Counselling Internships Available

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Counselling Internships - Applications for 2021/22 academic year closed. Applications will open for May 2022-April 2023 placements in January 2022.

Optometry Clinic – Master level supervision program, unpaid

The School of Optometry & Vision Science is pleased to offer 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 in working with clients with vision loss. This will help fill a need for the growing number of Canadians with vision loss seeking psychotherapy.

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 individuals who are blind and partially sighted.


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, cognitive-behavioural, emotionally focused, narrative, solution-focused, and psychodynamic therapies. Mindfulness and feminist approaches are also employed. There is flexibility for the provision of longer term therapy based on need and approval of the clinical supervisor and/or clinic head.

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. Interns can expect to provide counselling support for individuals experiencing anxiety, grief, depression, abuse, relationship concerns, personality disorders and any other concerns that they would expect to encounter in clinical placements. The difference is that all of our clients also have vision related symptoms. Providing counselling as part of low vision rehabilitation has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on the ability of the client to adjust to and cope with visual impairments. Clients range in age from two to 100. The majority of our clients are over 18 and approximately half are over age 65.

Appropriate referrals to the community are also made for those clients experiencing difficulties in the social, emotional, financial or vocational realms as a result of the visual or accompanying disorder. Referrals are often made within the region through an electronic referral system. These referrals may be made by the supervisor, counselling intern(s) or Renison/University of Waterloo BSW interns completing field education placements.

We offer 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 will provide an opportunity for students to develop and enhance clinical skills through establishing empathic therapeutic relationships, interviewing, assessment, case formulation and crisis intervention. It offers a unique opportunity for students to learn about the unique needs of clients with vision loss while also providing therapeutic interventions for many concerns clients may have. The counselling intern will contribute and benefit from becoming an integral part of a supportive interdisciplinary team.

Levels of training

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

Placement Outcomes:

  • 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 1-5 counselling sessions per day.
  • To learn to create & 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 interdisciplinary team to plan individualized low vision services which address the various needs identified by the client.
  • Students may also have the opportunity to provide counselling support to clients with concussion receiving treatment at the School of Optometry & Vision Science.
  • 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.
  • Additional training experiences: Interns are included in a variety of additional training experiences, case consultations and staff meetings within their set hours.
  • 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 Luther and Athabasca University students please see the section on the Athabasca & WLU practicum below.)

Clinical Supervision:

Currently the clinic has one Registered Psychotherapist providing counselling supervision. We also have an alternative Adjunct Clinical Supervisor who is also a Registered Psychotherapist. Clinical supervisors use a blend of the Integrated Development Model of supervision as well as family systems and narrative approaches among others. Our Clinical Supervisor meets the requirements as outlined by the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario on the CRPO website:

Clinical Supervisor Criteria:

  1. The supervisor must be a member in good standing of a regulatory college whose members may practise psychotherapy.
  2. The supervisor must have five years’ extensive clinical experience.
  3. The supervisor must meet CRPO’s “independent practice” requirement (completion of 1000 direct client contact hours and 150 hours of clinical supervision).
  4. The supervisor must have completed 30 hours of directed learning in providing clinical supervision. Directed learning can include course work, supervised practice as a clinical supervisor, individual/peer/group learning, and independent study that includes structured readings.
  5. The supervisor must provide a signed declaration that they understand CRPO’s definitions of clinical supervision, clinical supervisor, and the scope of practice of psychotherapy.

The supervisor will provide students with a letter attesting to evidence of 30 hours of directed learning in providing clinical supervision and a statement describing their approach to providing supervision. Students can provide this letter to their governing body or regulatory college upon request.

Wilfrid Laurier University –  Martin Luther University College Master of Arts (MA) in Theology Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy Students:

Students complete a minimum of 160 clinical hours on site during the practicum. Supervision will be provided at a ratio of one hour of supervision for every five clinical hours. Students can expect to accrue a minimum of 32 hours of clinical supervision on their practicum. This may include individual or group supervision. Clinical hours will consist of face to face counselling. Students may see clients between September and April. Currently we prefer student to begin in May. WLU's reading week will be acknowledged in our program. Practicum hours for client contact and supervision will be scheduled on set days each week. 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 2019:

1)       The Purpose of Clinical Education

  1. To assist students in the integration of psychology, theology, counselling theory, and personal growth into effective clinical practice.
  2. 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).
  3. 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:

  1. to experience a variety of issues, as presented by the client, to further their development as psychotherapists.
  2. to develop and reflect on their theoretical orientation.
  3. to learn to establish and maintain therapeutic relationships.
  4. to integrate spiritually integrated psychotherapy into effective clinical practice.
  5. to recognize and address multicultural and multifaith issues.
  6. 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 spend additional time on training activities. You will have to specify these on your Learning Plan when it is initially developed.

Qualification requirements for 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 2-3 set days a week for the duration of internship placement depending on their individual program requirements.

Additional requirements:

  • Basic counselling skills
  • Work experience or a strong interest in working with individuals with vision loss, brain injuries, dual sensory loss or other disabilities and senior citizens

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 your application is shortlisted, you will be invited to an individual interview with our Clinical Supervisor and other members of the interdisciplinary team which may include the CSE administrator, the Director of the Centre for Sight Enhancement or others. The interview will include a discussion about your learning goals, details about the clinical placement, your educational and work history 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 the availability of clinical placements 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-S, 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 

  1. 2021 (1)
  2. 2019 (2)
    1. October (1)
    2. April (1)
  3. 2018 (1)
  4. 2017 (1)
  5. 2016 (1)
  6. 2015 (2)
  7. 2014 (1)
  8. 2012 (1)
  9. 2011 (1)
  10. 2010 (2)