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Can I Get Paid as a Trainee?

Can I Get Paid as a Trainee?

Although this service is meant to be helpful in finding paid MFT internships, I thought it would be beneficial to inform you all that there are opportunities for paid MFT traineeships! *collective gasp*

Let’s face it, the time and effort that goes into collecting hours as a student is part of the training that is needed for the field. But why does it have to go uncompensated? Merely gaining experience isn’t enough when you are trying to pay the bills and remain emotionally/mentally healthy (which may include paying out-of-pocket for your personal therapy, depending on whether your MFT program requires it).

Here are three ways that I got compensated for my work while studying at California State University, Northridge:

First Year as a Student

Position: Case Manager
Employer: Ventura County Behavioral Health (Santa Paula Adult Outpatient)
Bilingual Required?: No

I obtained a case manager position (which was considered a Mental Health Associate Internship) at the Santa Paula Adult Outpatient site of Ventura County Behavioral Health (VCBH), for which I was compensated with a stipend total of $6,000 for a 9 month commitment from September to May.

NOTE: Since this position did not allow me to conduct therapy, I was unable to collect hours as a trainee.

Second Year as a Student

Position: MFT Trainee Clinician
Employer: Ventura County Behavioral Health (Fillmore Youth and Family Clinic)
Bilingual Required?: Yes

I decided to apply for the traineeship at VCBH, as I had previous experience with the employer and wanted to actually conduct therapy/collect hours as a trainee. After submitting my application, letters of recommendation, and attending an interview, I found out that I been offered the position. The compensation? $12,000 for another 9 month commitment. The second placement was at VCBH’s Fillmore Youth and Family Clinic.

Both positions at VCBH required that I commit 16 hours a week to the site, and this could be divided in whatever way was agreed upon by the student and the supervisor.

Third Year as a Student

Position: In-Home Outreach Counselor
Employer: Strength United (Family Preservation)
Bilingual Required?: Yes

This employment was offered after my time spent with the organization without compensation (about 1 year), where I built up my experience and my supervisor’s trust in my abilities. I was hired on as a part-time In-Home Outreach Counselor for Strength United’s Family Preservation program. I was compensated for my hourly work for the last 6 months of my program.

Disclaimer: Other students in my MFT program received employment offers, depending on the organization’s funding and that specific student’s flexibility/experience (i.e., ability to conduct assessments at odd times of day, willingness to work in newly-developed programs, and/or being bilingual in languages such as Armenian or Farsi).

There are opportunities out there, and sometimes even part-time opportunities afford you a wealth of knowledge/experience for your future work as a clinician. You might as well get compensated for them!

Were you surprised to learn that MFT trainees can get hours and get paid, just like MFT registered interns can? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

About the Author

Georgina Garay-Lozano is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern (IMF91977) who is passionate about working in community mental health settings and providing relevant information regarding the field of psychotherapy to students, consumers, and colleagues. She currently works part-time as an In-Home Outreach Counselor in Los Angeles County and continues to write on her blog. As she completed her Master’s program, Georgina became involved with professors at California State University, Northridge to transition their MFT program from CACREP to COAMFTE accreditation, wrote a culminating project on the impact that immigration may have on Latino U.S. born children, and co-created a student run MFT Network. In her spare time, Georgina enjoys blogging, having coffee with loved ones, and cooking. More information on Georgina can be found here.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I am very surprised and disappointed that I am not being paid for the Internship I accepted. I have been at the company site for just short of two months. I am working with clients, have to learn the computer software language that is being utilized for reports, and attend training. The hours vary between 4 and 8 per week, which isn’t much. I do not feel like I’ve been helped all that much and not being paid is making me feel taken advantage of. The supervision is just so-so and hasn’t really helped me much either. I appreciate the opportunity, but it’s getting old already. Any advice?

    • Hello! My first internship was unpaid. The difference for me was that 1) I received quite a few hours toward licensure through that internship, and 2) I received excellent supervision. This helped reduce feelings of resentment about not being paid. I ended up working there part-time while continuing to look for a paid part-time position (took a while, but I eventually found one!). Perhaps this is an option you could explore as well, since you aren’t receiving many hours at your current internship. Given your perception of this internship (unpaid, low number of hours, so-so supervision), I don’t blame you for feeling taken advantage of! It may help to reframe the situation… it’s not an ideal internship, but it’s a launching pad for better internships in the future. I believe you’ll find those opportunities, if you keep looking! It may just take longer than you wish it would (as was the case with me). Hang in there, and feel free to reply to this comment or send me an e-mail (Robin@Prelicensed.com) anytime!

  2. Elisha P says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I am just starting on my path towards a MFT career and am feeling nervous about all the steps to come. What other kinds of practicum opportunities are out there for MFT students? Are most of them unpaid? Is it common for a student to work at multiple practicum sites to complete all 500-700 hours? Do you have more examples of the students role at a practicum site? Do you have any advice for students seeking practicum sites? Do most graduates use their contacts/supervisors from practicum as references in the future/applying for internships? Thanks again for your blog :)

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