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Program Summary and Highlights-From the Co-Training Directors, Christian Lemmon, PhD & Sarra Nazem, PhD

The Augusta University/Medical College of Georgia(AU/MCG)/Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center Psychology Internship was formed in 1982. Through the years our faculty have shared a deep commitment to our common missions of educating our future health care professionals, striving for compassionate and excellent clinical service, and advancing science. For 39 years, it has been fascinating and exciting to see so many trainees progress to careers of accomplishment and meaning. Integral to our internship training have been joint educational and clinical service activities with primary care physicians, psychiatrists and other physician specialists, nurses, social workers, and other allied health professionals. In addition, our training program has been strengthened and enhanced by the enduring partnership of the AU/MCG and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Training Model: 
Our training model focuses on four primary facets of training in the development of professional psychologists: (1) Training in the implementation of essential practice skills in key field settings; (2) Training in an empirical approach to practice (fostering attitudes of empiricism and reflection); (3) Training in the provision of care for underserved populations and areas; and (4) Training of recovery-oriented care that emphasizes the processes of Connectedness, Hope and optimism about the future, Identity, Meaning in life, and Empowerment. 

Overview of the Organization of the Internship: 
Two required 4-month rotations: 

  • The General Practice Rotation – Clinical training sites include the Uptown VA, AU/MCG, AU Summerville campus, or East Central Regional Hospital.  This rotation focuses on opportunities for development of psychological assessment skills, skills pertaining to rapid assessment, de-escalation/stabilization, and triaging of individuals with acute psychiatric conditions, co-leadership of time-limited evidence-based psychotherapy groups and, individual, couple and family psychotherapies.
  • The Integrated Health Psychology Rotation – Clinical training sites include the Uptown VA, Downtown VA and AU/MCG sites. Located in many inpatient and outpatient medical settings spread across the VAMC, the AU/MCG hospitals and clinics and the AU/MCG Children’s Hospital of Georgia, this rotation focuses on acquiring skills that will enable psychology interns to apply fundamental psychological assessment and treatment principles to health care settings with a goal of training interns to function independently in interdisciplinary health care settings.

One 4-month Emphasis Track Rotation:

Selected prior to entry into the internship program, the Emphasis Track Rotations allow interns to experience more focused training opportunities that are consistent with their long-range career interests. At present there are six Track choices available, including:

  • Child & Family Track
  • Forensic Psychology Track
  • HIV & LGBTQ Health Disparities Track
  • Clinical Health Psychology Track
  • Psychology of Women Track
  • Trauma Psychology Track

In addition to the 4-month Emphasis Track Rotation, each Wednesday of the week for the entire year is also devoted to emphasis training within your chosen track rotation thereby facilitating more depth and continuity in this aspect of your training experience.

Seminars and Other Educational Opportunities:

There are three required seminars that meet on Thursdays: 

  • The Diagnostic/Treatment Seminar meets weekly for eleven months of the year and includes application of a “Problem-Based Learning” (PBL) model. The PBL approach to learning employs a clinical case/problem as the vehicle of learning and demands development of clinical/scientific reasoning. 
  • The Psychotherapy Process Seminar meets for the entire year and provides a laboratory to develop skills of empiricism and reflection in the nonparticipant mode of peer supervision and in the participant mode of a live therapy session presentation. Each Intern, along with the faculty/seminar directors, take turns presenting a live psychotherapy case. Didactics for the seminar focus upon: (a) Common factors in psychotherapy; (b) Supervision, and; (c) Therapy termination.
    Note: These seminars also facilitate a 10-week course (two hours per week) that reviews Cognitive Behavior Therapy and introduces ACT; this process includes joint psychology and psychiatry residency training activities.
  • The Professional Issues Seminar is devoted to didactics and discussions related to the professional development of the Intern. The seminar primarily focuses on the non-therapy aspects of being a psychologist. 

Other Educational Opportunities:

  • Psychiatry Grand Rounds are held twice per month and are part of AU/MCG Department of Psychiatry & Health Behavior’s Grand Rounds series that features guest speakers of prominence from the region and nation providing continuing education reviews of important clinical topics germane to the fields of psychiatry and psychology.
  • Half to full day workshops are typically provided several times each year on topics including objective assessment techniques, empirically validated psychotherapy, trauma related therapies, cultural diversity issues in psychology, ethics, etc.
  • Intern Research/Scholarly time is facilitated by providing 4 hours of dedicated time each week for scholarly activities. This time can be used for dissertation efforts, if not yet completed. Interns must produce a scholarly paper, either from the dissertation or from internship-related research activities, that is of publishable quality by May of the internship year.
  • Diversity training is embedded in all internship training activities. This is done overtly in seminar topics (i.e., race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, class, age, political party, region, and military/veteran status), patient populations (e.g., HIV-positive patients, veterans, adolescents and children, patients with serious mental illness, forensic patients, persons of color, sexual minorities), and supervision. Commitment to discussions of privilege, power, and intersectionality, including the role and influence of sociopolitical factors, is a training priority, and a value that underlies all training program activities.

