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Behavioral Health
Student Internship Program (SIP) 

About Student Internship Program (SIP)

The Student Internship Program (SIP) provides a dynamic clinical training experience that builds clinical and cultural competency for students developing a career in Behavioral Health. Santa Cruz County Behavioral Health (SCCBH) is committed to a “grow your own” philosophy that encourages students to enter public service following graduation.

Student interns may have the opportunity to work with some clients for an entire internship year. A wide range of theoretical orientations and approaches are found among our staff, including Psychodynamic, Cognitive-Behavioral, Humanistic, Family Systems, Eclectic/Integrative, Solution-Focused, Play Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and more. SCCBH is committed to a multi-disciplinary team approach, and student interns will gain experience working alongside those of other disciplines as part of a clinical service team.

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Santa Cruz County Behavioral Health (SCCBH) is a comprehensive community behavioral health organization that provides a full range of mental health and substance abuse services to the nearly 300,000 residents living in this coastal community. The organization encompasses outpatient clinics, clinical programs, forensic services, and acute and subacute clinical programs. SCCBH service providers include Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Clinical Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Case Managers, Mental Health Specialists, Student Interns, Volunteers and Client workers. 

SCCBH adheres to the community behavioral health philosophy, including early treatment of emotional disorders, providing services in non-clinic locations when appropriate, and responsiveness to changing community needs. California uses the "Recovery Model" for delivery of Medi-Cal services, emphasizing services for those in acute need, the severely and persistently mentally ill, and “at-risk” children and families.

SCCBH continues to make progress in implementing a "behavioral health recovery" philosophy of care, which emphasizes optimism regarding client improvement, assistance with basic resource needs, client empowerment, reintegration into the community, and the value of client-centered treatment. 


The mission of the Student Internship Program (SIP) is to provide a dynamic clinical training experience that builds clinical and cultural competency for students developing a career in Behavioral Health. Santa Cruz County Behavioral Health is committed to a “grow your own” philosophy that encourages students to enter public service following graduation.


The fundamental concepts that direct all Behavioral Health services are founded in the six Mental Health Service Act (MHSA) General Standards. These standards are at the foundation of the Student Internship/Trainee Program and will be thoroughly embraced during the entirety of the internship experience:

  • Community Collaboration
  • Cultural Competence
  • Client Driven
  • Family Driven
  • Wellness, Recovery, and Resilience Focused
  • Integrated Service Experience

At this time, placement opportunities are limited to Graduate level internships for students enrolled in MFT or MSW programs. Students will be working alongside seasoned clinicians and clinical teams that will provide a significant educational experience. Undergraduate internship opportunities are not currently available.

The Student Internship Program offers a wide variety of learning opportunities through internships within Santa Cruz County Behavioral Health for 1st and 2nd year Master of Social Work (MSW) and Master Marriage Family Therapist (MFT). Internship placements are designed to fit student interests, meet local universities' objectives, and enable students to achieve proficiency in the core competencies identified by the Council on Social Work Education:

  • Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior
  • Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice
  • Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice
  • Engage in Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice
  • Engage in Policy Practice
  • Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities.
  • Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities.
  • Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities.
  • Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities.
  • All eligible applicants must be currently enrolled in an accredited MSW or MFT graduate program. 
  • The applicant's university must have an existing standard MOU contract with SCCBH or be willing to enter one. 
  • Liability Insurance – usually provided by the University.
  • Legal background check, including fingerprints.

We would strongly prefer a candidate with the following qualities:

  • Passion for advancing equity, wellness, and recovery for culturally diverse and marginalized communities.
  • Personal experience with or knowledge of inequities related to mental health and/or substance use conditions.
  • Experience working with culturally diverse and marginalized communities.
  • Multi-cultural and multilingual skills.
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills.Strong organizational and detail-oriented skills. 
  • Ability to prioritize time-sensitive assignments.
  • Ability to work well in teams and independently. 

The Social Work Intern Program offers opportunities for interns to gain a wide range of clinical experience with adults, children, and families. Under the guidance and support of highly trained and experienced staff, interns gain experience in the following: 

  • Triage and initial screening 
  • Crisis assessment and intervention 
  • Clinical assessment and diagnosis
  • Individual, family, and group therapy 
  • Case management and complex care coordination 
  • Participation in a multi-disciplinary team 
  • Collaboration with professionals at other agencies such as Probation, Law Enforcement, and Children & Family Services 
  • Linkage and referral to additional community programs and support 

Caseloads vary with the readiness of the student, but most interns in clinical settings build up to 7 to 10 client hours per week.

