The Illinois School Psychology Internship Consortium (ISPIC) has been in an on-going process of self-study since its inception. The program was birthed through many hours of dialogue over a five-year period. The directors of the four doctoral-granting school psychology programs in Illinois (Illinois State University, Loyola University, National-Louis University and Northern Illinois University) met regularly to discuss solutions to several problems they perceived with regard to school psychology within the state. First, there was a shortage of school psychologists, in general, but the need was particularly noticeable in rural and urban settings. Furthermore, doctoral-level practitioners were virtually non-existent in these geographical regions. Many doctoral students interested in obtaining licensure were leaving the state to complete internships.
As the university faculty looked at the possibility of facilitating the development of more APPIC-listed and APA-accredited opportunities for internship in Illinois, they found that few sites could meet the requirements. For example, some sites were only able to take one intern at a time. Or, some sites had a licensed supervisor but were unable to guarantee exposure to more than one licensed supervisor. Soon they determined that a consortium would be the most likely solution to provide the highest quality experience to interns. The four universities formed the Executive Committee. They began the process by securing funding for a training director and agreeing to support a scientist-practitioner internship model consistent with their respective educational training models.
The first year, the training director was charged with the responsibility of recruiting sites that would uphold the training model, provide a variety of high-quality experiences, and meet requirements for APPIC-listing and APA accreditation, requirements for licensure by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations (the body which licenses psychologists), and requirements for school psychology certification created by NASP. The four university representatives agreed that they would not reserve “captured sites” for their own students believing that drawing competitive applicants from other states would only cause them to refine and improve their own training programs. In addition, they were certain that many of their own students would continue to seek out-of-state internships. Drawing applicants from other states to Illinois would ensure growth in the quantity of professional psychologists as well as cross-fertilization from interaction with students from other programs.
A total of ten internship opportunities were developed. In the suburban areas of Chicago, four very different sites were immediately secured with licensed supervisors within special education cooperatives. One interest of the Executive Committee; however, was to provide training opportunities in down-state and more rural areas. It was decided that internships could be developed in clinical settings where licensed supervisors existed as long as the site was willing to partner with a school to provide mentorship by a school psychologist within a public school setting. The arrangement of partnering a clinical site with a school rotation results in added benefits. The partnerships facilitate communication between staff in schools and those employed in clinical settings serving children and families. Further, this communication fosters respect for the knowledge and skills of the professionals in the other setting. Regardless of whether graduating interns choose to work in schools or clinics, the services to children and families will likely be better as a result of this collaboration and the presence of more doctoral-level licensed psychologists.
It was agreed that the first internship class (02-03) would be a pilot year and applications would only be accepted from the four Illinois universities. Two interns completed their internship experience and are currently employed in public school settings.
In the mean time, ISPIC joined APPIC and altered its application process to conform to the uniform application system with some additions and participated in the National Matching process. The 03-04 intern class consisted of seven interns from Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The 04-05 class consisted of 10 interns from Tennessee and Illinois. The 05-06 class had nine individuals from Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Ten interns make the 06-07 cohort; they represent Canada, Iowa, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The program has been accredited by APA since 2005, and additional grant funding has been obtained to expand and further develop the program. New sites continue to be added in order to provide rich and varied training experiences.
ISPIC has collectively committed to the following consortium goals:
- Maintain an accredited internship program
- Secure permanent funding
- Recruit highly qualified and diverse interns
- Prepare interns for the practice of professional psychology
- Assist interns in becoming certified and licensed in Illinois
- Retain graduates outside the Chicago collar
- Build a network of dually credentialed, culturally-competent professional psychologists in Illinois