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Internship at HSE Centre for Psychological Counseling Kickstarts Careers

The HSE Centre for Psychological Counseling has been offering internships for master’s students in psychology for five years. Students from HSE, as well as from other universities, can get an internship. Here’s more information on how the programme works and the opportunities it offers.

About a University Psychologist

The internship programme has been launched to meet the need in professionals who understand how a university psychologist works. According to Irina Makarova, Director of the HSE Centre for Psychological Counseling, corporate psychological counseling in general, and at university in particular, is not a widespread phenomenon in Russia, since there is a shortage of programmes teaching corporate psychologists.

‘We faced this problem when we understood that our Centre needs an inflow of human resources, but we can’t get them anywhere’, Irina Makarova said.

The most vivid example of a psychologist’s work in a corporation, Irina Makarova believes, are secondary schools. But at the same time, they are not a very good example, since at school, psychologists are often not really trusted by either kids or by parents. This is because psychological counseling at schools often works as follows: a teacher complains about a ‘bad’ student, and the psychologist tries to ‘fix’ this student. The HSE Centre for Psychological Counseling believes this should happen in quite the opposite way.

Ирина Макарова, директор Центра психологического консультирования НИУ ВШЭ
Irina Makarova, Director of the Centre for Psychological Counseling 
© Mikhail Dmitriev/ Higher School of Economics

‘The request for counseling should come from the student or alumnus, not from someone else who has various reasons to be dissatisfied with their behaviour. Teachers don’t approach us to complain about “bad” students’, Irina Makarova emphasized, ‘But teachers and parents can talk to a psychologist about what they can change in their own behaviour in order to improve relations with the student. It’s essential for us to be trusted, and that’s why the first thing we work on with our interns is ethical aspects, confidentiality and anonymity of work. We also teach our interns how to behave in an emergency, when life or health is in danger. It’s important that the psychologist isn’t afraid of these topics, since they will face it in practice, and they should clearly understand where they can help, and what is beyond their responsibility’. In such cases, the HSE Centre for Psychological Counseling cooperates with several of Moscow’s public and private clinics.

Graduate and post-graduate students can get a free on-site consultation with a psychologist from the Centre, or contact them via email at cpkhse@hse.ru. In addition, university staff and the parents of students can get an initial free consultation on the subject of their relationship with the student; subsequent meetings are available for a fee. Graduates and people outside the university can get a consultation with the Centre’s professionals for a fee.

Maria Alipova, psychologist at the Centre, graduate of the HSE master's programme 'Counseling Psychology. Personality Studies'
Maria Alipova, psychologist at the Centre, graduate of the HSE master's programme 'Counseling Psychology. Personality Studies'
© Mikhail Dmitriev/ Higher School of Economics

‘Most often, students come to the Centre with such problems as anxiety, stress and apathy related to high study load and overwork during examination periods’, said Maria Alipova, psychologist at the Centre, graduate of the HSE master's programme 'Counseling Psychology. Personality Studies', and former intern at the Centre. ‘In early autumn, there are a lot of requests related to problems with adaptating to the new living conditions away from home and family, new life at the dorm, etc. Students are often worried about how to develop their relationships with classmates and parents, how to find their path in life and fulfill their potential’. An internship at the HSE Centre for Psychological Counseling teaches professionals how to address such issues.

How is the Internship Organized?

The internship consists of two stages. During the first stage, interns learn to respond to real letters received by the Centre and discuss their responses in a group and at individual meetings with their supervisors, psychologists at the Centre.

‘People who write letters are not always ready to come to a personal meeting. There may be various reasons for this. Some of them feel awkward talking about the problem in person, while others don’t believe it is necessary’, said Maria Alipova, ‘We often get letters consisting of only one line, while other times they can be  as long as three pages. Sometimes, the communication stops after the first letter, possibly because the person receives an answer and solves their problem, but we’ve had situations when after a long correspondence, people decided to come to a personal meeting. When you answer a letter, there is no guarantee that the person will write again, or, furthermore, come to a personal meeting. And this increases your level of responsibility: you have to be very sure about what and how you write. That’s why the programme pays so much attention at this work, and interns discuss their answers with different supervisors. I believe that the main task of a psychologist who answers a letter is to support the client, to thank them for the step they’ve taken, and, of course, to invite for counseling’.

Psychologists are employed by the Centre

Interns are on an internship at the Centre today

During the second stage, interns conduct personal meetings with those who have addressed the Centre (clients are informed that they will be working with an intern), followed by individual supervision with one of the Centre’s psychologists for each intern. In addition, the interns take part in the Centre’s team supervisions and in the intern’s group work.

Group work with letters lasts about two or three months, while the subsequent time limits are determined for each intern individually.

‘It is quite often that beginner professionals face a high level of anxiety’, Maria Alipova said, ‘For me, as a supervisor for interns’ work with letters, it is important to understand the difficulties they have when writing a response, the reasons for their fears and worries, the difficulties they can face in articulating themselves, the feelings they experience, and whether they clearly see the line between them and their clients. And here, it’s is essential to support the psychologist, to reduce their anxiety and suggest some possible directions for further work’.

Виктория Пархаева, бакалаврская программа «Психология» РГГУ, магистерская программа «Консультативная психология. Персонология», специализация «Экзистенциальный анализ и логотерапия» НИУ ВШЭ

Viktoria Parkhaeva, intern at the Centre, RSUH undergraduate programme in Psychology, HSE master’s programme 'Counseling Psychology. Personality Studies', profile ‘Existential Analysis and Speech Therapy’:

‘I came to this programme when I wanted to be in a professional community, to get support, experience and communication. Today, my internship at the Centre is additional satisfying in-person work with people and a community, which is an integral part of my life.

For a psychologist who is beginning to provide personal counseling it is very important to establish contact with their client. At first, you have to take care of the basic physical comfort (blanket, water, tissues), ask them whether there is enough fresh air in the room, offer them some tea, etc. Throughout the working process, it is important to be attentive to what the person is saying, what intonation they have, and what words they use to describe their situation. Accordingly, I try to answer with words that are comprehensible to the client. It is also very important for a psychologist not to lose themselves in other people’s problems, but not to stay removed at the same time. That’s why personal therapy with the Centre’s supervisors is a great help in restoring your own balance. In the end, I make sure I ask my client whether they’ve felt comfortable, and give them homework that helps maintain further communication with the client’.

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