By Anna Merrill (I.U. doctoral candidate) and Chelsey Brophy, Ph.D.
Note: CRG had the pleasure of hosting Anna Merrill, I.U. doctoral student in school psychology, for a practicum experience during this past summer. She worked closely with CRG psychologist, Dr. Chelsey Brophy. This collaborative article reflects the close bond they formed here on a professional and personal level. Read on to learn more about this dynamic partnership.
Anna: As a graduate student you quickly learn there are some things you just can’t learn in the classroom. I have found mentors every step along the way who have taught me through real-world experience and supported my growth as a future psychologist. In psychology and several other fields, your advisors and professors may be far removed from actual practice. Finding mentors who are working in your field is essential for deepening your understanding and learning of applied skills.
I had the pleasure of completing a practicum at CRG (Children’s Resource Group) during the summer of 2015. When I started my work at CRG, I worked closely with Dr. Chelsey Brophy. She was able to help me in several ways. First and foremost, I learned from her experiences. I asked Dr. Brophy about her experiences in graduate school, what she wishes she had known, or tips she picked up along the way that have helped her career growth since graduation. In addition, Dr. Brophy knows how to execute and apply knowledge I am learning as a graduate student. I asked about why she does things a certain way and the processes she uses when preparing to work with a client. We openly discussed what I could improve upon when she was able to watch me interact with our clients. Even after leaving CRG, when I started writing essays for applications to internship programs, Dr. Brophy took the time to read my essays and provide feedback based on her understanding of my professional goals.
Beyond passing on knowledge and providing feedback, there is also a social aspect of having a mentor. Dr. Brophy was able to help me network and meet other people who work in our field. She was able to share information that she has learned from her colleagues who work in other areas of the country or different types of positions in the same field. Hearing about this helped me gain inside information, as I think about where I may want to work in the future and the pros and cons of working in new environments. If I end up wanting to work somewhere that Dr. Brophy knows a psychologist, she will be able connect me with a simple email or phone call. With every mentor, your social network expands rapidly!
Overall, Dr. Brophy has proven to be a fantastic mentor, but a big part of mentoring falls on the mentee. You can utilize you mentor by asking questions and taking the time to learn about their experiences. By building a true relationship, you can make the most of your mentor and make a friend and colleague for the rest of your career.
Dr. Brophy: As an early career professional, it was initially difficult for me to wrap my head around being a “mentor.” I had been in mentoring relationships before, primarily as the mentee, and had mentored young children through organizations such as Big Brother Big Sisters. Despite these experiences, I never thought of myself as qualified to mentor another colleague or professional. I felt that the mentoring role required me to know all the answers and be an expert in my field. I am a newly-licensed professional and far from having expert status. While I was not sure how helpful I would be initially, I realized there were several areas I did feel I could help foster in another upcoming professional.
In reflecting on my mentoring partnership with Anna, I gained so much from our interactions in addition to passing along some “tips and tricks.” Much of our time together was devoted to learning and improving clinical skills. That said, our conversations also extended beyond cases to other topics such as
CRG’s integrated model, graduate school life, applying for internship, professional licensure, potential future career opportunities, finishing the dreaded dissertation, the future of mental health, and everyday topics like football (Anna is a Patriots fan and I am an avid Colts fan). Needless to say, there were always opportunities to learn from one another. This “mutual benefit” aspect of our interactions helped us build rapport and a strong foundational relationship. As a result, Anna felt comfortable in openly communicating with me. She also felt safe and supported to learn and practice new skills.
As a mentor, I had the opportunity to “think aloud” about my approach to cases and be more reflective in my approach. These insights were triggered by Anna’s questions following appointments. I was also able to learn from her training, experiences, and areas of interest, exchange resources with her, and conceptualize cases through various lenses and approaches. This helped me broaden my perspective and be increasingly thoughtful about my approach. Beyond these areas of growth, I also was able to think more generally about mentoring and the mentoring model. One thing that stood out to me about mentoring was the importance of a “good fit.” Anna and I were able to connect on many levels and had several shared experiences, which led to a successful working relationship.
Overall, I can honestly say mentoring Anna was such a pleasure. I felt so encouraged by her enthusiasm and passion for her work, which left me excited about the future of our field. I enjoyed hearing her feedback and perspective on our mentoring partnership. I hope to continue improving and refining my mentoring skills as I continue to be mentored here at CRG. I plan to continue participating in the mentoring model, both as a mentee and mentor, and look forward to how these opportunities will enhance my own practice and our practice as a whole.