Rehabilitation and Human Services Internship

The major focus of the RHS internship is on learning professional skills, abilities, and activities practiced in rehabilitation and human services settings where the focus is on helping clients develop psychosocial, physical, recreational, vocational/career, social, and/or independent living skills. Students will be involved in as many aspects of the RHS process as their academic training and variations in agency/facility functions and services permit.

Students should be able to demonstrate the following competencies at the end of the internship:

  1. Basic listening skills.

  2. Understanding ethical and legal issues related to RHS.

  3. Understanding of and ability to evaluate RHS assessments and reports.

  4. Awareness of how interpersonal and intrapersonal values and beliefs affect professional relationships.

  5. Advocacy skills that promote full client access to community services.

  6. Understanding and ability to function in RHS interdisciplinary teams.

  7. Assist in rehabilitation treatment planning.

  8. Locate and access community resources.

  9. Respond to supervision appropriately.

  10.   Understand a variety of interview and communication techniques.

Internship settings can include public, private-non-profit, and for-profit RHS agencies and facilities such as rehabilitation hospitals, schools, mental health programs, group homes, community programs for persons with developmental disabilities, alcohol and other drug treatment programs, supported employment programs, programs for older people, correctional institutions, and children and youth service agencies.

From the student perspective, an internship assists with career development by providing real work experiences that provide students with opportunities to explore their interests and develop professional skills and competencies. During internships, students are provided with opportunities to apply what they learned in classes to actual practice. It is expected that students will also be challenged to examine how their attitudes, beliefs, and values influence the helping process.

From the agency/facility perspective, an internship provides a unique training experience designed to enhance the professional development and functioning of the student/supervisee. In accepting students as interns, the agency/facility representative recognizes that the internship is a learning process designed to promote professional growth of the supervisee.


Internship Manual

Interns complete a 600-hour (15 credit) internship at a facility, agency, or other employment setting consistent with their professional goals and interests. A complete description of internship requirements and application procedures are described within the internship manual located on the Rehabilitation and Human Services Canvas site. Students must be familiar with all of the policy and procedures described in this manual.


Students registering for RHS 495A (RHS Internship) must have a minimum GPA of 2.0, and have completed all coursework prior to internship. Students should consult with their academic adviser to ensure that all prerequisites are successfully completed prior to beginning the internship. Students must also have obtained a grade of C or higher in the following courses:

RHS 100 Introduction to Disability Culture

RHS 300 Introduction to Rehabilitation and Human Services

RHS 301 Introduction to Counseling as a Profession

RHS 302 Client Assessment in Rehabilitation and Human Services

RHS 303 Group Work in Rehabilitation and Human Services

RHS 400W Case Management and Communication Skills

RHS 401 Community Mental Health Practice and Services

RHS 402 Children and Families in Rehabilitation and Human Services

RHS 403 Medical Aspects of Disability

A complete list of sites where students have completed internships in the past 8 years and contact information is available on our internship database. 

To ensure a quality internship experience, the internship should take place in an RHS agency/facility that matches the students’ area of interest and future career goals. Students with minors and/or special interest areas should select an internship consistent with their preparation and interest. Students and internship site staff should review the following criteria to ensure the Internship Coordinator will approve the internship site:

  1. The agency/facility should be well established and recognized as providing professional services to RHS clients. This may be measured by reputation in the community, accreditations (e.g., Council for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals), state licenses, and/or certification. Selection of the site is primarily determined by the student’s interests and learning objectives.

  2. The agency/facility should have professional staff whose members identify as RHS professionals. Staff who supervise undergraduate students in the RHS major must have a bachelor’s degree and at least two years of direct clinical experience. Students must ask about supervisor credentials when selecting a site. Students interning in addiction programs should be supervised by a Certified Addictions Counselor (CAC), if possible.

  3. The agency/facility should have a variety of RHS programs that offer the intern a well rounded experience and considerable opportunities to work directly with clients with disabilities or human services needs. Internship duties should be consistent with the appropriate degree level the student is working toward.

  4. The agency/facility should provide rehabilitation and human services, and have designated staff willing to supervise the student and work with the Internship Coordinator in designing internship experiences that benefit agency/facility aims and intern goals.

