Department of State Hospitals (DSH) - Atascadero: Clinical Psychology Internship Program


Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation (CoA) of the American Psychological Association (APA)

*Questions related to the program’s accredited status should be directed to the Commission on Accreditation:

Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
American Psychological Association
750 1st Street, NE Washington, DC 20002
Phone: 202-336-5979

Department of State Hospitals-Atascadero is a member of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). As an APPIC member, the training program observes the guidelines regarding timing of internship offers and acceptance adopted by APPIC. This internship site agrees to abide by the APPIC policy that no person at this training facility will solicit, accept, or use any ranking-related information from any intern applicant.


State forensic psychiatric hospital.

Letter from Internship Director:

2024-2025 Internship Brochure:

Internship Admissions, Support and Initial Placement Data

Patient Population:

Approximately 1100 adult male court-committed and prison transferred patients including those committed as:

  • Incompetent to Stand Trial
  • Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity
  • Mentally Ill Inmates (Prison Transfers)
  • Offenders with Mental Health Disorders
  • Approximately 50% of patient population consists of culturally diverse patients.


The Hospital is located in central California, 225 miles from San Francisco and Los Angeles and 15 miles from the coastline. Near San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay.

Training Program:

This one-year, full-time clinical internship provides broad-based training in the assessment and treatment of patients with severe and persistent mental illness with evidenced-based practices in an inpatient setting. Training experiences are provided via:

  • Two four-month 3-day-a-week rotations on treatment units
  • An eight-month 12-hour-a-week rotation on the Forensic Services Team
  • A three-and-a-half month, full time rotation on an admissions unit which focuses on psychological assessment of mentally ill forensic patients
  • Seminars in the areas of Risk Assessment/PCL-R, Forensics, Ethics and Scientific Practice, Individual Differences and Diversity, and Professional Issues
  • Tutorials
  • Supervision with a variety of psychologists

Stipend and Benefits:

Approximately $49,392 with Employee Assistance Program benefits, health insurance, sick leave, vacation, and holidays.


Interns typically rent homes or apartments throughout San Luis Obispo County. Some choose to be close to the hospital while others choose to commute from San Luis Obispo or from communities near the beach.

Applicant Eligibility:

Internships are offered for fourth and fifth year students enrolled in accredited doctoral programs in clinical or counseling psychology who have completed course work and doctoral level clinical practica in intervention and assessment. Historically, the program has required that applicants have received a minimum of 500 direct contact intervention hours and 150 direct contact assessment hours at the time of application. In the context of COVID-19-related disruptions to practica experience, the selection committee will adopt a more flexible approach to reviewing applications this year. Applicants are encouraged to apply to our site even if they do not meet the minimum requirements of 150 assessment hours and 500 intervention hours.

Intern applicants are required to have their qualifying examinations complete and dissertation proposals approved prior to application. Preference is given for candidates who will have their dissertations completed prior to the start of internship. Enrollment in an APA accredited program is strongly preferred. The internship is designed for the student seeking forensic training within a program that provides a broad-based clinical training experience. Some experience in forensic psychology is necessary.

DSH-Atascadero is retaining a virtual interview process. The most competitive candidates will be invited to participate in a video-conference interview conducted via WebEx throughout January. Applicants will be emailed a link prior to their interview date to allow them to log in to the interview. Please expect to complete a brief writing sample. Plan to have your photograph taken during the interview as we utilize candidate photos as a memory aid. Two virtual open houses will be offered in which the internship director will provide an overview of the training program, and applicants will have an opportunity to meet several supervisors as well as the current interns. A virtual tour of DSH-Atascadero is available below.

Following the submission of the standard State of California application (Std 678), all applicants will receive notification from Department of State Hospitals regarding whether you passed an examination with a ranking number. This letter is not reflective of the internship’s interest in you or your APPIC ranking. It is a necessary element of the state hiring process.

Department of State Hospitals-Atascadero is an equal opportunity employer. The hospital is seeking interns with the education, training, and background to work with a culturally diverse patient population. The psychology internship program is committed to maintaining and enhancing the diversity of our training program. It is our philosophy that the experiential component of the internship is enhanced when the intern class is comprised of individuals with diverse life experiences and backgrounds. Individuals from underrepresented ethnic, cultural, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic, and geographical backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.

Interns must successfully complete/pass the required health and drug screenings, and security clearance prior to being employed.

Medical determination of a person's suitability for hire shall be based on an appraisal of the applicant's ability to safely and efficiently perform the essential functions of the position for which the applicant has applied (Administrative Directive 916).

All applicants are required to complete and pass a pre-employment drug test, which screens for Amphetamines and Methamphetamines, Cocaine, Marijuana/Cannabinoids (THC), Opiates (narcotics), and Phencyclidine (PCP). (Administrative Directive 916.1).

Interns must undergo fingerprinting and pass a criminal background check prior to being employed. For more information about the hospital policy guiding such determinations see Special Order 407.03.

Important Dates:

  • November 1, 2023 – Application deadline
  • January 5, 12, 19, 26, 2024 – Video-conference interviews
  • February 16, 2024 – APPIC Match Day
  • August 5, 2024 – Begin Internship

Virtual Tour

DSH-Atascadero virtual site tour for Psychology Internship Program, click on take tour now.

Contact information:

Phylissa Kwartner, Ph.D.
Psychology Internship Director
Department of State Hospitals - Atascadero
 P.O. Box 7001,
Atascadero, CA 93423-7001

Phone: (805) 468-3663