Practicum and Field Experiences

Department of School, Family and Mental Health Professions

Practicum and fieldwork training experiences are essential components of our programs. Students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to their work as trainee counselors and family therapists in local schools, mental health agencies, hospitals, outpatient psychiatric and primary care settings, and other service settings. We select and cultivate optimal training sites to offer students diversity and depth in training opportunities. We also carefully select site-based supervisors and foster strong linkage between these site-based professionals and USD faculty. Our specific practicum and fieldwork experiences are described by program below, with examples of the training sites. Across programs, students receive expert supervision on-site and on-campus, with multiple layers of support and complementary practice perspectives to assure a rich experience.

In order for students in the SFMHP department  to gain greater exposure to a wide range of counseling and mental health promotion services/programs, beyond their intensive practicum placements, we are encouraging students to engage in volunteer opportunities in the community.  This list will be updated periodically as additional opportunities become available.

If you have further questions, email Peggy Hetherington at



The field experiences courses (COUN 588P and COUN 590F) represent major benchmarks in the master’s-level theory to practice training of students in the school counseling specialization, as it is the first supervised clinical experiences, providing direct services to K-12 students.

School Based Practicum (COUN 588P)

The practicum is the first course requiring onsite experience with students/clients. The school counseling practicum is a school-based model, where a small group of students (4-6) are assigned to a school site with an USD faculty instructor. The instructor and students spend one whole day at the site providing direct service to students, and engaging in group and individual supervision. Throughout practicum, students continue to develop the basic counseling skills introduced in pre-practicum and prepare themselves for the advanced clinical instruction provided in yearlong fieldwork placements during their second year. School counseling practicum requires 100 hours at a site with 40 hours of direct client contact.

Peggy Hetherington, the Director of Field Experiences, will contact you during your first semester in the program to explain procedures for practicum placements. She may also be contacted at, if you have questions.

Before qualifying for practicum, you must complete the Clinical Instruction Benchmark Assessment (CIBA) with your advisor. (See copy of the CIBA paperwork here). As a part of the CIBA process, students complete a personal reflection document, submit papers from prerequisite classes (COUN 503, Professional Orientation, COUN 564, Counseling Skills, COUN 520, Theory and Practice), and complete a verification of counseling hours form, obtain professional liability insurance, submit certification of fingerprinting clearance, and provide completed self and instructor assessments from the COUN 564, Counseling Skills. Students are also encourage to take and pass the CBEST exam, as this is a requirement to apply for the Pupil Personnel Services Credential at the end of the master’s program.

School Counseling Fieldwork (COUN 590)

COUN 590F is a three-unit course taken upon completion of COUN 588P (Counseling Practicum: School-based). The course provides in-depth guidance and counseling experience in public schools and in agencies working with school-aged children. The course is designed to provide the intern candidate with experiences enhancing knowledge, skills and dispositions included in the USD School Counseling Program’s learning outcomes. Fieldwork students are expected to demonstrate competencies of the highest caliber.

Prior to final approval for placement in the yearlong fieldwork experience, the school counseling student must arrange a meeting with their faculty advisors to complete the Fieldwork Readiness Process. (Review the required paperwork and expectations)

Students participate in fieldwork over their final two or three semesters in the program. A Fieldwork manual provides details regarding all requirements for the fieldwork requirements for the school counseling specialization. (Review the manual.) Students should carefully follow the instructions in the manual. The clinical instruction manual is available to review on the counseling program website and will be given to students during the practicum experience.

During each semester of enrollment in COUN 590F, the student candidate will complete a minimum of 300 clock hours at a field site selected following consultation with the student's advisor and the Director of Field Experiences. The student can enroll in three units of fieldwork during any one semester. Students applying for the credential must complete 600 supervised hours during at least two semesters. The student will participate in a group supervision class which will meet weekly during the semesters the student is enrolled in COUN 590F. A university supervisor will make two visits per semester to the fieldwork site to collaborate with the site supervisors and observe the USD counseling student.

During the first year, students will have a number of opportunities to learn about the types of sites available. The Director of Field Experiences, Peggy Hetherington, assists students in finding appropriate placements in conjunction with faculty advisors.

