Understanding human behavior is at the core of many industries today. Studying psychology is much more than working your way into establishing a private practice and spending the rest of the years of your professional life untangling the childhood traumas of the patient lying on the couch across from you.
You can help people overcome obstacles or help companies treat their employees like people, not just another resource. Thankfully, the field of psychology has come a long way since the “Little Albert” experiment in 1920.
Choosing to do a psychology internship overseas will not only allow you to study your behavior when faced with a different culture and environment (and most definitely discover your hidden potential), but will also put you in contact with some of the most interesting researchers in the field on a global level.
Partnering with a local NGO or a non-profit company is one of the most common psychology internship types, especially in developing countries that lack qualified workers in the area. It typically involves developing a closer connection to the local community or to a neglected social group that doesn’t have easy access to mental health care (like ethnic minorities, illegal immigrants, or people struggling with drug addiction).
This type of work can also be more about counseling than focusing exclusively on mental health problems.
Participating in research programs is a great way to either consolidate your skills and figure out what to do next, or discover a completely new area you want to pursue within the field of psychology.
What you learn from these studies and research programs can be applied to virtually any industry that relies on human behavior patterns and human interaction.
Counseling & Consulting
Public schools and some companies often employ psychology interns to understand human behavior. In schools, this means supporting students who are troubled or simply guiding them into choosing their future careers. In companies, it’s an opportunity to understand employees better and leverage their potential within the organization.
A lot of human resources departments still count on resident psychologists or people with psychology degrees to develop job interviews, job descriptions, and desired employee profiles.
If you wish to pursue clinical work in the future, apply for an internship that allows you to become an expert in the field. Some good places to look for an internship in this area are public hospitals, mental health facilities, or if you don’t find it too extreme, prisons.
Where to Go
Whether you’re looking for a one-on-one internship with patients or participating in a larger-scale behavioral study, psychology internships abroad come in all shapes and sizes -- which means you can pretty much choose any destination you want in the world and finding something suitable. Take a look at these three suggestions.
It’s not probably the first place that pops in your mind, but psychology internships in this Caribbean island have a strong social service dimension to them. On one hand, you’ll be supporting children and adults at local mental health clinics while gaining work experience in your field.
On the other hand, by actively supporting these patients, you’ll be raising awareness about mental illness and those affected by disorders like depression and schizophrenia. The rapid increase of people suffering from mental illness has led the local government to pay closer attention to this potential health crisis.
The hard part about psychology internships in Ireland is choosing which area you want to work in. So before deciding to intern here, it’s best if you narrow down your field of study as much as possible.
That said, you can find an internship in a wide range of fields, from child psychology linked to education and mental health counseling to participating in research studies in prestigious universities like the UCD School of Psychology in Dublin.
Psychology internships in Spain are usually organized through non-profit organizations that need highly-qualified professionals to provide support to at-risk citizens but who are not necessarily mentally ill. If your goal is to work as a psychologist in social services, here you’ll gain experience and a deep understanding of what that realistically looks like on the ground.
Most likely, you'll be looking at cases of delinquent youngsters, minority communities, women who were victims of domestic violence, or homeless people. It’s a harsh reality, but you can at least experience the lighter side of Spanish culture in your time off.
Planning Your Trip
An internship is your first step into the real world. Deciding which field to pursue is probably the easiest decision for you. To make sure everything else goes as smoothly, we have put together some tips to help you plan your psychology internship.
How to Choose a Psychology Intern Program
Make sure the program you choose matches your existing skills or the ones you want to develop. It’s not much use if you want to pursue a career in clinical psychology, but the program has you doing research or pure community service.
Base your decision more on your desired field of study than on the destination you’d like to visit. Maybe you’d like to experience life in a European city, but all the programs available have you working with abused women or refugees and you know you're not emotionally prepared for that. Choosing a destination over the program wouldn’t do much for your work experience nor for the people who were counting on you for help.
To help you decide, look into the specifics of each program and the reviews from other Go Overseas alumni. When in doubt, just go to the Q&A tab of the programs you selected, type a question and click the “ask the community” button.
Health & Safety
When planning your internship abroad, always look for updated information from official sources. Look into any travel alerts issued by the U.S. government to the destination you chose. The same goes for information on diseases and vaccinations you need, which you can find on the Center for Disease Control website.
Check with your program provider about what kind of health insurance is included, if any, and ask detailed questions about what it covers.
As for safety, clear all your doubts with the program provider and the Go Overseas community. You can also tap into forums like Quora or Facebook groups to get the first-hand accounts from expats and locals living in your destination.
Other Need to Know
Check employment laws and the cost of living in your destination if your program provider doesn’t already provide you with that information. Learning the local language can go a long way when establishing a connection with the people you’ll be supporting daily, especially if you’re going to be helping them overcome sensitive issues.