Practice Placement at ICHAS


The vast majority of programmes at ICHAS (including all under-graduate programmes) have an element of practice placement. This placement plays a key part in their development and many students have undertaken this with a wide variety of organisations around the country. Dolores McMahon goes through some of the key details about the programme.

Who undertakes this?

Level 7 and Level 8 students are required to fulfill 100 hours of practice placement. That can be taken out within an organisation outside of the college. We provide a list of organistaions on our student portal of organisations that take our students.  It is the responsibility of the students to seek and approach the placement themselves.

However a lot of these organisations are on our list and are familiar with taken on ICHAS students and know what’s involved in taking our students on practice placement. While doing the practice placement, students must also undertake clinical supervision which is basically supervision of the hours that they are doing with the client themselves.

When do they do practice placement?

This is undertaken in third year at level 7 (100 hours) and level 8 (100 hours).

  • At level 7 they must do 20 hours of clinical supervision (1 hour for every 5 of placement done).
  • At level 8 they must do another 1 hour of clinical supervision for every 8 of placement done.

The ratio at level 8 is less because they are able to work at a higher ratio at that stage.

Who can they do the work placement with?

There are a range of organisations around the country who they can do the placement with.

Examples include:

MyMind – They provide accessible and affordable counselling and psychotherapy for everyone in Ireland. Their affordable and timely mental health services mean people have the best chance of getting back to a positive frame of mind sooner and with lasting results.

Lets Get Talking – They offer professional individual counselling and psychotherapy as well as self help and therapy groups. They also committed to clients in their ongoing development after counselling.

Aiseiri – Provide community and residential services to help young people, adults and families overcome addiction and lead meaningful lives in recovery.  This is alongside education and information services with outreach to individuals, communities, schools and businesses who may need to know more about the complexities of addiction.

Saoirse – Focus on delivering non-residential day treatment programs to those experiencing substance misuse issues, namely drugs, alcohol and gambling.

Cuan Mhuire – Who are Ireland’s largest voluntary provider of Addiction Treatment Services and Residential Rehabilitation.

Practice Placement, the Students Perspective

Noreen Fahy is a fourth-year and trainee therapist who recently did her placement programme at Hope House in Mayo an addiction centre.

Tell us about your experience? 

They normally don’t take students and I really had to bend a few arms to get myself in there. But, there are other addiction centers that do take people and I strongly recommend that it’s a great place to start. First of all, when I went in there initially, on a four-week program that they do for the families of the people who are in-house at that time. So if you have a person who comes in, and they’re living there for four weeks there is a support meeting every week for their families.

That’s where I started off initially, I was allowed to sit in on those meetings. Now I found those fantastic because I was after studying the family systems theory and found that everything I had learned I was seeing it played out there in front of me. This includes all the blaming that the different roles that individuals can play in families of addicts. One area I would have improved on was that at the time I didn’t push myself forward enough, because I didn’t feel I had enough learning in addiction or anything like that to contribute. But in hindsight, if I was back there, again, I would definitely contribute more.

We had learned Person-Centered Therapy quite well at that stage. After that, they allowed me to sit in on the aftercare program, it’s a new program, for people who have been to the addiction center, then they give them two years of group therapy after they finish their four weeks.

What were some of the benefits of doing the practice placement?

So I was allowed to attend the sessions on a weekly basis with a group. That is what I recommend highly for people, if you can get into a situation like that, you’re learning so much, because first of all, you’re observing the facilitation. We had done group facilitation the previous semester, and we had heard about that, but when you see a really good facilitator, how they can kind of conduct group and how they can encourage people to participate it’s fascinating.

What I also found about that was that other theories that I had learned in college, I saw how they work in reality. For instance, I saw how transactional analysis, for instance, we learned that in college, how people interact with each other, when they’re under pressure and the defense’s that they use. I could see that from time to time how they went into their different ego states, and then how they had to revert back into adult states.

I saw CBT being used a lot there were the facilitator would give skills to them if they come in and they said, you know, all we have an upcoming event, it’s going to be difficult, like a wedding. The facilitator would encourage them to use CBT techniques. That was really, really interesting. Person Centered Therapy was used throughout as well. It was a great way of seeing what you have learned in college played out in front of you where you weren’t under pressure to contribute as such. But you could see it being acted out in front of you. You could see all sorts of interactions between people and how when people got to trust in other relationships around them and how that benefited them.

