatment planning, extended forensic evaluations, consultation services, case management, and crisis intervention. Upon completion of the internship year, interns are granted a certificate of completion signifying that all requirements were met. In addition to developing clinical skills, interns are encouraged to participate in educational seminars, conferences, and community outreach endeavors.
Program Aim and Training Goals
The aim of The HCCAC doctoral psychology internship program is to assist doctoral candidates in developing proficiency in the provision of a broad range of clinical and scholarly psychology functions, which span a variety of settings, in a manner consistent with APA Ethical Standards. Our ultimate goal is to assist interns in learning how to act competently, respectfully, ethically, and empathically in the delivery of mental health and psychological services while being ever cognizant of the cultural and individual diversity of the clients being served. This necessarily includes an understanding of multicultural and underserved population issues, as well as an awareness of professional issues, standards, and consumer protection ethics.
The HCCAC is a multidisciplinary institution with a mission to promote the complete healing of child victims of sexual abuse, as well as their families. Once sexual abuse has been disclosed, children needing therapeutic treatment or psychological testing are referred to The HCCAC’s Therapy and Psychological (T&P) services department. The T&P team consists of four licensed psychologists, one part-time licensed psychologist, two post-doctoral psychology fellows, two doctoral psychology interns, master’s level mental health clinicians, and interns with backgrounds in Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy. In addition, psychiatric services for evaluation, consultation, and ongoing medication management are available when necessary.
Common treatment modalities include Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), family systems, and psychodynamic therapy. Other approaches may incorporate experiential and expressive components, such as art, sand tray, and animal assisted therapies. Due to the diverse needs of our clientele, Spanish/English bilingual clinicians are available for psychological evaluation and all types of therapy. Supervision specifically related to each treatment modality and diverse population, including bilingual intervention and psychological evaluation, is provided. Through the use of traditional and expressive therapies, clinicians are better able to provide services individually tailored to meet the needs of clients and their families within a culturally competent framework.
Interns conduct all services on-site and collaborate with a multidisciplinary team including Child Protective Services (CPS), the District Attorney’s (DA) Office, law enforcement, forensic interviewers, physicians, and court-appointed volunteers. Interns provide psychotherapy to clients (child, adolescent, and adult) with a variety of disorders, particularly posttraumatic symptomatology due to child sexual abuse. In addition, interns complete an average of four to six full trauma-informed psychological evaluations and four extended forensic evaluations per year.
Psychological evaluations are conducted by both English- and Spanish-speaking clinicians in the client’s dominant language. Evaluations of children and adolescents assess intellectual ability, social/emotional functioning, posttraumatic symptomatology, and achievement using both objective and projective measures (e.g., Trauma Symptom checklists, Rorschach, drawings, Wechsler scales, etc.). In addition, for caregivers, personality and quality of parent-child relationship are also assessed. Interns are encouraged to enhance their knowledge and experience with the many instruments that are available to them and are expected to become proficient in diagnostic skills, writing evaluations, and generating pertinent recommendations. A licensed psychologist provides weekly supervision directly related to these evaluations.
Extended forensic evaluations involve children and adolescents who have provided unclear or partial disclosures of sexual abuse. It adheres to a standardized process and seeks to clarify the details of abuse using semi-structured interviews and trauma symptom checklists with both the child and the non-offending caregiver. The final report is provided to the referral source and is used in either civil or criminal court proceedings. A licensed clinician within the forensics department provides weekly supervision directly related to these evaluations.
Structured Learning Opportunities
Didactics: At least two hours per week are devoted specifically to didactics or case presentations. Didactics cover a variety of domains relevant to child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and other related topics. Examples of didactic topics include human trafficking, court testimony, internet crimes against children, and multicultural competence. Case presentations give interns the opportunity to consult with other clinicians on challenging cases and to provide constructive feedback during peer-review.
Mutual Case Staffing: One hour per week is set aside for interns to collaborate with other T&P team members regarding shared cases.
Journal Hour: Interns participate in weekly journal hour meetings to present and discuss research relevant to child sexual abuse. Example topics include evidence-based treatment, human trafficking, court testimony, delayed disclosure, recantation, youth with sexual behavior problems, vicarious trauma, and compassion fatigue.
