What is a Behavioral Health Intern?

By Carly Smith, LCSW Intern Program Supervisor

Behavioral Health Interns are mental health specialists completing required direct practice hours towards master’s degrees in social work or counseling. In addition to holding bachelor’s degrees (typically in fields such as psychology, sociology, or social work) they complete several semesters of master’s level coursework that prepare them for clinical practice. This masters-level coursework includes in-depth training on current evidenced-based practices in the mental health field, as well as intensive instruction from highly regarded faculty at their respective schools. Our interns undergo thorough vetting by their universities, as well as by Jewish Family Service, before they begin practicing with our clients.

JFS’ Behavioral Health Internship Program

Clinical internships at Jewish Family Service are highly regarded throughout the community of mental health providers in Southeast Louisiana as coveted opportunities. JFS has a reputation and demonstrated record of accepting only the most highly competent, professional, and dedicated interns to work with our clients. We often select interns with lived experience in other fields who have already demonstrated that they are able to meet the high professional and ethical standards we at JFS expect of all of our staff. Our Behavioral Health Internship Program receives countless applications from prospective interns each year, and we take pride in selecting the students who exemplify the same professionalism and commitment that we would expect from our fully licensed clinicians.  

JFS is currently hosting students from Tulane University, Louisiana State University, and the University of New Orleans (the oldest counseling program in Southeast Louisiana). Our social work interns provide individual and group counseling, and also work passionately toward solutions for our case management clients. Our counseling interns, having already gained diverse practicum experience at other sites before coming to JFS, bring their expertise to work with our therapy clients.

Why Clients Choose to Work with Our Interns

Our interns are highly supervised by a licensed professional staff member (that’s me!), and undergo weekly individual and group supervision. In fact, JFS is one of the only community mental health agencies in the area that designates a full-time staff person to the supervision of interns. This ensures our interns receive the instruction and supervision that benefits their development, and provides the highest quality of service to JFS clients. In addition, JFS interns & their clients benefit from regular case consultation with our licensed clinical staff, many of whom hold specialized certifications and years of clinical expertise.

In addition to the oversight and guidance received through their position at JFS, counseling and social interns are also supervised by licensed faculty at their respective universities. Interns are required to submit case presentations, demonstrate application of theoretical frameworks, and meticulously track their hours and therapeutic progress with clients. Further, they must demonstrate to their JFS supervisor and university supervisor that they strictly adhere to all of the same professional code of ethics as a fully licensed professional.

Quick & Quality Access, for All

JFS interns are able to see clients on a sliding fee pay scale. This means that what a client pays for treatment is based on the client’s ability to pay, not a co-pay set by the client’s insurance company. This allows our agency to ensure we provide access to clients who may be experiencing financial hardship, are uninsured, or for whom treatment elsewhere has been cost-prohibitive. Lastly, our Behavioral Health Internship Program allows us to keep our waitlist shorter than most community mental health agencies in the area, and ensures clients are able to begin treatment quicker than waiting to see a fully licensed practitioner. 

Finally, perhaps the most evident benefit of seeing a JFS behavioral health intern is the passion, idealism, and conscientiousness they bring to their relationships with clients and to the JFS office. As JFS’ Behavioral Health Internship Program Supervisor, it is a privilege to be a part of the JFS tradition of training highly competent mental health practitioners and instilling in them an appreciation for our agency’s mission of service. If you have any questions or are interested to learn more about our internship program, please don’t hesitate to contact me at carly@jfsneworleans.org or 504-831-8475 x137.

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