The other side of that for me and what it did for me, it actually opened up a lot of old wounds so what I would say to students, when you’re going out into the area of work placement, I would say this to the college as well, I think personal therapy should be compulsory. I know you get the choice of participating in personal therapy or not, I would strongly advise taking it on, it’s essential. I really needed the back up of my personal therapy during that time. So that’s one thing, I would definitely say, set up your personal therapy 100%, don’t consider an alternative. You really need to be in personal therapy while you’re doing this.

The other thing I would say is what I went into after I finished in the addiction center, I went to work in Galway here in Let’s Get Talking. It was straight off, you’re working with clients on a one to one basis. Now, I look back on it, and while I’m certainly delighted with the experience I don’t think so I wouldn’t have started as early on one to one.

First of all, we don’t study CBT until the second semester of college. So what I would be saying to people is either the college, take this on board and start doing CBT in the first semester or I would say to the students, not to start your one to one until the second semester, because then you are studying CBT you have, that is a very good modality to have under your belt, of course, we’d all have had persons centered therapy, It’s not enough when you’re dealing with clients. It brings you a long way. But you do need to have extra skills as well. And I think CBT is essential to have.

Also, work in a situation where you’re shadowing. If you can get into an addiction center, wonderful. You’re not just dealing with addiction there, you’re dealing with all sorts of problems. You know, people don’t end up being addicts without having a whole load of other problems in their backgrounds. There’s an awful lot of grief and loss in the addiction. The family systems theory also really came into play. So I know there are other areas that you went to include that you can get into groups like cancer centers and health centers. In my personal experience was in the addiction centers, you got it all.

What are your top tips for students?

  • It’s essential to have good supervision. During all of this, that’s one of the things that I would say so for him from a student’s perspective, beginning your personal therapy, but also have good supervision. Now, I had private supervision and I had in house group supervision, both of them are actually very, very good.
  • The other thing I would say to students that are doing this, do a reflective piece after each session, because it greatly helps at the end of the semester for your assignments.
  • Finally time management is essential during the third year when you’re trying to cope with doing all of this. You’re doing your placement, supervision, personal hours, and you’re also attending college and most of us are working as well, part-time on top of all of that

Practice Placement from the Organisations Perspective

Ceara Lyons, Placement Student, Director & Psychotherapist

Who did you do your placement with?

Mine was a little different, when I was in level 7 I was expecting my second child so I needed to get a placement where I could choose my own hours. I found it very difficult to find the right fit due to the flexibility needed so I set up my own practice as my placement. It was very difficult to get off the ground. In fact, I got my first client by listening to a radio show and phoning them and offering. My placement was self-employment.

What was your biggest learning from doing the placement? 

Well, there was a lot of learning after that experience. If I had to choose one it would be what it takes to become an independent counsellor. How hard it was to get placement, the exploitation of organisations of peer accredited and trainee counsellors and how you’re constantly chasing people with problems.

What was the biggest benefit for you?

There was a lot of benefit out of it. Because I wasn’t attached to anyone organisation I was able to experience a variance of issues. I could develop and work with a wide range of issues and people. It was a real learning curve. I could choose my own hours by doing it independently as well.

What advice would you have for people looking to do placement?

The practice I set out as a result of doing the work placement in Level 7 has grown into a really successful counselling centre here in Limerick (resolve counselling).

I take on a lot of students for placement from ICHAS. What I would advise students looking for placement is to try and have two. Some places that may take you on may be too small to give you full hours. By having two you’ll be developing different areas of skill.

For example reminiscence therapy is an area that’s very much overlooked. Some people though who are going into counselling may have little or no experience in the area, reminiscence therapy within nursing homes and care homes is very good as people aren’t coming to you with problems you’re helping them reminisce. I would go down this line if you have no experience.

Practical Real-World Experience

The practical placement is a crucial element of the programmes here at ICHAS and allows the students to relate classroom-based learning to practice in a real-world setting

To find out more about this and the other aspects of the programs thought here at ICHAS you can contact or call 061 216288.

The placement office is also open at our campus in Limerick Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8.30am to 4.30pm.

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