Orientation: The first few weeks of the internship involve orientation activities for the new interns, including at least one formal day of “New Employee Orientation” through Harris County. Interns spend a significant amount of time learning about the various HCCAC departments, visiting civil and criminal court hearings, observing forensic interviews, touring the medical clinic where sexual assault exams are conducted, and meeting with investigators and other agencies involved in crimes against children.
Collaborating Organizations and Their Roles
The HCCAC collaborates with professionals from 53 Partner Agencies, which include law enforcement, medical and mental health clinicians, and governmental investigative entities, all with the common goal of protecting children. Listed below are some of the agencies with which The HCCAC collaborates:
- Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital – Provides specialized medical evaluations, medical treatment, and follow-up services.
- Child Advocates, Inc./Court-Appointed Special Advocates – Provides court-appointed volunteers that regularly visit children in protective custody and advocate on their behalf in criminal and family court cases.
- Communities in Schools, Houston, Inc. – Provides on-campus student assistance services for at-risk students to empower them to remain in school.
- Crime Stoppers of Houston, Inc. – Provides a toll-free hotline where callers can report information leading to the arrest and conviction of child sexual abuse perpetrators.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation – Performs investigative interviews with children relating to Internet Child Pornography and Child Sexual Exploitation cases. Evidence collected is used in the prosecution of both local and traveler pedophiles in state and federal cases.
- Harris County Attorney’s Office – Represents the State of Texas in all matters concerning the care, custody, and welfare of the children and provides legal consultation regarding the management of The HCCAC program.
- Harris County District Attorney's Office – Evaluates cases for prosecution and provides legal consultation for law enforcement personnel.
- Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences – Provides medical examination and forensic laboratory services. These include forensic pathology and investigations from which clinical, historical, and circumstantial information crucial to each case is gathered.
- Harris County Protective Services for Children and Adults – Provides investigating and ongoing substitute care caseworkers and refers clients to The HCCAC.
- Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services – Provides information on both historical and current statistical trends in child fatalities occurring in Houston/Harris County.
- Houston Area Women’s Center/Children’s Court Services – Provides professional accompaniment to children on criminal court cases and assists families with Crime Victims Compensation Fund applications.
- Houston-Metro Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) – Provides assistance to state and local enforcement agencies to enhance their investigative response to offenders who use the internet, online communications systems, or other computer technology to sexually exploit children.
- Memorial Hermann Healthcare System – Contributes to the program through ongoing consultation and support.
- Texas Center for the Missing – Provides services to families with missing children.
- Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) – Exercises their statutory responsibilities of protecting children and investigating complaints of child abuse and neglect.
- U.S. Attorney’s Office – Provides assistance with cases involving internet crimes against children and human trafficking of children, as well as other violations against children which occur on federal property.
In some cases, extensive collaboration among agencies is warranted to clarify roles and facilitate the development of treatment goals for each agency involved. Interns can participate in this particular collaboration by attending the Child Sexual Abuse Review Team (CSART) meeting each month. This monthly meeting has proven to be exceptional in the socialization of interns with professionals in the community and in familiarizing them with the multidisciplinary process.
Internship Goals and Competencies
The aim of the internship is accomplished through the development of each intern’s knowledge, skills, and abilities in the following areas:
- Application of clinical interventions including individual, family, couples, and group therapies
- Clinical application of theoretical orientations
- The generation and implementation of appropriate treatment goals and plans
- Interpersonal and public speaking
- Professional identity development
- Collaboration with multidisciplinary teams and utilization of community resources
- Ethical and legal issues
- Awareness of diversity and multicultural sensitivity
- Forensic interviews and extended assessment
- Comprehensive psychological assessment
Individual goals and objectives are developed between an intern and his or her supervisor at the outset of the year and are further enhanced through didactic training and goal-focused supervision. The overriding objective is to assist the intern in developing clinical skills and analytical thinking that will facilitate the transition from trainee to entry level psychologist. Upon completion of the internship, the intern will be able to critically evaluate and apply relevant theoretical and empirical literature to various clinical populations.
