To empower the trainee to effectively address the situation, when possible, through direct communication with the supervisor.
To empower the trainee to effectively address the situation, when possible, through direct communication with the staff member.
To assist the intern in resolving issues that are negatively affecting their ability to adequately perform their duties. This is an overview of the policies and procedures utilized to address intern problems and concerns, a listing of possible sanctions and an explicit discussion of the due process procedures. Also included are important considerations in the remediation of problems.
Definition of Problematic Behavior:
Problematic behavior is broadly defined as behavior that interferes with professional functioning, and is reflected in one or more of the following ways:
a. an inability and/or unwillingness to acquire and integrate professional behaviors and ethical standards;
b. an inability to acquire the level of professional skills necessary to reach an acceptable level of competency;
c. an inability to control personal stress, psychological problems, and/or excessive emotional reactions which interfere with professional functioning.
The predoctoral internship-training program at the Counseling Center has many evaluative procedures designed to provide feedback of the intern’s performance. Feedback on the intern’s performance comes formally and informally from the intern’s self-evaluation, peer interns, the primary supervisor, the training director, senior staff psychologists, and clerical staff.
Each intern may have difficulty in some area during the course of the internship; some difficulties, of course, are more severe than others. Professional judgment should be exercised in determining when action needs to be taken to address the problematic behavior. Action is more likely to be taken when one or more of the following characteristics is noted:
a. The intern does not acknowledge, understand, or address the problem when it is identified;
b. The problem is not merely a reflection of the skill deficit which can be rectified by further academic or didactic training;
c. The quality of the intern’s service delivery is negatively affected and may be considered to be destructive to clients;
d. The problem is not restricted to one area of professional functioning;
e. A disproportionate amount of attention by training personnel is required, compared to other interns in the group; and/or...
f. The trainee’s behavior does not change as a function of feedback, remediation efforts, and/or time.
The purpose of the following policy/procedure is to provide interns with the parameters of appropriate behavior and clarify the process for feedback, remediation and notification to academic program if necessary.
It is the policy of the Counseling Center to evaluate all components of the intern’s performance formally and informally at defined times throughout the internship. The need to take action to address problematic behaviors is made if the intern’s performance consistently approaches the low end of the range in several of the categories identified in the definition above. In addition, action may be warranted if there is a serious deficiency in one category alone. Procedures for responding to problematic behaviors and inadequate performance are reviewed below.
It is important to have meaningful ways to address problematic behavior once it has been identified. In implementing sanction interventions, the training staff must be mindful of, and balance the needs of the intern, the clients involved, members of the intern training group, the training staff, and other agency personnel. The following steps will be taken to address problematic behavior. Depending on the seriousness of the behavioral problems, the process can begin at any level with higher levels being relevant to more serious problems.
1. Verbal Warning to the intern emphasizes the need to discontinue the inappropriate behavior under discussion. No record of this action is kept.
2. Written Acknowledgement to the intern formally acknowledges:
a. That the Training Director (TD) is aware of and concerned with the performance rating.
b. That the concern has been brought to the attention of the intern,
c. That the TD will work with the intern to rectify the problem or skill deficits, and
d. That the behaviors associated with the rating are not significant enough to warrant more serious action.
The written acknowledgment will be removed from the intern’s file when the intern responds to the concerns and successfully corrects the problematic behavior and completes the internship.
3. Written Warning to the intern indicates the need to discontinue an inappropriate action or behavior. This letter will contain:
a. A description of the intern’s unsatisfactory performance,
b. Actions needed by the intern to correct the unsatisfactory behavior,
c. The time line for correcting the problem,
d. What action will be taken if the problem is not corrected, and
e. Notification that the intern has the right to request a review of this action.
A copy of this letter will be kept in the intern’s file. Consideration may be given to removing this letter at the end of the internship by the TD in consultation with the intern’s supervisor and Director. If the letter is to remain in the file, documentation should contain the position statements of the parties involved in the dispute.
4. Schedule Modification is a time-limited, remediation-oriented closely supervised period of training designed to return the intern to a more fully functioning state. Modifying an intern’s schedule is an accommodation made to assist the intern in responding to personal reactions to environmental stress, with the full expectation that the intern will complete the internship. This period will include more closely scrutinized supervision conducted by the regular supervisor in consultation with the TD.
Several possible and perhaps concurrent courses of action may be included in modifying a schedule. These might include:
a. Increasing the amount of supervision, either with the same or other supervisors,
b. Change in the format, emphasis, and/or focus of supervision,
c. Recommending personal therapy (a list of community practitioners and other options will be provided),
d. Reducing the intern’s clinical or other workload,
e. Requiring specific academic coursework.
