School-Based Internship in Client-Centered Therapy

The Schools Group offers clinical training to master’s level students in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Forensic Psychology, Sports and Health Psychology, Child and Adolescent Psychology, and Community Counseling.

We focus on clinical practice—developing the capacity to provide effective counseling to a variety of clients. The bulk of internship hours will be direct hours, that is working with clients in counseling sessions. Because we work in elementary schools, our interns gain experience in both play therapy and talk therapy and will likely use both modalities with clients, many of whom like to talk as they play. The skills our interns develop in working with school-age children translate well to working with any age population. In fact, recent journal articles discuss play therapy as a useful modality for adolescents and adults.


Unlike most training sites, where there isn’t a particular theoretical orientation, we are client-centered. Our internship offers students the opportunity to understand the client-centered approach and how to put its principles into practice. These principles reflect deep respect for the experience of other human beings, a desire to protect the autonomy of clients, and, thus, a non-authoritarian or “non-directive” attitude. The therapy is one of attitudes rather than techniques, but is often misunderstood to allow only “reflective” listening. It can encompass a broad range of responses and, what others would call, “interventions” if this is what the client wants. In sum, client-centered therapists provide the conditions—empathic understanding, non-judgment, and congruence—that allow the client to grow. It is a disciplined approach that our students have described as challenging but extremely rewarding both professionally and personally.


It is also an evidence-based approach. A recent (2015) meta-analysis of client-centered play therapy showed it effective for disruptive behaviors, internalizing behaviors, academic and language issues, relationship stress, and trauma. Findings in neuropsychology also support a relationship-based approach to healing trauma.

Our interns are prepared for and secure jobs at major behavioral health agencies, hospitals, and private practices after completing our program, including…


Anixter Center

Autism Home Support Services

Center for Self-Actualization (MI)

CFC Therapy Group

Cherry Hill Counseling

Chicago Fire Academy

Chicago Lakeshore Hospital

Children’s Home & Aid

Community Counseling Centers of Chicago

Crown Counseling (IN)

Eating Recovery Center

Lutheran Social Services

Metropolitan Family Services

Neumann Family Services

Orland Park Counselors

Pathways 2 Counseling (MI)


Pilsen Wellness Center


Riveredge Hospital

Trinity Services Inc.

Willis Counseling

School Placements


The Schools Group works with Communities in Schools Chicago (CISC) to select CISC partner schools that have expressed a need for mental health services and can provide a supportive learning environment for the intern.


Time Required
Interns work two full days per week in the same school for the entire school year, September through early June. Most of each day is spent meeting with students (“clients”) who are referred by the school counselor, teachers, or administrative staff.


Number of Clients
Interns typically see 5-7 clients per day, for a total of 10-14 per week.


What You’ll Do
In addition, based on the school’s needs, interns can conduct group counseling, sponsor after-school activities (e.g., book club), provide psycho-education in individual classrooms, or work on other programs.



Supervision provides both support and instruction. Although supervisors are not on-site, they are available for consultation outside the formal supervision hours by phone and email should issues arise relating either to clinical practice or the work environment. Interns have the backing of The Schools Group and its partner, CISC, for any trouble-shooting needs.


Individual supervision allows the students to discuss all aspects of their work as clinicians. Initially, emphasis is placed on how to approach, engage, and retain clients. Once a client base has been established, weekly consultations include a review of clients and case conceptualizations, review of session tapes with detailed feedback on responses and suggestions for alternatives, and reflection on the student’s thoughts and feelings about the sessions. In order to do this, interns keep process notes and also audio or video tape (with parental permission).


In weekly group supervision, students are encouraged to share experiences–both successes and challenges–and receive the support and input of the group. Together, we discuss articles about the theory and working with children in school settings, critique tapes and transcripts of established practitioners, and respond to the needs of the group as they occur. Group supervision is both didactic and experiential, based on group interests.


The Schools Group is committed to providing a rigorous and rewarding training experience that will prepare interns to work in agencies, hospitals, and private practices or continue with clinical graduate study.


“My experience with The Schools Group has had such an incredible impact on how I work with my clients today… After experiencing what it was like to work in a school setting using the Client-Centered approach, my desire to work with youth was validated and I was fully able to realize how much I enjoyed being a part of this field doing the work that we do for the ones who need it most… For me, practicing the Client-Centered approach has significantly increased my ability to connect with my clients and meet them where they are at in that particular moment. The therapeutic relationships that I develop with my clients today are extremely strong and I credit that to the knowledge and skills that I have obtained through this internship. The time we spent in our schools gave us a one-of-a-kind experience and the supervision we received from both Valerie and Kathy has continued to assist me with my practice today. I consider myself fortunate and incredibly grateful that I was able to complete my internship with The Schools Group.” – J.M.
“The Schools Group has quite simply helped me see from a nonjudgmental point of view the inner-most and purest forms of experience that a human being can have. It is from this experience that I learned it is of the utmost importance to not assume or preconceive what a client may be thinking, feeling, or experiencing that day or that week as it would invariably hinder the best possible service for the client. Valerie and Kathy provided invaluable work and life experience that has helped shape my views to this day.  Everyone has the potential to be the best versions of themselves. Rather than warping their path towards that potential, The School Group’s client-centered theory encourages the notion to hold the hand of the client and help them along the way on this journey.” – F.Y.
“My internship at The Schools Group has prepared me for life after internship and in the professional world in more ways than one. None of those fancy interventions taught in the textbooks mean anything when you do not fully accept your clients as they are and put yourself in their shoes to understand what they are going through. I’ve learned that my clients are the experts on their lives and I am here to walk alongside them on their journey. The Schools Group has taught me to focus on the person, not the problem. As students, we tend to want to fix, fix, fix, but I was taught to listen, understand, and that will allow for growth and change.” – M.S.
“My internship played such a pivotal role in my professional and personal development. It has completely changed how I see the world, myself, and my clients. I believe that your supervision and our group meetings allowed me to explore how therapy is much larger than what is done in a therapy room. Between the full caseload and the independence I was given at my school, I gained invaluable experience that I was able to take into post graduation interviews confidently.” – P.W.
“Being with The Schools Group has been an inspirational journey with work in schools, a memorable experience.  The expertise from supervisors has provided fun challenges, as well as a sense of security that I was well-supported as a student.” – C.I.