Counselling Internships Available

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Counselling Internships - Applications are now closed for 2018.

Optometry Clinic – Master level supervision program, unpaid

The School of Optometry & Vision Science is pleased to announce that we will be starting a Clinical Internship Program for counselling students.  The goal of the program is to provide a dynamic supervised clinical practicum for counselling students in Canada while also equipping them with specialized skills and experience that will allow them to work with the growing number of Canadians with vision loss.

The intern will work predominantly in the Low Vision Clinic but may also see clients from other clinics within the School, including the Brain Injury Clinic and the Ocular Disease & Imaging Clinic.


The School of Optometry & Vision Science (WOVS) Clinic provides a clinical facility for the education of Optometry undergraduates, graduate students and residents at the University of Waterloo. It also provides a comprehensive Optometric service to the general public through a University-based clinic. Approximately 30,000 patients are seen annually.

The Optometry Clinic is committed to recognizing, addressing, and responding to the diverse needs and world views of both our interns and our clients who vary according to culture, ethnicity, racial background, religion and spirituality, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, and socioeconomic status. Our facility is accessible for people with reduced mobility.

The Low Vision Clinic’s activities are related to the assessment and rehabilitation of visual disorders, visual impairments, visual disabilities and visual handicaps. The Low Vision Clinic is a specialized optometric service provided by WOVS.

The Low Vision Clinic is part of the Centre for Sight Enhancement (CSE) which has been designated by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care for the assessment and provision of high technology sight enhancement and sight substitution systems to visually impaired Ontario residents under the Assistive Devices Program (ADP).

The Centre for Sight Enhancement (CSE) is a semi-autonomous clinical research and teaching facility within the School of Optometry & Vision Science. It is involved exclusively with activities related to the assessment and rehabilitation of visual disorders, visual impairments, visual disabilities and visual handicaps.  This Ministry program provides partial funding for these and other prescribed low vision aids.

The Centre for Sight Enhancement is an integral part of the overall teaching, research and clinical activities of the School of Optometry & Vision Science. Clinical low vision services within the CSE are provided by faculty optometrists with specialty training and experience in the low vision field. CSE staff are available to assist with reception, intake, assessment, counselling, training, clerical support and follow-up activities in the area. These support services are largely funded by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

The Low Vision Clinic has adopted an effective interdisciplinary team approach for low vision rehabilitation. Optometric low vision services are supported internally by a Rehabilitation Counsellor, Low Vision Therapist, High Technology Assessment Specialists and clerical support and externally by a large assortment of community services. We also interact regularly with many advocacy and consumer support groups attempting to assist blind and visually impaired individuals.          


The Low Vision Clinic books about 680 patients a year. Each patient may have an appointment with possibly four or five professionals in the clinic. 

Counselling Philosophy

We generally use a short-term treatment model with a blend of theoretical orientations including family systems therapy, cognitive-behavioural, solution-focused, mindfulness, feminist, narrative perspectives etc. Currently the clinic has one Registered Psychotherapist providing counselling supervision.

Counselling in the Clinic

We offer counselling to assist clients in coping with social and emotional issues that may arise from, or accompany their vision loss.  This is done through individual, couples and family counselling to clients at the clinic to assist in adjustment to vision loss.  Appropriate referrals to the community for those clients experiencing difficulties in the social, emotional, financial or vocational realms as a result of the visual or accompanying disorder are also made. Referrals are often made within the WWLHIN through an electronic referral system. These referrals may be made by the supervisor, interns or Renison/University of Waterloo BSW students completing field education placements.

Providing assistance in coping with psychosocial issues has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on the ability of the client to develop improved coping skills in living with low vision. We also offer and provide follow up support to clients through scheduled phone sessions or return visits to the clinic for in-office counselling.

Counselling Internship Philosophy

The Counselling Internship at the Optometry Clinic will allow interns a placement in a supportive interdisciplinary team.  Our goal is to provide an opportunity for individuals to further enhance clinical skills through establishing empathic therapeutic relationships, interviewing, assessment, case formulation and crisis intervention.

Levels of training

This placement is ideal for Master's or Doctoral level students in Psychotherapy or Counselling Psychology.

Placement Outcomes:

  • Total contact hours may vary depending on your program requirements. The placement will include direct client contact hours and clinical supervision.

(For Wilfrid Laurier MA students from WLS and Athabasca University students please see the section on the Athabasca & WLU practicum below.)

  • To learn to provide individual and family counselling to help clients and their families cope with progressive vision loss, adjustment to low vision, adjustments required in daily living activities, vocational adjustments, etc.
  • Common clinical issues are relationships, anxiety, depression, trauma and grief.  Interns will be scheduled for 1-4 counselling sessions per day.
  • To learn to & actively maintain clinical reports regarding counselling sessions with clients and families which will be organized within the client’s counselling file.
  • To participate with the multidisciplinary team to plan individualized low vision services which address the various needs identified by the client.
  • There is potential to form and co-facilitate a support group involving clients.
  • Supervision: Interns can expect to receive 1 – 1.5 hours of weekly individual supervision with their primary supervisor as well as informal consultation with other interdisciplinary professionals including optometrists. There may be an opportunity for group supervision in the future.
  • Additional training experiences: Interns are included in a variety of additional training experiences, case consultations and staff meetings within their set hours.