The length of a schedule modification period will be determined by the TD in consultation with the primary supervisor and the Director. The termination of the schedule modification period will be determined, after discussions with the intern, by the TD in consultation with the primary supervisor and the Director.
5. Probation is also a time limited, remediation-oriented, more closely supervised training period. Its purpose is to assess the ability of the intern to return to a more fully functioning state and to complete the internship successfully. Probation defines a relationship that the TD systematically monitors for a specific length of time the degree to which the intern addresses, changes and/or otherwise improves the behavior associated with the inadequate rating. The intern is informed of the probation in a written statement that includes:
a. The specific behaviors associated with the unacceptable rating;
b. The recommendations for rectifying the problem
c. The time frame for the probation during which the problem is expected to be ameliorated, and
d. The procedures to ascertain whether the problem has been appropriately rectified.
If the TD determines that there has not been sufficient improvement in the intern’s behavior to remove the Probation or modified schedule, then the TD will discuss with the primary supervisor and the Director possible courses of action to be taken. The TD will communicate in writing to the intern that the conditions for revoking the probation or modified schedule have not been met. This notice will include the course of action the TD has decided to implement. These may include continuation of the remediation efforts for a specified time period or implementation of another alternative. Additionally, the TD will communicate to the Director that if the intern’s behavior does not change, the intern will not successfully complete the internship.
6. Suspension of Direct Service Activities requires a determination that the welfare of the intern’s client or consultantee has been jeopardized. Therefore, direct service activities will be suspended for a specified period as determined by the TD in consultation with the Director. At the end of the suspension period, the intern’s supervisor in consultation with the TD will assess the intern’s capacity for effective functioning and determine when direct service can be resumed.
7. Administrative Leave involves the temporary withdrawal of all responsibilities and privileges in the agency. If the Probation Period, suspension of Direct Service Activities, or Administrative Leave interferes with the successful completion of the training hours needed for completion of the internship, this will be noted in the intern’s file and the intern’s academic program will be informed. The TD will inform the intern of the effects the administrative leave will have on the intern’s stipend and accrual of benefits.
8. Dismissal from the Internship involves the permanent withdrawal of all agency responsibilities and privileges. When specific interventions do not, after a reasonable time period, rectify the problem behavior or concerns and the trainee seems unable or unwilling to alter her/his behavior, the TD will discuss with the Director the possibility of termination from the training program or dismissal from the agency. Either administrative leave or dismissal would be invoked in cases of severe violations of the APA Code of Ethics, or when imminent physical or psychological harm to a client is a major factor or the intern is unable to complete the internship due to physical, mental or emotional illness. When an intern has been dismissed, the TD will communicate to the intern’s academic department that the intern has not successfully completed the internship.
If an intern receives an “unacceptable rating” from any of the evaluation sources in any of the major categories of evaluation, or if a staff member has concerns about an intern’s behavior (ethical or legal violations, professional incompetence), the following procedures will be initiated:
Due process ensures that decisions about interns are not arbitrary or personally based. It requires that the Training Program identify specific evaluative procedures that are applied to all trainees, and provide appropriate appeal procedures available to the intern. All steps need to be appropriately documented and implemented. General due process guidelines are listed below:
The basic meaning of due process is to inform and to provide a framework to respond, act on or dispute actions implemented. When a matter cannot be resolved between the TD and intern or staff, the steps to be taken are listed below.
A. Grievance Procedure
There are two situations in which grievance procedures can be initiated:
1. In the event an intern encounters any difficulties or problems (e.g. poor supervision, unavailability of supervisor, evaluations perceived as unfair, workload issues, personality conflicts, other staff conflict) during his/her training experiences, an intern can:
a. Discuss the issue with the staff member(s) involved;
b. If the issue cannot be resolved informally, the intern should discuss the concerns with the TD or member of the management team;
c. If the TD or member of the management team cannot resolve the issue, the intern can formally challenge any action or decision taken by the TD, the supervisor, or any member of the training staff by following this procedure:
i. The intern should file a formal complaint, in writing and all supporting documentation with the TD. If the intern is challenging a formal evaluation, the intern must do so within 5 days of receipt of the evaluation.
ii. Within three days of a formal complaint, the TD must consult with the Director and implement Review Panel procedures as described below.
2. If the training staff member has a specific concern about an intern, the staff member should:
a. Discuss the issue with the intern(s) involved;
b. Consult with the TD;
c. If the issue is not resolved informally, the staff member may seek resolution of the concern by written request, with all supporting documents, to the TD for a review of the situation. When this occurs, the TD will consult with the Director within three days and implement Review Panel procedures as described below.
B. Review Panel and Process