The training curriculum emphasizes nine profession-wide competencies with specific objectives that are expected to be met by the end of the internship. Progress toward these goals is informally assessed throughout the year, and any concerns noted are discussed with the intern by his or her supervisor. Interns are formally assessed twice a year, using mid- and end-of-year evaluations. The primary supervisor, provided with feedback from other supervisors who work with the intern, evaluates the intern twice yearly on his or her progress in each of the following areas:
1. Individual and Cultural Diversity
- Demonstrates an understanding of how one’s own personal/cultural history, attitudes, and biases, affect how one understands and interacts with others
- Demonstrates an understanding of how individual and cultural diversity affects psychological and personality development
- Demonstrates the ability to independently apply knowledge and approaches in working effectively with a range of diverse individuals and groups
2. Professional Values, Attitudes, and Behaviors
- Actively seeks and demonstrates openness and responsiveness to feedback
- Responds professionally in increasingly complex situations with a greater degree of independence as the internship progresses
- Behaves in ways that reflect the values and attitudes of psychology, including integrity, professionalism, accountability, and concern for the welfare of others
3. Ethical and Legal Standards
- Demonstrates knowledge of APA Ethics Code and values as they relate to the profession of psychology
- Applies ethical decision-making processes
- Seeks supervision and consultation in order to resolve ethical dilemmas
- Demonstrates professional conduct
- Demonstrates knowledge of and acts in accordance with relevant laws, regulations, rules, and policies governing health service psychology at the organizational, local, state, regional, and federal levels.
- Considers cultural issues in case conceptualization, diagnosis, and treatment modality
- Evaluates intervention effectiveness, and adapts intervention goals and methods consistent with ongoing evaluation
- Develops evidence-based intervention plans specific to the service delivery goals
- Demonstrates self-awareness and impact of self on therapeutic relationship
- Demonstrates skill in multiple treatment modalities, e.g., individual, group, family
- Demonstrates capacity to manage high-risk clinical situations effectively and ethically
- Considers cultural issues in selection of assessment tools and diagnostic decisions
- Accurately administers and scores assessment instruments
- Synthesizes and interprets test data from multiple sources
- Appropriately communicates assessment results
- Demonstrates a thorough working knowledge of DSM-5 diagnoses
6. Consultation and Interprofessional/Interdisciplinary Collaboration
- Demonstrates knowledge and respect for the roles and perspectives of other professionals
- Demonstrates an understanding of using a team approach to provide clinical services
- Collaborates with supervisors and staff across disciplines
7. Communication and Interpersonal Skills
- Develops and maintains effective relationships with a wide range of individuals, including coworkers and professionals from partner agencies
- Demonstrates the ability to manage difficult situations
- Uses clear and effective written communication
- Demonstrates clear and effective oral communication
- Seeks supervision to address challenges and barriers in clinical work
- Demonstrates willingness and ability to integrate feedback to improve clinical skills and to further professional development
- Works with supervisor to set goals
- Demonstrates openness and non-defensiveness when tracking progress toward goals
- Applies knowledge of supervision models and practices in direct or simulated practice
- Participates in weekly journal hour through competently discussing relevant research
- Demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate research or other scholarly activities
- Uses scholarly literature and other resources to inform practice
Clinical Supervision for Interns
Supervision is a major emphasis of the internship program at The HCCAC, as it is a primary form of training and evaluation for the development of intern competencies. Supervision is intended to provide both depth and breadth in clinical application, research, assessment, and cultural competence. A minimum of two hours of individual supervision is provided each week by a licensed psychologist. In addition, interns receive two hours of group supervision each week: One hour per week specifically related to psychological assessment (i.e., administration, scoring, interpretation, and report writing) is supervised by licensed psychologists, and another hour focused on the forensic extended evaluations is supervised by an appropriately credentialed clinician.
Supervisor and Program Evaluation
Interns are given the opportunity to evaluate their supervisor at mid-year and at the conclusion of their internship. In addition, interns are asked to evaluate the program as a whole every four months and to provide feedback regarding the program’s strengths and areas in need of improvement.
Training Committee Members
Four full-time licensed psychologists provide primary supervision for interns and are the primary participants in the internship program’s planning, implementation, and evaluation:
Lawrence Thompson, Jr., Ph.D. (Director of Therapy & Psychological Services) received his doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2000. Dr. Thompson is a Licensed Psychologist in the state of Texas and oversees the provision of mental health services at The HCCAC. This oversight includes the supervision of clinical staff and clinicians in training, consultation with partner agencies, and various administrative responsibilities. Dr. Thompson also provides some direct psychological services, including psychotherapy and crisis intervention. His most pronounced expertise is in the area of trauma and personality disorders. Dr. Thompson serves as an expert witness in court proceedings and regularly presents on the topics of trauma, psychotherapy, and mental health.