Wilfrid Laurier – Waterloo Lutheran Seminary Master of Arts (MA) in Theology Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy Students:

Students complete a minimum of 160 clinical hours on site during the practicum. They can expect to receive a minimum of 24 hours of supervision. This may include individual or group supervision. Clinical hours will consist of face to face counselling. Students may see clients between September and April. They may also begin in May. Reading week for WLU will be acknowledged in our program. Practicum hours for client contact and supervision will be scheduled on two set days each week. Some training will occur at the beginning of the practicum before students engage in direct client contact. 

The practicum will meet Counselling/Psychotherapy Practicum Guidelines

Practicum Purpose and Objectives as outlined in the Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy Handbook, September 2017:

1)       The Purpose of Clinical Education

a)       To assist students in the integration of psychology, theology, counselling theory, and personal growth into effective clinical practice.

b)       To prepare students to work within the role and function of the Professional Association with which they wish to be certified following graduation. This practicum is primarily guided by the requirements of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).

c)       To provide a structure whereby students can complete a minimum of 160 hours of clinical work within their degree program.

2)       Objectives and Goals of Clinical Education

To provide the student with the opportunity:

a)       to experience a variety of issues, as presented by the client, to further their development as psychotherapists.

b)       to develop and reflect on their theoretical orientation.

c)       to learn to establish and maintain therapeutic relationships.

d)       to integrate spiritually integrated psychotherapy into effective clinical practice.

e)       to recognize and address multicultural and multifaith issues.

f)       to understand the use of self in the therapeutic relationship and be able to integrate appropriately.

As a condition of our practicum we require students to participate in additional time on training activities. You will have to specify these on your Learning Plan when it is initially developed.

Athabasca University Master of Counselling Students:

Students are expected to spend 500 hours on site during the practicum, and to complete 250 hours of direct client contact. Over the 26 weeks of the course, this is approximately 19.5 hours/week on site, and 9.5 hours of direct client contact. Students may see clients between the Fall and Winter semesters and in the Winter Break period, if permitted by the practicum site. Client contact and supervision will normally occur weekly.

  • As a condition of our practicum we require students to participate in additional time on training activities. You will have to specify these on your Athabasca Learning Plan when it is initially developed.
  • Direct client contact is defined as an activity in which the student interacts face to face with the client(s), and includes:
  • Individual counselling (see minimum expected hours below)
  • Family or couples' counselling
  • Group counselling
  • Face to face interviewing and/or testing as part of a formal assessment
  • Face to face intake sessions, provided the tasks are clinical in nature
  • Case conferences when the client is present
  • Co-counselling at the beginning of a placement
  • Sixty percent of direct client contact will consist of individual counselling
  • Case preparation/treatment planning, psychological test interpretation, writing case notes and reports, telephone intake/contact, case conferences and case management activities without the client(s) present, and observing others performing counselling are not considered direct client contact but will count towards practicum hours.
  • Students will receive 1 hour per week in supervision for each 5 hours of direct client contact (an average of two hours per week).
  • At least 50% of supervision will be individual supervision. The remainder may be group supervision. At least 50% of supervision should be based on direct observation (live supervision, video-recording, or co-counselling) of the student's work.

Qualification requirements for all WLU & Athabasca Students

  • Currently in/or completed a Counselling or Psychotherapy accredited program
  • Resume / CV (Curriculum Vitae)
  • Completion of a theory course in counselling
  • Completion of a practical counselling skills course (or equivalent experience)
  • Unofficial transcript
  • Two letters of reference – at least one will be work related and the other can be an academic reference. Both need to attest to suitability for the counselling profession.
  • Current Police Vulnerable Sector Check
  • Available to work 2 set days a week for the duration of internship placement

Additional requirements:

  • Basic counselling skills
  • Work experience or a strong interest in working with individuals with vision loss, other disabilities and seniors

Selection process

If this placement is of interest to you please apply through your university or email your resume, reference letters and unofficial transcript to Melinda Szilva.

Interview: If you meet the placement qualifications our Clinical Supervisor, the CSE administrator and/or the Clinical Head of Habilitation Services & the Low Vision Clinic will meet with you for an interview. The interview will include a discussion about your learning goals and may include a tour of the clinic.

Reference and Background Check: We will contact your academic institution to verify your status and we will complete reference checks before an offer is made.

Selection: Based on our ability to meet your desired learning outcomes for the placement and availability of supervisors, we will extend offers through an email or phone call.

Training: You will be expected to participate in required training by the University of Waterloo including confidentiality, safety training and orientation before your work with clients can begin. Additional training in psychosocial aspects of vision loss, ocular health and low vision rehabilitation will also be included in training. Other counselling specific training opportunities may be offered during the internship and hours can be applied toward requirements for membership in the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario or professional associations.

We look forward to hearing from you about this opportunity.

Melinda Szilva, MTS, CCC, RP
Low Vision Rehabilitation Counsellor
Centre for Sight Enhancement
School of Optometry & Vision Science
University of Waterloo
200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1
Tel:  519-888-4567 ext. 36763
Fax:  519-746-2337 

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