A Closer Look

Five Questions Intern Supervisors Should Ask New Interns

Establishing a strong working relationship in which an intern feels safe, comfortable, and supported is key to a successful internship experience. With a few strategic questions, you can start a conversation that will help you understand your supervisee and make a strong start to a great year!

What do you want to accomplish this year?

Every intern brings different strengths, needs, and professional goals to their internship. Some may have had lots of experience working in schools, and others not so much. Some may LOVE assessment; others may be more invested in building their school-based mental health skills. Conversations about goals are key to planning a wide range of training experiences that will both build skills across all domains of the NASP Practice Model and allow for the development of expertise in specific areas of interest.

What feedback have you received from your professors and previous supervisors?

As a supervisor, you are usually liable for the supervisee’s work, so you definitely want to know about any areas of weakness in which your intern may need more support or monitoring. Supervisees may not volunteer that they needed remediation in their assessment course or have difficulty with time management. Asking specifically about feedback from previous supervisors can provide you a better understanding of how to be most helpful and alert you to situations that may require closer supervision.

What forms will I need to fill out at the end of the semester?

Intern supervisors usually have to complete some kind of formal evaluation for the university. Though this is typically due at the end of the semester or school year, it is extremely helpful to review it with the intern at the start of the year so you both know what questions you will be answering. This way you can plan training experiences that will promote skill development in the areas being evaluated (this is also the time to ask about any specific internship requirements you need to plan for, like case studies). Also be sure to discuss the minimum ratings that are needed to demonstrate competency (i.e., pass internship) and what will happen if you don’t feel the intern is performing at a level that meets those standards. If you need any clarification from the university, be sure to reach out and ask—it is definitely better to know this in advance rather than once problems have cropped up.

Have you met _______ ?

One of the best things you can do to ensure the intern feels comfortable and welcomed is to facilitate introductions during the early days of the school year. If your district has back-to-school professional development programming, make sure the intern is invited and gets to meet some of the teachers and other service providers they will be working with during the year. Introducing them to administrators sends a message that the intern is a respected and important member of the team who is there to help at a systems level. Also be sure the intern gets to know the front office staff, custodians, and other key players that keep your school running. If appropriate, consider sending an email to the faculty, administrators, and staff in your buildings introducing the intern and explaining their role, ideally with a photo so your colleagues will recognize the intern when they pass in the halls. And, of course, you will also want to facilitate introductions to parents of students on your caseload that your intern is likely to see.

Have you found the bathroom?

Starting an internship is stressful. Interns are worried about how they will do the work, whether they will successfully complete their training, and who they will become as professionals. That’s a lot, so as a supervisor you can take a few stressors off the intern’s plate by ensuring they get a basic orientation to the internship site and have all the tools they need to get started. For example, parking at schools can be challenging: If your intern will be driving to school, do they know where to park? Will they have their own office? If not, do they know where they should work? Do they have the supplies they need? Do they have access to the school’s internet or Wi-Fi? School psychology interns will also need to know how to find test kits and protocols and how to access information about students, like educational files and IEPs.

You’ll be together a lot at the start of the year as the intern shadows you and gets to know basics; be sure to check in frequently and ask if there is anything they need to feel settled. Open communication is always essential, so start with these questions and keep the conversations going all year long!

About the Author

Meaghan C. Guiney, PhD
Meaghan C. Guiney. PhD is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University's School of Psychology and Counseling. She primarily works with students as a core faculty member for FDU’s school psychology programs. In particular, as the Coordinator of Internships for FDU’s School Psychology programs, Dr. Guiney works closely with MA and PsyD interns and their field supervisors to ensure high-quality training experiences. Dr. Guiney is also actively involved in local and national leadership activities within the field of school psychology, and currently serves as the Strategic Liaison for Professional Standards on the NASP Board of Directors. In this role, she maintains contact with school psychology leaders from across the country and coordinates efforts to address the critical nationwide shortage of school psychologists.