Supervision:

  • Overall Supervisor - Due to the complexity of internship training and the diverse interests and educational needs of interns entering internship training, the AU/MCG-Charlie Norwood VAMC Internship provides an Overall Supervisor (OS) for each intern prior to the beginning of the internship. The OS is charged with the duty to develop an understanding of the unique educational needs and interests of the Intern and to develop and monitor a year-long strategy to maximize the training experiences available.
  • Practicum Experiences and Supervision - The Rotational/Track supervisors are responsible for establishing and communicating clear educational goals for the rotational/track experience, identifying and delegating appropriate clinical assessment/treatment cases for the Intern, supervising all clinical/professional activities on the rotation/track, maintaining on-site presence during all Intern clinical encounters, verifying the accuracy and timeliness of all clinical documentation, and providing routine verbal and written feedback regarding the Intern’s rotation/track performance.
  • Case Supervisor - If special expertise is needed on a particular case, or if the Intern has a special interest in working with a faculty person, a Case Supervisor can be added to the intern’s supervisory experiences at any time.

Mentor - After the Intern gets to know the faculty, we encourage, but do not require, the Intern to seek a personal mentor relationship with a faculty person. This faculty mentor functions as an informal counselor, advisor, ombudsman, role model, advocate and ally for the intern.

Strengths of the Program:

  • Faculty Committed to Training - Over 40 licensed psychologists that serve as supervisors or other training contributors.  Additionally, nearly all supervisors are also working as practicing clinicians who are regularly implementing similar empirically validated treatment strategies to those also being utilized by the interns. Availability of Diverse Clinical Experiences across multiple interdisciplinary care settings including:
    • Augusta University/Medical College of Georgia: Adult Consultation/Liaison (C/L) Service, Children’s Hospital of Georgia (CHOG) Pediatric C/L Service, Infectious Disease Clinics (Adult and Pediatric), Adult and Pediatric GI Clinics, Cardiovascular Clinic,  Cancer Center, Pediatric Diabetes Clinic, Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior - Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic, Augusta University Employee and Faculty Assistance Program
    • Augusta University Student Counseling & Psychological Services (SCAPS): SCAPS provides mental health services for all students attending Augusta University.
    • East Central Georgia Regional Hospital (ECRH): Forensic Unit, General Mental Health Unit
    • Charlie Norwood VAMC: Primary Care Mental Health Integration (General), Primary Care Mental Health Integration (Women's Mental Health), Blind Rehabilitation Inpatient Unit, Chronic Pain Program, Geriatric Service, Outpatient General Mental Health Service, TBI Polytrauma Evaluation Clinic, Trauma Recovery Clinic, Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Unit, Neuropsychological Assessment, Suicide Prevention Program
  • High Intern Ratings for Training Experience - 10-year data collected from post-intern graduates indicate consistently high ratings of the quality of the training experience: 
    • Quality of the Supervision: 62% Superior 38% Excellent
    • Overall Quality of the Training Experience: 68% Superior 28% Excellent 4% Good
  • Intern Scholarly Productivity - During their internship training, the last 11 classes of interns produced 78 scientific publications, submitted an additional 103 papers for publication, and presented 137 papers/posters at national/regional meetings
  • Intern success in getting postdoctoral positions - For the past 11 intern classes, more than 91 percent of all our graduates and 100 percent of the graduates seeking postdoctoral fellowships/faculty positions obtained postdoctoral fellowships in their desired area of study or faculty positions upon completion of our program
  • Diverse Career Paths - from 2007 to 2017, internship graduates have embarked on diverse career paths:
    • 39% VAMC staff psychology positions, 18% Academic Medical Center faculty positions, 14% Independent practice, 12% Graduate School faculty positions, 8% Primary Care psychology positions, 9% Other (e.g., mental health/psychiatric center, general hospital, research)
  • Augusta, Georgia – aside from the home of the Masters Golf Tournament, Augusta is a city with very affordable housing, mild winters, numerous outdoor recreational activities, relatively low crime rates, a variety of good restaurants, close proximity to Atlanta, the northern Georgia mountains, Asheville, and the Beaches of South Carolina and Georgia and virtually no traffic problems.
photo of Christian Lemmon, PhD

Christian Lemmon, PhD

  • Professor, Psychiatry & Health Behavior, MCG
  • Director, Psychology Internship Training
  • Director, AU Health System Eating Disorders Program

Katrina Speed

  • Psychology Training Director
  • Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center