The Student Intern Program offers opportunities for interns to gain a wide range of macro practice experience in the following: ing: 

  • Community outreach 
  • Psychoeducation and stigma reduction 
  • Prevention and early intervention 
  • Homelessness
  • Class consciousness and struggle
  • Substance abuse and addiction


All interns attend an orientation and training session to the Student Internship Program from the Student Intern Program Coordinator and additional SCCBH staff. Trainings and topical discussions are ongoing components of group supervision. Interns will also receive weekly training support from their field instructors. Although training styles vary, the process may include job shadowing, reverse job shadowing, reading assignments, and other training methods. In addition, SCCBH offers excellent live and online trainings on an ongoing basis, covering various topics, that the interns are welcome to attend with the approval of the Intern Program Coordinator. 


The Student Intern Program utilizes a strengths-based and growth-oriented approach. The goal is to help interns achieve high professional standards by providing clear expectations, meaningful direct service opportunities, and excellent supervision. 
Interns receive a combination of individual and group supervision from their field instructor and Intern Program Coordinator. All field instructors meet the required qualifications and undergo specialized training in the provision of student intern supervision. Individual and Group Supervision sessions are included in the student intern’s weekly schedule.

Individual Supervision

Interns receive individual supervision from their assigned field instructor. Interns work collaboratively with their field instructors to develop an individualized learning plan. Although supervision styles vary, supervision typically includes client case discussion, documentation review, project status and review, professional identity development, and exploration of legal and ethical standards.

Group Supervision

Student Interns attend weekly group supervision sessions at North or South County Behavioral Health with the Intern Program Coordinator and program cohort. Group supervision provides the opportunity to receive support from peers and gain experience in professional case presentation. Throughout the internship year, guest presenters attend group supervision sessions to provide training on clinical interventions and theoretical orientations, discuss programs and services throughout Santa Cruz Behavioral Health, or to provide information about potential additional resources in the community.

Internship Locations

Selected interns are placed in clinics and programs located at one of the two outpatient clinics covering Santa Cruz County: 

  • North County Behavioral Health – 1400 Emeline Ave. #K, Santa Cruz
  • South County Behavioral Health – 1430 Freedom Blvd., Watsonville

Outpatient programs serve the greater community which consist of adults, children, and families. In addition, some SCCBH programs offer specialized services, such as field-based and intensive programs to these communities. Applicants are asked to identify which geographical area they are willing to be placed in and whether they can accept placement in a field-based program.


Interns are expected to complete 16-24 hours a week for the duration of the academic year, holidays and other requested time off notwithstanding. Typically, interns will work out schedules with the assigned clinical supervisor. Required weekly group supervision is the same for entire intern pool.

Paid Positions

There are paid internship positions available each year through the Student Worker IV job classification. These positions are limited in number and chosen applicants will be assisted in applying for the Student Worker IV position following acceptance. All paid interns are expected to work 16 – 24 hours per week at an hourly rate that is authorized and updated annually. Student interns are paid bi-weekly for hours worked during each pay period. For more information, please see the Student Worker IV job classification.

Another option is to become an employee of SCCBH. The Mental Health Client Specialist job classification is the entry-level clinical position that provides full-time employment with benefits.  These positions are eligible for the Student Internship Program as part of employment.  If the MHCS position is available, it will be listed here: Open Employment Opportunities with the County of Santa Cruz. Please be mindful that the personnel hiring process can take months to complete and has no connection to the academic timeline.

Unpaid Positions

Traditional unpaid internship placements are available but vary in number from year to year based on availability. Unpaid interns are expected to work 16 - 24 hours a week and will receive the same supervision, experience, and training available to the paid students.

Students will need to complete and submit an application packet to apply to the student internship program.

Student Internship Application Form 

The application period will be open from January through March for the Fall cohort. Requests for alternate start dates must be discussed with the Student Internship Program Coordinator. The application deadline may vary by year but will generally be no later than March 31st.

Interviews are conducted in February and March by the Student Intern Program Coordinator and additional interview panel members. Internship position offers are generally made by April 15th.

Chosen applicants will have to complete the hiring and background process through the SCCBH Human Resources department before their start date. Students begin the internship orientation and initial training in mid-August.

  • January 2024: Student Internship Program begins accepting applications.
  • February-March 2024: Qualified candidates are invited to interview to discuss internship opportunities.
  • May-July 2024: Accepted applicants will complete administrative paperwork and appointments with SCCBH. 
  • August 2024: Pre-practicum orientation and training to prepare for clinical placements.
  • September 2024: Students begin assigned internship placements unless this is altered by program administration or the college/university.
  • September 2024-May 2025: Students complete assigned internship and complete all necessary paperwork and supervision requirements.

While SCCBH does not guarantee being hired after completing the internship, we are committed to hiring applicants who previously completed an internship at SCCBH. An internship in the Student Internship Program provides valuable experience and training that uniquely prepares participants for success within multiple clinical, program development, and administrative positions withing SCCBH.

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If you would like more information about the SIP program contact: 
Gary M. Reaves, LCSW
Student Internship Program Coordinator
Santa Cruz County Behavioral Health
1400 Emeline Ave. #K
Santa Cruz, CA. 95060
(831) 454-4170

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