PRACTICE FORUM

The mentoring dynamic: Roles and reflections

A sampling of issues mentors and mentees might examine

By Tony Crespi, EdD, Alyson E. Bevins, and S. Kent Butler

From graduate coursework and internship training to professional employment mentoring can serve as a vital signpost for professional education and development. In fact, mentoring can help graduate trainees as well as emerging professionals understand and confront the changing dynamics of school-based mental health issues. According to Bonura (2006) interns typically quickly realize that a mentor can be an invaluable asset, as even an enthusiastic and competent student can become insecure and discouraged without a guide. This article is intended to highlight the utility of mentoring.

Background

Where, in fact, did the term “mentoring” arise? Unknown to many, the term originated in "The Odyssey" by Homer where Odysseus, as he leaves his home, asks to entrust his son, Telemachus, to his trusted friend and advisor, Mentor. Anderson and Shannon (1988), looking at that relationship, noted his work included four components: 1) Intention, 2) Nurturance, 3) Insight, and 4) Support.

Crespi and Rueckert (2002) suggested that an effective mentor should consider each of these facets as mentors teach and guide a mentee in the practical aspects of the profession, provide counsel through myriad professional decisions, and serve as a collaborative partner and guide. While mentoring has been discussed as important for decades (Ellis, 1992), then, and while it has been stated that individuals with mentors experience greater satisfaction, are more productive, and are more involved with systematic professional development than those without mentors, mentoring has not been specifically defined to many and its utility remains somewhat amorphous. Clark, Harden, and Johnson (2000) noted that many psychology graduates report a lack in mentoring in professional psychology training!

Putting this succinctly, mentoring can be conceptualized as a process where a senior colleague — someone with greater rank, experience and accomplishments — guides and supports a less developed colleague with personal and professional issues (Crespi, & Rueckert, 2002). For a graduate student and early career professional there are many individuals who can influence and guide an individual. These individuals can include faculty, internship supervisors, colleagues, and members of professional groups. Not all these individuals will necessarily serve as mentors.. Given than mentoring can be an important influence and given that mentors can educate students about changes in education, mentoring should be considered as an important developmental tool in the career development of a school psychologist.

Still, what issues might be considered? The following represent a sampling of issues mentors and mentees might examine:

  1. School-based mental health practices. School-based mental health practice has experienced dramatic changes. Discussion topics might explore myriad issues ranging from third party reimbursement to school-based health clinics, to legal challenges in the schools.

  2. Career development options. School psychologists can consider a maze of career opportunities ranging from school-based career paths to university teaching. Students can benefit from such discussions as well as thoughts on careers including that of a director of psychological services or state consultant.

  3. Educational development opportunities. What options would a PhD offer? Would a private practice be of interest? Is specialty training appealing? Is a career path in administration appealing? Indeed, educational development options can be quite wide and students may find such discussions engaging.

  4. Licensure and certification options. Not all practitioners are aware of various credentialing options available in mental health, nor about opportunities credentials can offer. Mentors might talk about requirements for credentialing as a licensed psychologist, licensed professional counselor, as well as advantages of board certification by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).

  5. Part-time employment options. Practitioners can often earn supplemental income through diverse activities ranging from university teaching to private practice. Such opportunities possess unique challenges and may require thoughtful exploration which can be explored with a mentor.

  6. Association contributions. Becoming involved in state and regional associations can impact the profession, stimulate new laws and impact state regulations. Still, such involvements may be new and unrealized without the support and encouragement of a mentor.

  7. Professional and personal life challenges. Balancing home and school can present unique challenges. Returning home after counseling a suicidal client or after a referral of child abuse can leave emotional impacts not often realized during graduate school. A mentor can often serve as a listening post and guide in helping to learn to balance the twin challenges of a rich home life and vibrant career.

  8. Developmental career and life goals. Developing a life map which balances with career goals can be arduous. Retirement planning? Health insurance options? Sabbatical options? Summer employment? Vacation planning around assigned school breaks? Indeed, school-based careers often pose many life challenges around which a mentor can be most helpful.

Noe (1988) outlined 10 wonderful advantages of mentoring. In a useful way, these can serve as both an outline and guide.

  1. Sponsorship

  2. Exposure and visibility

  3. Coaching

  4. Protection

  5. Suggested challenges

  6. Role model

  7. Encouragement of new behaviors

  8. Performance feedback

  9. Outlet for concerns and fears

  10. Information on work and nonwork experiences

Conclusions

Mentoring involves a relationship whereby a senior colleague supports and guides a junior colleague. In a fundamental way, mentoring relationships can be helpful and important to school psychologists. From career advice to long-term plans a mentor can help support and guide a younger protégé. This article, briefly, has highlighted a sampling of research on mentoring. Just as Odysseus entrusted his son Telemachus to his wise friend Mentor, so too, school psychologists may trust a mentor with helping to guide their development. In truth, this is an important responsibility. In fact, just as mentors work as a role model and mentor helped shape a young life, so too, a mentor can guide a school psychologist in profound ways. Have you served as a mentor? Would you benefit from a mentor? Indeed, the challenges are immense. Nevertheless, mentoring provides rewards and it is rewarding!

References

Anderson, E.M., & Shannon, A.L. (1988). Toward a conceptualization of mentoring. Journal of Teacher Education, 39, 38-42.

Bonura, S. (2006). As mentoring flourishes, so does the intern. Journal of School Counseling, 4(8). Retrieved from http://www.jsc.montana.edu/articles/v4n8.pdf

Clark, R.A., Harden, S.L., & Johnson, W.B. (2000). Mentor relationships in clinical psychology doctoral training: Results of a national survey. Teaching of Psychology, 27, 262-267.

Crespi, T.D., & Rueckert, Q.H. (2002). Mentoring school-based careers in graduate education: Conceptual considerations and case illustration. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 19, 113-131.

Ellis, H.C. (1992). Graduate education in psychology: Past, present, and future. American Psychologist, 47, 570-576.

Phillip-Jones, L.L. (1982). Mentors and protégés. New York: Arbor House.

Scandura, T.A. (1992). Mentorship and career mobility: An empirical investigation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 13, 169-174.

Wilde, J.B., & Schau, C.G. (1991). Mentoring in graduate schools of education: Mentee’s perceptions. Journal of Experimental Education, 59, 165-179.

Dr. Tony D. Crespi is presently professor of psychology in the school psychology program at the University of Hartford. He is now entering his fourth decade in the profession.

Alyson E. Bevins, M.S., is presently completing her sixth year certificate in school psychology at The University of Hartford. She is now an intern in the Glastonbury (CT) Public Schools.

Dr. S. Kent Butler is presently associate professor of education at the University of Central Florida and visiting professor at the College of William and Mary. He is also immediate past-president of the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development.

Contact

Tony D. Crespi, PhD, ABPP
University of Hartford
200 Bloomfield Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06117