Healthy Minds is on a mission to improve mental healthcare in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. One component of that goal is helping to educate, train, and retain the next generation of mental health experts — MDs, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, and other specialists.
Our previous article provided an overview of our externship program with Milan Institute. In this article, we’d like to provide an overview of our practicum program.
What is a practicum?
In case you’re not familiar with the process, a “practicum” is a required supervised field experience intended to give students hands-on experience in the healthcare field they’re learning about in their academic program.
Once students complete their required academic course hours plus their practicum, they’re able to graduate from their program with a more focused career track, informed by both field experience and classroom learning. Often, the next step is an internship, which is a full-time paid job wherein they’re able to put their skills and knowledge to work independently, but under guided support/management from on-site professionals.
Healthy Minds’ Mental Health Practicum in Las Vegas
At Healthy Minds’, we aim to provide the most valuable practicum experience possible to our students. That means we often do things a bit differently…
What can our practicum students expect?
Healthy Minds’ practicum offers a very thorough orientation to the field of child welfare, providing both micro, mezzo, and macro experiences. (To understand and treat an individual requires you to understand and treat the environments that shape them.)
As Jenny Malnar, LCSW, Healthy Minds’ Clinical Training Director (who also oversees the practicum students) says, “A practicum is probably the most important point in your education. It gives you the field experience you need to find out what you truly want to do — or don’t want to do.”
Thus, our goal is to provide each practicum student with a deeply enriching practicum experience so they can grow as professionals. Passionate students who stand out during their practicum may even go on to work at Healthy Minds full-time. In fact, four of our current staff members were once practicum students here!
Limited practicum availability
Providing an in-depth, meaningful practicum experience requires a lot of time, planning, and guidance from our team. This is difficult to accomplish if too many students are participating at any one time.
Thus, we currently take no more than three practicum students per semester, usually starting from an interview pool of about 10 applicants. (Some practicums can also be a full year.)
Working in a collaborative, team-based environment
Healthy Minds’ practicum students are provided with a thorough clinical orientation provided by Jenny Malnar as well as a full orientation to the company provided by several Healthy Minds staff that represent all departments.
Depending on their interests, they can get hands-on learning in SUD (substance use disorders), child welfare, or general psychiatry. If desired, we can also “mix it up,” allowing the student to work under different specialists in different fields over different time periods.
Regardless of who or where they work within Healthy Minds, each practicum student will be immersed in a collaborative, team-based environment. That’s because we take a multi-systemic approach to mental health care, wherein multiple specialists are involved with our patients’ care.
That means a practicum student will work with psychiatrists, therapists, MDs, social workers, and other mental health experts all under the same roof. This broad, hands-on experience and exposure to multiple fields/disciplines will help students get a better sense of the career path they want to take once they’ve completed their practicum.
Meet Sara Hernandez-Moya, former practicum student and current Intake Assessor and Psychotherapist at Healthy Minds
Sara Hernandez-Moya is a great example of the value of a practicum experience at Healthy Minds. Sara earned her Master of Social Work from Walden University, where she graduated with honors.
As Sara says, “When I started my practicum, I was uncertain where I wanted to establish myself within the Social Work field. My practicum provided a broad and in-depth experience that endorsed my strengths, areas of expertise and passion within the field. At the end of my practicum I acquired knowledge that laid down the foundation of my clinical practice.”
Today, Sara is employed at Healthy Minds. She was hired as a CSW-Intern Psychotherapist, has worked her way through her internship, and will obtain her LCSW in the beginning of March 2019. She also recently accepted the position as Healthy Minds’ Intake Assessor. This includes handling all initial assessments from Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS), ensuring that every patient (infant all the way up to 18 years old) coming into our care is provided with a comprehensive assessment and clinical summary including diagnoses and clinical recommendations regarding therapeutic services to benefit the patient and meet their individual needs. The assessment process also ensures that each patient is provided with the appropriate treatment team to match their unique needs.
Special thanks to Jennifer Malnar
Without the thoughtful work and direction of Clinical Training Director Jenny Malnar, Healthy Minds’ practicum program wouldn’t be possible.
Jenny has over two decades of social service experience under her belt. She was the founder of her own counseling agency in Streator, Illinois, as well as the founder of a not-for-profit community center in the same town.
After selling her business with the aim of “slowing down,” friends and family in Las Vegas convinced Jenny to move here. Eventually, the desire to make a difference led Jenny to Healthy Minds, and the rest is history.
Everyone at Healthy Minds is incredibly grateful for Jenny and the invaluable work she’s doing to help educate, train, and retain the next generation of mental health care workers in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.