  5. Pennsylvania Acts 33 and 151/33 specify that prospective employees of agencies that serve children and public and private schools must undergo background checks. These Acts are intended to cover employees but some agencies and school districts also require background checks for interns. Out-of-state residents must also present evidence of a FBI background check. At the time of this publication, the State Police Request for Criminal Record Information cost $10.00 and the FBI charges $10.00 for a Fingerprint Record search. Background checks can take up to 4-6 weeks so students should complete the background check process early. Failure to do so could result in delaying internship and possibly graduation. Request for Criminal History Record Information (Act 34) and Child Abuse History Clearance (Act 151/33) forms are available in 228 Chambers Building (UP), school districts, and State Police stations, as well as PA.GOV and Pennsylvania Department of Human Services websites.

  1. Students begin the internship selection process by meeting with their adviser to ensure all academic requirements are met prior to the expected internship date. Verification that the student has or will have complied with all graduation requirements (with the exception of internship) requires the academic adviser’s signature on the Internship Scheduling Sheet (Appendix A).

  2. Students should identify several possible internship sites before making their final selection. Information on over 300 sites RHS students have used over the years can be found on the RHS Internship Database. Prior to contacting potential sites, it is strongly recommended that students meet with their academic adviser to discuss preparation strategies and protocol. Students should also have a current resume when they start the interview process. Students cannot make an unconditional commitment to any site until returning to discuss the arrangements with their academic adviser

  3. After interviewing at several sites (it is recommended that students visit at least three), students should discuss the pros and cons of each site with their academic adviser before making a final decision. Students should then notify the Site Supervisor or person with whom they spoke during the interview to accept the internship placement. As a professional courtesy, students should also notify individuals with whom they spoke from other sites but did not select for their internship.

Once students have selected an internship site they must complete and submit the Internship Application to Madison Woomer at 125 CEDAR Building.

Although we advise students to carry professional liability insurance, in certain instances, the host site may have specific insurance requirements of the student such as professional liability and other types of insurance as needed. When exploring internship sites, it is recommended that students first check with the host site’s insurance requirements before making a decision to purchase a specific insurance coverage plan. Although it is possible that host sites might be willing to extend their insurance coverage to hosted students (i.e., interns), you may wish to purchase insurance coverage in addition to what is available, if offered.

Please note that Penn State University does not provide liability insurance for students engaging in internships nor does it extend its insurance to students. Although we do not recommend specific insurance providers, there are many insurance providers available including the student’s own insurance provider(s) and/or other professional association-sponsored insurance programs. In each case, it is the student’s responsibility to purchase liability insurance that meets the host site’s insurance requirements. The enrollment dates should include internship semester.

Marsh U.S. Consumer
PO Box 14576
Des Moines, IA 50306
1-800-503-9230 (7:30 AM to 5:00 PM Central, M-F)

Once students have selected an internship site they must complete and submit the Internship Application, which consists of the following:

  1. RHS Internship Scheduling Sheet (Appendix A).

  2. Student Acknowledgement of RHS Pre-Internship Responsibilities Form (Appendix B).

  3. Job description or typed statement of expected job duties the student will perform during internship. The Site Supervisor should provide this documentation. If not, the student should work with the Site Supervisor to create a list of job duties.

  4. Typed statement of specific goals (at least four) the student intends to achieve during internship. To write useful goals, students should answer the following question: “At the end of the internship, how will I determine whether this experience was successful and helped me professionally?” Good goals should also include at least two objectives, or ways of accomplishing the goals, and be specific with a specific end date. An example of a goal is as follows: Goal: I will learn to co-lead drug and alcohol awareness groups by the end of internship; Objective One: I will observe three groups by February 14, 2015; Objective Two: I will co-lead two groups by April 20, 2015. Students should refer to their RHS 400W notes for more information about writing strong goals and objectives.

  5. Student’s resume.

  6. Student’s most recent degree audit (accessed on LionPath).

  7. Publicity information (brochures, printed web pages) about the internship site.

  8. Some sites (most often hospitals, Veteran’s Administration, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation) require a formal written contract between the agency/facility and Penn State. Penn State’s Office of General Council must review these contracts. This process can take 6-8 weeks because the Office of General Council is responsible for serving all Penn State campuses. Be sure to ask before accepting the internship if a contract will be needed. If a contract is needed, notify the Internship Coordinator so the review process can begin. Students who pursue internships that require a contract WILL NOT be able to begin their internship until this contract agreement is reviewed and approved by the legal representatives from Penn State and the internship site.

