Gaining Experience as a Psychology Undergrad
Gaining experience, whether in a research capacity or in a "helping" capacity, is an important part of your undergraduate experience.
Volunteering and trying out different roles allows you to find out whether you enjoy these types of positions, and if so, which aspects you like. Some people who think they'd love to be a clinical psychologist quickly realize that it's not for them; others are surprised to find out how much they enjoy helping others.
Additionally, gaining experience in the community may help to strengthen your application to graduate and professional programs, as it demonstrates that you've explored the area (e.g., research, or helping people in distress, or working with at-risk populations) and that you demonstrated commitment to this position while doing well in your studies.
Here is an ever-growing list of potential places to volunteer in London. I've tried to group these by area for students with different interests.
Volunteering as a research assistant (RA) is a terrific way to see what research "really" involves (hint: it's usually fun and collaborative!) and to see if you enjoy the research process. Professors at King's have "labs" which involve a number of students (honors thesis students, research assistants) who help with any or all areas of the study: some help with lit searches, or data collection, data coding, analyses, etc.
Professors are King's are usually quite happy to involve keen undergrads in their labs. Volunteering in a lab in 2nd- and/or 3rd-year can also be a great way to develop a deeper understanding of a research area and develop a strong professional relationship with fellow students and faculty! The students who work in my lab often become good friends.
If you'd like to gain some research experience, approach profs who you have impressed (e.g., by earning good grades in their class, participating) and let them know that you are interested in volunteering as an RA.
The King's webpage lists all of our faculty and provides a bit of info about their research programs.
Western's psychology department is quite large. The faculty often have big labs with post-docs and grad students, so it might be difficult to work directly with a prof, but their post-docs and grad students are often eager to have excellent undergrads in the lab help them with their research as volunteers. Here is an overview of the main areas of research at Western and their faculty members.
A short, professional email may be a good way to introduce yourself and offer yourself as an RA (e.g., "Dear Professor XYZ: I'm in my 3rd year of the honors specialization psychology program and really enjoyed social psychology. I read up on your research online, and was wondering if I may volunteer as an RA in your lab? etc."
Clinical or counselling psychology
Many psych students have a vague idea that they'd "like to help people." I think that volunteering in different kinds of "helping" roles is critical to finding out whether you really DO like helping people and whether this is something that you'd like to pursue. It's only by being involved that you can really see what fits best with you.
At King's, students interested in clinical psychology or neuropsychology have found Dr Chovaz's Practicum course (Psych 4692e) to be very helpful!
Here are some volunteering opportunities to consider:
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) -- The CMHA Middlesex has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, from support line volunteers to providing one-on-one support. Their website has an online application and details some of the roles available.
Sexual assault center; e.g., the Sexual Assault Center London (Anova) has several different volunteer opportunities, including working on their telephone Crisis and Support Line. Volunteering information is online here.
St Joseph's Health Care London has a large volunteer program with opportunities in a variety of areas of mental health care, including mental health care at Parkwood and the Southwest Center for Forensic Mental Health care. Here is more information about volunteering with St Joseph's Health Care.
London Health Sciences Center has a variety of volunteering roles for university students, including assisting with the cancer program, children's program, patient visiting, and the emergency room.
Community mental health organizations; e.g., CAN-VOICE -- From their website: "Can-Voice is a safe place for anyone who has or has ever had any mental health challenge. We are individuals who have been through the struggles, challenges, frustrations and shame that mental health issues may bring. Individuals who access any mental health service refer to themselves as a Consumer. Survivor, means we survived the mental health system." Volunteer information is on their website.
Homeless shelter; e.g., Mission Services of London - From their website: Mission Services is a Christian faith-based social services agency that provides emergency shelter for families and individuals "with a focus on serving those who struggle with poverty and homelessness; men, women, and children. We provide food, shelter, clothing, crisis intervention and rehabilitation." Click here for more information on volunteering with Mission Services.
Shelter for abused persons; e.g., Anova (formerly Women's Community House) in London - From their website: "Volunteers are needed in many areas, including women’s and children’s programs, donation sorting, assistance with kitchen and household chores, special projects and events and board of directors." Volunteering information is posted here.
Hospice; e.g., St. Joseph Hospice - From their website: St. Joseph Hospice provides programs and care for people with palliative illness, caregivers, and people who are grieving. Their website details many different needs for volunteers; click here for volunteer information.
Ronald McDonald House -- RMH provides short-term accommodations for families who have children staying at the LHSC. Volunteers perform a variety of roles to support these families; here's the site for the London location and volunteering info.
Brain injury unit at a hospital or rehabilitation facility:
Here in London, St Joseph's Health Care London's volunteering program includes positions at Parkwood. Here is more information about volunteering with St Joseph's Health Care.
London Health Sciences Center has a variety of volunteering roles for university students.
There are several centers that provide child and family services in London which may offer excellent volunteer opportunities for committed undergraduate students:
Merrymount Children's Centre -- Merrymount provides "crisis support and transition services for children and families." Merrymount is right around the corner from King's at the intersection of Colborne & Huron Streets.
Child-Parent Resource Institute (CPRI) -- CPRI provides outpatient and inpatient (residential) care for children and youth with "complex mental health and/or developmental disabilities." They have detailed information about volunteers here.
Volunteering with children in any capacity can be a great way to develop your experience base and skill set:
Children's Aid Society -- Children's Aid Society of London & Middlesex has volunteer opportunities
Children's ward in a hospital -- e.g., London Health Sciences Center has a variety of volunteering roles for university students, including assisting with the children's program
Elementary school or high school -- volunteering in a classroom, at lunchtime, or after school
Big Brothers or Big Sisters -- consider being a mentor for a child with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and area
Coaching children's sports teams
King's Kids (for students at King's University College) -- from their president a few years back: "Volunteers from King's are matched up with a child in need whose family has a case open at the Children’s Aid Society. The King's student visits the child approximately once a week, and through these visits, as well as monthly events run by the club, the child learns and practices healthy social and relationship skills and has the opportunity to get to know a positive role model. King’s Kids is a rewarding opportunity for not only the children involved, but the students as well. Aside from gaining valuable volunteer experience, students will also be able to develop positive leadership skills, a connection with a child in need and meet other students like them." The club usually present at a booth during clubs week at King's; you may also locate them through the Students' Council.
For those who wish to gain experience working with people who have been in conflict with the law (or who are at risk of conflict with the law):
John Howard Society of Canada: Working with the John Howard Society is a way you can develop experience working with populations in conflict with the law (or at risk of conflict with the law). The Society aims to offer "effective, just and humane responses to the causes and consequences of crime." Here's the website for the John Howard Society of London.
Correctional Service Canada: You can also gain experience in the correctional field by volunteering with the CSC; they list information about programs and services that their volunteers work in at this site.
Changing Ways: This London-based agency helps individuals (primarily men) that have charges related to domestic violence. Some of their clients attend Changing Ways because it is mandated as a condition of their probation or parole, while others attend group voluntarily. Clients are supported and challenged to end their abusive behaviour towards their partner and/or children. There are a wide range of opportunities that include administrative roles, conflict resolution, and co-facilitation. The co-facilitator position is an interactive role where the volunteer assists the group counsellor in all aspects of program delivery. Click here for more information on volunteering with Changing Ways.