Internationally trained professionals have much to offer to the mental health sector. The Bridge Training Program for Internationally Trained Psychologists and Allied Mental Health Professionals supports internationally trained professionals develop the context specific knowledge and skills required to work effectively in Ontario.
By offering a supervised internship to a bridge training participant, mental health and settlement service providers can enhance organizational capacity to respond to the mental health needs of a multi-cultural population, while contributing to the development of a strong and diverse mental health workforce.
- Internationally Trained Mental Health Professionals: An Untapped Resource
- About the Bridge Training Program: Participant Qualifications and training
- Offering an Internship: Structure and Roles
- Supervision and professional mentoring
- Practical and logistical issues
- Communication and conflict resolution
Internationally trained professionals bring with them knowledge and skills essential to a multi-cultural city. In the mental health field, internationally trained professionals bring with them language and cultural understanding, as well as a lived experience of migration and adaptation. These assets enhance their ability to empathize and connect with a diverse population. Research shows that mental health services are most effective when provided in the client's first language.
In July 2009, the province of Ontario released a discussion paper entitled Every Door is the Right Door, outlining a framework for a 10 year Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. The discussion paper outlines a vision for a culturally competent mental health system that reaches out to the whole population, gives priority to prevention and early intervention, and works in a coordinated and integrated manner with other services and government ministries. Internationally trained professionals have an important role to play in helping service providers to achieve this vision.
Bridge training participants are trained and experienced professionals. At minimum they must demonstrate a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology or a related field, together with at least two years relevant work experience. Many participants exceed minimum requirements, bringing graduate degrees and decades of clinical experience.
The bridge training program honours prior learning and experience, while helping internationally trained professionals fill specific gaps related to mental health practice in Ontario. Prior to commencing their work placement, participants complete four core courses: the Mental Health System in Ontario, Theoretical Approaches, Cultural Competence, Anti-Racism and Power Relations in Mental Health, and Migration and Mental Health. Those who require additional language support also receive occupation specific language training, learning sector vocabulary and communication approaches for counselling, documentation and report writing.
Bridge training internships should offer mutual benefit to agency and participant. They should offer participants an opportunity to contribute their skills and experience, while gaining experience and understanding of the mental health system in Ontario.
Internships will provide bridge training participants with the opportunity for professional practice, working directly with people needing different kinds of mental health support. Appropriate roles include:
- Clinical counselling
- Case management
- Group therapy
- Psycho-educational group work
Bridge training interns should have the opportunity to practice a range of skills from intake and assessment through case documentation and report writing. Where the focus is group facilitation, participants should have opportunities to be involved in both design and delivery.
Placements are 450 hours in duration and will normally take place as follows:
January - April: Two days per week / Mondays and Tuesdays (210 hrs)
May - August: Three days per week for ten weeks (240 hrs)
Agencies wishing to participate throughout the year may offer internships to participants in our part time program during the period Sept - April.
The Bridge Training Program has been developed in consultation with Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists and Psychotherapists (OACCPP). Participants may present their internship hours, together with home country experience, to meet supervised practice requirements for certified membership in OACCPP. Participants must be general members in good standing of the OACCPP for a total of two years in order to qualify for certification.
Bridge training participants will receive support and supervision both from the agency offering the internship and from the bridge training program.
The agency offering the internship is responsible for:
- orienting the bridge training participant to their organizational vision, mission, theoretical framework and approach, policies and procedures
- working with the participant to develop learning objectives for the internship, together with relevant opportunities for observation and professional practice
- including the participant in staff meetings, professional development activities, and agency events
- facilitating learning through weekly supervision meetings
- monitoring performance and providing structured feedback through midterm and final evaluations
Agency supervisors will be invited to participate in a half day orientation workshop, to gain a deeper understanding of the goals and objectives of the bridge training program. Prospective supervisors should be working in a mental health delivery role (see roles described under "Offering an internship") or as program managers. They should also have supervisory experience. Graduate level training in a mental health profession is preferred, but not an absolute requirement, since students will also benefit from clinical supervision and mentoring in the context of their clinical seminar.
Bridge training clinical seminar:
Clinical seminar facilitators hired by the bridge training program will lead weekly reflections on clinical practice with a group of 7-8 bridge training participants. All clinical seminar facilitators will have graduate level training in psychotherapy, clinical counselling or clinical social work.
Clinical seminar facilitators will be responsible for:
- encouraging professional development and self-reflection in a safe and non-judgmental learning environment
- offering clinical case consultation and supervision, particularly for students who do not have access to graduate level clinical supervision at their internship site
- promoting learning about additional community resources and referral possibilities that might benefit clients with particular needs
- facilitating knowledge sharing among participants completing internships in a variety of agency contexts
- offering constructive feedback and encouragement to build professional confidence
Clinical seminar facilitators will participate together with agency supervisors in a half day orientation session, to encourage a common philosophy of professional mentoring, support and supervision - one that is grounded in respect for the prior learning and experience of internationally trained professionals, and an antioppressive approach to clinical practice.
The Bridge Training Program will support participants to fulfill the following requirements prior to commencing their internship:
- apply for general membership in the Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists and Psychotherapists, and secure professional liability insurance
- conduct a criminal reference check
The Bridge Training Program will also offer WSIB coverage to participants during their work placements.
Agencies offering internships are responsible to provide:
- adequate work space, appropriate to the professional role
- access to a telephone, computer and email account
- orientation to agency specific health and safety guidelines
Agencies are asked to include interns in all aspects of agency life, from staff meetings to program reviews, in order to facilitate learning about workplace culture in Ontario.
The Bridge Training Educational and Employment Counsellor will act as a liaison between the bridge training program and the internship provider. The liaison will visit the internship site at least once during the work placement to meet with the bridge training participant and agency supervisor. Agency supervisors are encouraged to contact the liaison with questions or concerns. Concerns about internship performance should be raised as early as possible to facilitate a collaborative approach to supporting participants to meet agency expectations.
Bridge Training Project Manager
Nava Israel, 647-776-2057 X 307, firstname.lastname@example.org
Agency Liaison/Educational and Employment Counsellor
Marisabel Tovar Abu-jaber, 647-776-2057 X 313, email@example.com