School Counseling Practicum and Fieldwork Previous Sites


  • San Diego Unified School District
  • Poway Unified School District
  • Carlsbad Unified School District
  • Coronado Unified School District
  • Vista Unified School District
  • Oceanside Unified School District
  • San Marcos Unified School District
  • Escondido Union High School District
  • San Dieguito Union High School District
  • Sweetwater Union High School District
  • Grossmont Union High School District
  • Santee School District
  • La Mesa – Spring Valley School District
  • Cajon Valley School District

Charter Schools

  • High Tech High Complex
  • High Tech Middle Schools
  • Gompers Charter 6-12
  • King Chavez Charter
  • College Preparatory Middle School
  • O'Farrell Community School
  • Steele Canyon Charter High School

Alternative Sites

  • Springall Academy
  • Balboa City School
  • Army and Navy Academy
  • Our Lady School
  • Preuss School
  • Grauer School
  • Pacific Ridge School
  • San Diego County – Juvenile Court and Community Schools
  • San Diego Center for Children


CMHC Clinical Instruction Overview

The CMHC specialization is oriented towards state requirements for licensure in a wide variety of states. Clinical instruction refers to Clinical Interviewing COUN 540, Practicum I/II/III, COUN 587P, COUN 597 and COUN 598, and any mental health experience where CMHC students are exercising various counseling-related skills under USD approved supervision.

State-recognized board certification and licensure represent the highest credentials for independent mental health practice. The qualifications of the clinical supervisor are critical to the development of mental health practitioners. Toward that end, the USD CMHC specialization requires that the supervisor of record must have a valid mental health credential from the state of California and training in supervision of clinical experiences. This board certified or licensed supervisor requirement means that a student’s clinical instruction hours accrued at the masters level will be accepted by the state of California and most likely would be accepted by other states.

CMHC Practicum I Overview (COUN 587P)

The CMHC practicum experience represents a major benchmark in the master’s-level clinical training of students, as it is their first supervised clinical experience providing direct services to clients. The practicum is oriented towards providing relevant clinical counseling and training experiences in mental health settings.

Before being assigned to a practicum site the student completes the Clinical Instruction Benchmark Assessment (CIBA), an in-depth evaluation of their readiness for practicum. The CIBA includes a review of instructor and self-evaluations from their clinical experience practice in clinical interviewing (COUN 540), the student’s reflection on his or her perceived readiness for practicum, and an interview with their program advisor which focuses on the knowledge, skills and attitudes the student has developed that will make them effective in delivering direct services to clients.

Click here to view the CIBA packet

Click here to view the course prerequisites for enrollment in CMHC Practicum I

In addition, all USD CMHC practicum students must maintain continuous proof of valid malpractice insurance during their Clinical Experience courses while they are providing direct service to clients at their sites. Practicum assignments are made by the Director of Field Experiences, Peggy Hetherington, in consultation with the CMHC faculty and the trainee. During the Practicum I experience, 100 hours are required during the semester, with a minimum of 40 of these hours in direct service to clients. 

CMHC Practicum II/III Overview (COUN 597, COUN 598)

COUN 597F and 598F are three unit courses taken during the last two semesters of the CMHC Program.

CMHC practicum II/III is intended to provide in-depth counseling and training experiences in settings similar to those where the trainee anticipates obtaining employment after graduation. These courses are designed to provide the CMHC student with experiences enhancing knowledge, skills and dispositions in the USD’s counseling program’s learning outcomes. The trainee is expected to demonstrate competencies of the highest caliber. Prior to final approval for placement in the minimum of two semester practicum II/III experience, the clinical mental health counseling student must arrange a meeting with their faculty advisors to complete the Practicum II/III Readiness Process. The total number of practicum II/III hours required is 600 hours, with a minimum of 240 hours in direct service hours with clients. Students are required to enroll twice, once in either COUN 597F or COUN 598F to meet the requirements. Approved hours may only be accrued while officially enrolled in CMHC practicum II/III.

On-site supervision will be the direct responsibility of the designated clinical supervisor at the site. The on-site supervisor should possess a valid California license in a mental health area, have been licensed for at least the past two years, and have completed training in supervision of clinical experience. The CMHC program has a multilayer approach to supervision so the CMHC practicum student will also participate in a weekly group supervisor class at USD, and a bi-weekly individual supervision session with USD clinical supervisors.

Clinical Mental Health Counseling Practicum Locations