(Inactive for 2020-2023)
Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) is the only public psychiatric hospital in the State of Alaska and serves the entire state, mainly serving Medicare, Medicaid, and uninsured population. API provides acute, inpatient mental health services for anyone in Alaskarequiring hospitalization for a psychiatric crisis. Almost every psychiatric diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is seen in a given year at API. The majority of patients have complex trauma histories in conjunction with substance abuse issues, requiring the treating professionals to maintain a high level of familiarity with evidence-based practices for multiple presenting problems. In addition, API serves as the safety net and crisis-stabilization facility for adults with developmental disabilities as well as seniors with dementia whose behavior and/or level of illness prevents them from remaining in their current placement. These patients often require intensive evaluation and innovative behavioral interventions to stabilize them and return them to a less restrictive placement. The 80-bed state hospital is located in Anchorage and has three adult civil units, one adolescent unit, and one adult forensic unit. It is adjacent to the University of Alaska/Anchorage and graduate students in other professional medical programs also complete clinical rotations at the hospital.
Most individuals at API are admitted on a court order and must be assessed to determine if they continue to meet criteria for involuntary admission or the involuntary administration of medication. Legal hearings on these issues are held at the hospital several times per week and the interns’ evaluations assist the unit Psychiatrists in presenting evidence regarding a need for continued treatment and/or medication. Additionally, API is the only location in the state that provides competency restoration treatment for individuals with serious mental illness or a mental defect (i.e. a TBI or low IQ) who have been found by the Courts to be Incompetent to Stand Trial. Traditional psychiatric inpatient services at API are complimented by evidence-based therapeutic practices, psycho-education, and traditional healing practices. Experience at API will help interns expand their cultural competency as Anchorage serves a culturally and linguistically diverse population (the local school district serves families from more than 90 distinct language groups). Persons served within the hospital in 2019 self-reported approximately 41% as Caucasian and 38% as Alaska Native, 8% as African American, 13% as ‘other’. In 2019, API primarily treated adults ages 18 and older with 40% self-reporting as female, 60% as male. Only eight (8) adolescents ages 13-17 years were treated in 2019, prior to the treatment unit closing.
The Internship Experience
Interns work as full-time stipend employees at API and are expected to work Monday through Friday during regular business hours. During their time at API, interns are active members of multidisciplinary treatment teams and develop skill in collaborating with professionals in psychiatry, medicine, social work, occupational therapy, recreational therapy and nursing. Psychology interns may serve as clinical supervisors to graduate-level practicum psychology students from area programs. On all units, the interns provide focused assessments to assist in diagnostic clarification and treatment planning. API offers two training tracks for doctoral interns in psychology: the Inpatient Civil Track and the Forensic Psychology Track.
Inpatient Civil Track: In addition to completing psychological assessments, this intern will provide individual therapy that focuses on reducing suicide risk and coping with trauma. The intern also may co-facilitate family therapy sessions on the adolescent unit, will assist with the development of specialized behavior plans coordinated with the Applied Behavioral Analysis graduate students, and will facilitate therapeutic and psycho-educational groups on a variety of topics. Each intern is encouraged to develop one therapy group on a topic of specific interest to the intern. The inpatient civil track intern additionally interacts with forensic patients by facilitating a Dual Diagnoses group on the forensic treatment unit. Depending on intern interest and training, he or she may also be asked to conduct psychological assessments and provide intensive individual therapy for forensic patients with specialized needs.
Forensic Track: Interns on the forensic track complete formal court assessments for defendants involved with the criminal justice system. Most evaluations are for competency to stand trial, which involves assessment of a defendant’s understanding of the legal changes, decisional capacity and ability to work with an attorney. Evaluations also address psychological, cultural, economic and environmental factors that can impact competency. These evaluations are usually conducted at one of the Department of Corrections facilities in the Anchorage area or at API and are completed under the supervision of the Chief Forensic Psychologist for the State of Alaska. As a member of the treatment team on the forensic units, the forensic intern will assist in the development of treatment plans for all assigned cases and of individualized behavioral plans on an as-needed basis. The forensic intern will additionally facilitate individual and group competency restoration sessions, as well as complete psychological assessments for patients on the forensic units.
The forensic intern will have the opportunity to interact with members of the legal profession, collaborate with personnel from the Department of Corrections, observe Mental Health Court, attend competency hearings, observe court testimony related to competency issues, and may be called to testify regarding his or her professional opinion based on an evaluation completed during this rotation. The intern on the forensic track will also have the opportunity to facilitate an ongoing Dual Diagnosis therapy group on either the adolescent or an adult civil unit.
Supervision and Training: Interns meet individually with their primary supervisors twice each week for supervision which addresses all aspects of the intern’s clinical work. Additionally, group supervision for interns and psychology practicum students is held weekly. Interns will have the opportunity to lead discussions regarding topics as they arise, trends in psychology, and cultural considerations for providing therapy to patients. Interns participate in all training activities at API, including a two-day training in safely and therapeutically managing aggressive or violent patients.
In addition to the primary internship positions, API provides a minor rotation to all other AKPIC interns with an introduction to legal orders impacting the provision of mental health in Alaska, the provision of mental health services to seriously mentally ill patients in an acute phase of their illness and the role of a psychologist in a State Psychiatric Hospital. During this rotation, the API-based interns will take the lead in presenting to their peers evidence-base interventions found to be effective with seriously mentally ill patients. During this time, AKPIC interns also may observe the Anchorage Mental Health Court. API interns also will participate in minor rotations linked to the other consortium sites.
Special Requirements of Applicants
Prior to beginning internship, all API interns must pass a background check per Alaska Statute 47.05.300-47.05.390. This check is conducted by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Background Check Unit. The history of a felony or misdemeanor may result in a fail in this review process and prevent the intern from working at API. See State of Alaska Barrier Crime Matrix for a full listing of barrier crimes (https://www.akcertification.org/wp-content/uploads/documents/Barrier-Crime-Matrix.pdf). The background check occurs after the Match outcome.
–Bradley McConnell, Psy.D., ABPP, Director of Psychological Services, AK-PIC Faculty, Primary Site Supervisor
API Contact Information
AK-PIC Faculty: Bradley McConnell, PsyD, ABPP – Bradley.McConnell@alaska.gov
Alaska Psychiatric Institute
3700 Piper Street
Anchorage, Alaska 99508-4677