Carlo A. Villarreal, Ph.D. (Internship Training Director/Manager of Psychological Services) received his B.A. from Baylor University and his Ph.D. in School Psychology (with an emphasis in Clinical Child Psychology) from Texas A & M University in 2005. Dr. Villarreal is a Licensed Psychologist and a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology in the state of Texas. In 2004, Dr. Villarreal completed an internship in Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where he was trained in trauma-focused therapy and assessment. Dr. Villarreal also is trained in bilingual psychological assessment and oversees the provision of psychological services provided to children and families receiving services at The HCCAC.
Whitney Crowson, Psy.D. (Staff Psychologist) received her B.S. from Northwestern State University in Louisiana and M.A. in General Counseling from Louisiana Tech University. In 2015, she earned a Master’s and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (with an emphasis in Child/Adolescent Psychology) from the Florida School of Professional Psychology, Tampa. Dr. Crowson is a Licensed Psychologist in the state of Texas and is experienced in working with victims of childhood sexual trauma and human trafficking. As a Staff Psychologist at The HCCAC, Dr. Crowson provides therapy and psychological assessment to both children and their families, consults with partner agencies, and serves as an expert witness in court proceedings.
Melissa Goldberg, Psy.D. (Staff Psychologist) received her B.A. from Emory University and her Master’s and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Denver. Dr. Goldberg is a Licensed Psychologist in the state of Texas. In 2012, Dr. Goldberg completed an externship in child trauma at Children’s Hospital of Colorado where she was trained in trauma-focused therapy. She completed her doctoral internship in 2015 at the University of Denver Consortium at Kaiser Permanente and her postdoctoral fellowship in 2016 at Baylor College of Medicine at The Menninger Clinic. As a Staff Psychologist, Dr. Goldberg provides psychotherapy and psychological assessment to children and families, provides expert testimony in court proceedings, and serves as a consultant to The HCCAC staff and partner agencies regarding child sexual abuse. Dr. Goldberg’s research interests include the assessment and treatment of child trauma and sleep-related symptoms in the context of trauma.
Cassie Smith, MA, LMFT-S, LPC-S, RPT-S, NCC – Manager of Therapy Services
Claudia Mustafa, LCSW-S, RPT-S – Treatment Plan Manager
Lisa L. Bourgoyne, M.Ed., LPC-S – Director of Forensic Services
Life as an HCCAC Intern
The Children’s Assessment Center is located near Rice University in Houston’s Rice Village District. There are over 100 restaurants and retailers within walking distance from The HCCAC, which provides a convenient opportunity for both staff and interns to take brief breaks throughout the workday. Given the sensitive nature of our clinical work, self-care is encouraged and emphasized as an integral part of our program. Likewise, interns are urged to take advantage of their accrued flex hours, vacation time, and yearly floating holiday to promote well-being and reduce the effects of vicarious trauma.
Doctoral interns gain a breadth of experiences that assist in further developing their clinical knowledge and skills. In addition, interns are part of a multidisciplinary team that is comprised of clinicians from diverse educational backgrounds and are afforded opportunities to staff and consult on cases with many different agencies, including Child Protective Services, law enforcement, forensic services, physicians, and statewide district attorneys. Interns gain multifaceted experiences by sharing office space with other interns from multiple disciplines. All interns have access to their own desktop computer and phone extension to complete their daily tasks. Interns work 40 hours per week on average. When hours exceed this amount, doctoral interns are compensated with additional time off.
Houston is the fourth most populous city in the United States and is consistently ranked as the nation’s most diverse city. Such diversity offers interns opportunities to be exposed to different cultures, languages, and (especially) foods. In fact, The Washington Post named Houston one of “America’s Best Food Cities.” In addition, the Museum District, Theater District, large city parks, and Downtown area contribute to Houston’s vibrant culture by hosting events that showcase the art and music scene. Houston’s signature event, the Livestock Show and Rodeo, features some of the world’s biggest recording artists and hosts a championship Bar-B-Que contest. Finally, if you’re a sports fan, Houston is home to the Texans football team, Rockets basketball team, Astros baseball team, and Dynamo soccer team.
