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The Career of a Psychologist: Mentorship

The career of a psychologist unfolds through many phases.  How does the experience, including both the joys and the challenges of being a psychologist, change over time?  Borrowing Jeffrey Kottler’s (2012) depiction of the stages in the career of a psychologist, we asked MSP faculty to offer their perspectives.  Ruth Anan, PhD reflects on her experience in the final stage.

Stage Nine – Mentorship: “You want to be like me?”

Ruth Anan, PhD
Ruth Anan, PhD

An important part of our professional role is mentoring aspiring psychologists. I vividly remember the first time I was asked to supervise colleagues entering the field of psychology. I had just started my post-doctoral fellowship at a children’s hospital and my supervisees were close on my professional heels as they began the internship that I had just completed days ago.

How could I possibly teach them anything? Wouldn’t they see through my façade and know that I was barely comfortable in my new role and that my knowledge was only incrementally greater than theirs? 

Fast-forward multiple decades. I have learned that mentorship, like other skills in a psychologist’s repertoire, is best developed with focused learning. I studied and adopted the integrated developmental model of supervision developed by Drs. Stoltenberg, Delworth and McNeill.

This model initially provides substantial structure and specific direction with regard to case conceptualization. But as novice psychologists gain confidence and better understand their clients’ worldviews, there is a gradual shift to catalytic interventions such as having supervisees reflect on their experience with clients and clients’ reactions. Finally, the mentoring relationship becomes collaborative. Upon reaching this stage, it is often the case that I learn as much from my supervisees as they learn from me.

Kottler, J.A. (2012). The therapist’s workbook: Self-assessment, self-care, and self-improvement exercises for mental health professionals (second ed., pp. 10-16).  Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.