Top Characteristics of Successful Interns

(c) Debra Crown, LPC-S, LCDC


Research shows the following intern characteristics are indicators of success in supervision.

In some ways it is similar to the Big Five personality traits, with five broad dimensions of

personality that contribute to interpersonal and occupation success.  It is like a broad stroke

of several characteristics all encaptured by one “trait.” 


The Big Five are:

  • Openness      (inventive-curious vs. consistent-cautious)

  • Conscientiousness     (efficient-organized vs. easygoing-careless)

  • Extraversion     (outgoing-energetic vs. solitary-reserved)

  • Agreeableness     (friendly-compassionate vs. analytical-detached)

  • Neuroticism (sensitive-nervous vs. secure-confident)


It is interesting because I can see where all of the characteristic dichotomies listed above

are important in the therapy setting.  There are times when you should be inventive—

however during your internship you are wise to be cautious. You are still in the process

of learning evidence-based therapies and when to apply them.  You are learning what

therapies are a mirror for your personal therapeutic style and you are learning how to

apply the styles to benefit your client.  Care and caution to follow state regulations is

critical.  It is good to be both efficient and organized in your evaluations, notes and

treatment plans, but easy going with your clients.  Extraversion is a good clinical skill—

it greases the peer relationships in the clinical setting, however therapy also calls for

reservation of one’s own personal dynamic to stay focused on client needs.  Empathy is

sensitivity to the emotional needs of your client. They rely on you to be confident and

honest in your interaction with them.


Characteristics of Successful Interns:

Research has shown that important factors in supervision are similar to the Big Five, but defined in the studies as:

  • Openness to direction  (openness)

  • Ability to accept influence  (agreeableness)

  • Conscious effort to improve your skills  (conscientiousness)

  • Mindfulness of your effectiveness with clients (conscientiousness)

  • Desire to improve   (conscientiousness)

  • Flexibility and intellectual openness  (openness)

  • Empathy    (non-neuroticism)

  • Honesty and non-defensiveness (non-neuroticism)

  •  Active participation in supervision session  (extraversion)

  • Introspection Ability--An understanding of one’s own personal dynamics 

  • Security--willinness to share details of client sessions, even those that are not going well (non-neuroticism)


The indices listed above are allegorized to the Big Five by this author.



Characteristics of Successful Interns: Berger & Buchholz, 1993; Rodenhauser, Rudisill & Painter, 1989; Vespia, Heckman-Stone & Delworth, 2002       


Getting The Most From Supervision:


©Debra M. Crown, LPC-S, LCDC