Stipend and Benefits
Compensation for the one-year, full-time internship (beginning September 1st) is $21,000 plus benefits. As Harris County employees, interns and their dependents are eligible to receive health insurance after 90 days of continuous employment (December 1st). A basic level health insurance plan is provided at no-cost to the intern. All county employees, including interns, participate in contributing to a retirement plan and have the option to enroll in additional retirement plans. Interns accrue three hours of vacation time and three hours of sick time during each two-week pay period and are provided nine holidays and one floating holiday (to be used at the intern’s discretion throughout the year). Any hours worked beyond 40 hours per week are converted to compensatory time and can be used in the future.
Applicant Selection and Interview Process
Qualified applicants must currently be enrolled in a doctoral program in psychology and have completed all doctoral coursework. Preference is given to those who have completed their dissertation/clinical research project or are near completion by the start of the internship year. Additionally, prior practicum placements involving therapy, assessment (e.g., objective and projective measures), and integrative report writing with children and adolescents is preferred. Experience with child sexual abuse or other trauma populations may be helpful, but is not required. Due to the sensitive nature of child sexual abuse and human trafficking, it is not uncommon for novice and seasoned clinicians to experience vicarious trauma when working with this population. As such, it is especially important for potential applicants to be aware of any personal history that could impede their ability to maintain professional and personal boundaries with clients.
For applicants who determine that The HCCAC is an appropriate match given their interests, experiences, and skills, please submit your application materials by November 15th. You are encouraged to submit materials as early as possible; however, applications will not be reviewed until after the deadline. Applicants will not be notified that his or her application has been received. It is incumbent upon each applicant to ensure the receipt of their complete application by the deadline by contacting APPIC directly. Applicants will be notified by mid-December whether or not they have been selected for an interview. If selected, day-long interviews are conducted in person on two separate dates in mid- to late January. Applicants are interviewed by all members of the Training Committee and the current post-doctoral psychology fellows. In addition, applicants will have the opportunity to eat lunch with the current doctoral interns and inquire about life as an intern at the HCCAC in a more informal setting.
This internship site agrees to abide by the APPIC policy that no person at this training facility will solicit, accept, or use any ranking-related information from any intern applicant. All doctoral interns will be determined through the APPIC match. Additionally, The HCCAC is an equal opportunity employer and encourages minorities and persons of diverse backgrounds of all types to apply to the psychology internship program. Harris County does not discriminate against employees with disabilities and provides appropriate reasonable accommodation(s) when requested. All HCCAC facilities and procedures are compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Applicants who require accommodations for the application process, interview, or training year are encouraged to contact the Training Director in order to discuss our process for making special arrangements. The HCCAC is committed to making reasonable accommodations for individuals who request them.
Interns who successfully match to the program will be subject to a criminal background check through the Department of Family and Protective Services. Harris County does not employ individuals who have had a felony within the past ten years or a misdemeanor within the past five years. In addition, Harris County is committed to providing a workplace free of drugs and alcohol. Therefore, interns must also pass a drug and alcohol screening prior to their employment with Harris County.
Checklist of Required Application and Supporting Materials for Match Site #1103
___ Complete APPIC application (AAPI) available at: http://www.appic.org
___ Cover Letter (part of the online AAPI)
___ Curriculum Vitae with current telephone number (part of the online AAPI)
___ Three Standardized Reference Forms (part of the online AAPI)
___ Official graduate transcript (part of the online AAPI)
___ Two complete redacted psychological assessment reports with interpretations (submitted through the online AAPI)
___ Receipt of application by November 15
The application and supplemental materials should be submitted through AAPI online. Documentation that is mailed directly to this department will not be accepted.
Contact Dr. Carlo A. Villarreal with questions via email (email@example.com) or by phone at 713-986-3312.
Policies and Procedures
The policies and procedures for Harris County employees are applicable to The HCCAC interns. Please see http://www.co.harris.tx.us/hrrm/ for additional information. Interns are provided with a detailed intern manual at orientation that provides policies and procedures specific to the internship program. This includes, but is not limited to, information regarding intern grievances, due process, intern evaluations, and maternity and paternity leave policies. Internship policies and procedures also are available upon request with an email to the Training Director.