Student Assignments and Grading

Interns are required to submit weekly internship logs throughout the semester. Logs are due at the end of each week. Completed logs must be submitted by Monday of the following week. For example, for a week that ends on Friday January 14 the log would be due NO LATER than Monday, January 17 by midnight. Additionally, logs must be submitted in Microsoft Word document format. No other format will be accepted and until it is in the appropriate format, the log will not be counted. Students who submit their logs late more than once may encounter a penalty in their final grades, depending on individual circumstances. Given that students are aware of the lateness policy, there is a clear expectation that logs will be handed in on time.

The purpose of the logs is to help interns reflect upon their experiences and to provide the Internship Coordinator with insight into the interns’ daily activities as well as the daily operation of the agency/facility. The weekly log is also the main line of communication between the intern and the Internship Coordinator. At the end of the log, there is a comments section that provides interns with an opportunity to express thoughts and concerns, and ask the Internship Coordinator questions. Students should use the daily log as a way to think and write about what they learned each day. See Appendix D for a copy of the blank weekly log form and Appendix C for examples of completed logs on Canvas.

The Internship Coordinator will evaluate the quality of each log starting with a score of 100 points. Logs that are turned in late will lose 10 points (one letter grade) for each day they are late. Logs that do not include enough detail or don't follow the outline and format provided in the Internship Manual will lose 5 points. Weekly logs constitute 20% of a student’s final grade, so it is important that students write satisfactory logs that document work activities as well as detail how these experiences impact their professional development for a given week.

At mid-semester and during the last week of the semester the intern and the Site Supervisor will complete an Intern Evaluation Report (see Appendix E), which provides feedback about the intern’s performance. Space is provided for the intern to make self-evaluative comments, and the intern and Site Supervisor must type their names at the end of the Intern Evaluation Report. This typed name will serve as an electronic signature.

The completed Intern Evaluation Report will be uploaded to the Canvas site by the dates provided by the Internship Coordinator. The Report must be uploaded as a single document, not multiple documents for each page, either as a PDF file or using Microsoft Word.

During the last week of the internship each student is required to complete a short critique of the internship experience. The critique should include:

  1. An overview of the activities the intern engaged in with a critique of the personal and professional development gained from these activities,

  2. An assessment of the supervision and support the intern received at the site,

  3. Self-assessment of the intern's performance and relative strengths and weaknesses,

  4. Suggestions for improving the internship experience for future interns, and

  5. Any other relevant comments.

The critique should be 3-5 typewritten pages. When writing the critique, be sure to use these exact headings:

  • Overview of Internship Activities,

  • Supervision Assessment,

  • Self-assessment,

  • Suggestions for Improving the Internship Experience,

  • and, if relevant, Other Comments.

The critique must be uploaded to Canvas no later than the last day of University classes.

The Internship Coordinator will make three simultaneously phone calls to the intern and the On-site Supervisor. The first call will occur during the first two weeks, the second call will occur after receipt of the mid-semester evaluation, and the third call will occur during the last two weeks of the semester.

The Internship Coordinator is responsible for assigning the final grade. The information provided in the mid- and final semester Intern Evaluation Reports by the On-site Supervisor is critical and constitutes the most influence on the grade, but other factors are also evaluated (intern self-assessment, quality and timeliness of weekly logs). In terms of the mid- and final semester evaluations, the general expectation is that the intern has shown improvement and there are no major deficiencies noted on the Intern Evaluation Report. Grading is assigned as follows:

65% - Intern Evaluation Report (Mid-semester is 25%; Final semester is 40%)
25% - Weekly Logs
10% - Written Internship Critique

In the majority of cases, the final grade range falls between A and B+. Lower grades are indicative of several deficient areas noted in the Intern Mid- and Final Semester Performance Reports, failure to submit weekly logs, and/or failure to complete the Internship Critique.

In the event students do not achieve this level, they will be required to complete another internship. In this instance, a review of remedial action with the student, the student's adviser, and Internship Coordinator will be required prior to starting a subsequent internship. In the event student performance indicates a serious breach in professional behavior, ethical practices, and/or general rules of acceptable student conduct, during the course of the internship, it may be necessary to terminate the internship. In these instances, a review by the Internship Coordinator, academic adviser, and student will follow to determine an appropriate course of action. Review the Penn State Student Code of Conduct for more information on student regulations.

Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Develop a schedule with the Site Supervisor to meet the required number of hours for internship. For Fall and Spring semester, the minimum number of hours is 600. For Summer semester and because of Penn State’s academic schedule, the minimum number of hours is 520. If students must miss days at their internship site because of weather or sick days they should consult with the Site Supervisor to make up the missed hours. Students who miss three or more days during the internship should notify the Internship Coordinator in the event there is need to make up missed hours.

  2. Treat internship as a professional commitment. Although still a student, the Site Supervisor and other staff will perceive the student’s role as similar to that of an employee. As such, demonstrating good work habits, being receptive to supervision, and following through on assigned work are key elements of this commitment.

  3. Observe and follow agency/facility procedures, policies, and regulations.

  4. Ask for assistance and supervision when needed.

  5. Attend conferences, staff meetings, counseling sessions, and other learning experiences assigned by the Site Supervisor.

  6. Inform the Site Supervisor of work-related difficulties and challenges.

  7. Complete daily logs and post them to the Canvas course site the end of each week for the Internship Coordinator to review. Copies of all forms will be posted on Canvas.

  8. Participate in weekly supervision (minimum 1 hour) with a qualified Site Supervisor.

  9. Keep detailed records including:

    1. Total number hours spent at internship site.

    2. Supervisory meetings (individual and group, if relevant).

    3. Attendance at agency/facility conferences and in-service training programs.

    4. Copies of all forms (e.g., Internship Application, liability insurance, evaluations).

  1. Review and approve the Internship Application.

  2. If needed, prepare students for the internship experience.

  3. Assist students in using supervision effectively.

  4. If needed, help students refine internship goals.

  5. Address problems and concerns that may develop between student and Site Supervisors.

  6. Assess students’ progress and professional behavior, and provide feedback to students at mid-semester and final semester evaluation.

  7. If necessary, assist students with integrating knowledge and theory with fieldwork.

  8. Develop and maintain field instruction program.

  9. Monitor student progress via weekly reports, phone conversations, evaluation reports, and, when necessary, site visits.

  10.   Be available for consultation should questions or problems a rise.

    The Internship Coordinator will contact the Site Supervisor three times over the course of the semester: at the beginning of the semester (within the first two weeks), at midterm, and before final evaluations are due (last two weeks of the semester). The Internship Coordinator will visit agency/facility sites only on a case-by-case basis as needed.

  1. Provide an opportunity for internship experience in a professional setting.

  2. Provide orientation to the student, explaining agency/facility mission and goals, services, and policies and procedures.

  3. Provide student with opportunities to observe relevant aspects of agency/facility services.

  4. Provide opportunities to integrate knowledge and practice new skills.

  5. Provide opportunities for case recording and reporting.

  6. Provide opportunities for interactions with clients.

  7. Provide individual student supervision at least 1 hour per week.

  8. Model professional and ethical competence and conduct.

  9. Stay current on the number of internship hours the student has completed.

  10.   Inform student of strengths and weaknesses, as well as areas needing improvement during mid-semester and final evaluations.

  11.   Complete mid-semester and final evaluations with the student in a timely manner.

  12.   Communicate any concerns about the student’s internship experience to Internship Coordinator.

Students are required to obtain a minimum of one hour of individual supervision per week. Site supervisors will focus on the following main skill areas during supervision.

  • Case management skills: These refer to case recording and case documentation procedures relevant to the internship site and making case presentations at team meetings.

  • Human services and rehabilitation delivery systems skills: These include knowledge of community resources and services provided by the agency/facility as well as other local resources designed to address client needs.

  • Professional skills: These are skills related to work performance inside and outside of the client relationship and include respecting confidentiality, behaving professionally, and demonstrating consistently strong work behaviors, as well as being able to work effectively with colleagues.

To promote intern professional development, Site Supervisors may take on different roles including teacher, counselor, and consultant. In the teacher role the supervisor is responsible for presenting what the student needs to do and learn, providing specific instruction as to how the student intern should respond or act. The counselor role allows the supervisor to focus on the interpersonal or intrapersonal dynamics of the student. In this role, the supervisor may ask the student to explore feelings or reactions with regard to client and/or supervisor interactions. At times, this role can be uncomfortable to students as it often raises issues regarding student beliefs and worldviews, but in no way does the supervisor actually function as the student’s personal counselor. Finally, as a consultant the supervisor encourages the student to think independently and trust his/her own insights. As the student progresses during internship, supervisors may use one or several roles to promote professional development and growth.