03 Aug 2016

The Life-Changing Power of Mentors

The Life-Changing Power of Mentors

Midcareer psychologists talk about the mentors who shaped their careers.

Selecting a mentor can be one of life's most important decisions. "Mentors are crucial whenever people are faced with new phases of their career or life that require the development of new knowledge, skills or attitudes," says mentoring expert Drew Appleby, PhD, professor emeritus at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "Mentors help people determine who they want to become, how they must change in order to become these people, and how they can take advantage of their college or work experiences to bring about these changes."

Mentoring takes many different forms, ranging from the formal arrangement between a student and adviser in graduate school to informal relationships people develop throughout their careers. Midcareer mentoring is often informal and starts somewhat spontaneously, Appleby says. "You may meet someone, have a conversation and suddenly realize you'd like to be like this person," he says. "If this person shows a genuine interest in you, that is an ideal way for mentoring to begin."

Psychology practitioner Jean Carter, PhD, of Washington, D.C., says a variety of mentors helped her navigate such important transitions as selecting a graduate school and moving from a shared space to her own office.

"Informal mentoring can be a single meeting, episodic or ongoing," Carter says. "It can be as simple as one time when you talked to someone who gave you an insight that influenced your career. If you are open to those mentoring moments, they are more likely to happen."

The Monitor interviewed five midcareer psychologists for insights on how they found their mentors, how their mentors helped them succeed and how they are paying it forward by mentoring others.

Kavita Murthy, PhD: counseling psychologist in Austin, Texas

How did you meet your mentor?

 

Kavita Murthy, PhD (credit: Eric Coleman)
Kavita Murthy, PhD

I met my mentor Larry Bugen about 13 years ago when my colleague and I were interested in starting a private practice. We were looking for office space when Larry, a well-known couples psychologist, was downsizing his practice. Friends connected us. As I shared office space with Larry, we got to know one another and started to realize how much we thought alike. He was 20 years older than me, so there was that affection of a fatherly figure and I looked up to him, but it never felt like a superior-inferior relationship. It was more like we were equals.

 

How did your mentor help you succeed?

Larry had a lot of confidence in me and believed in me when I wasn't able to believe in myself. One year, for example, I gave a talk at the Texas Psychological Association's annual meeting about couples therapy and trauma, and he sat in on my two-hour workshop. After it was over, he told me it was a good workshop, but I had deferred too much to other people's work during the talk. He encouraged me to believe in my own ideas and theories and spend more time on that.

He also wasn't afraid to share with me the mistakes that he made from time to time. When I was hesitant to take on a couple due to the potential legal issues involved, he would share what he would have done differently when he took on a case that was similar. When I felt too biased toward one person in a couple, he would tell stories of when it happened to him. He also taught me that it's OK to make mistakes, and that I could get through any mistake if I worked to repair it.

How are you paying it forward by mentoring others?

I have taught various counseling classes and practicum courses at the St. Edward's University master's of counseling program in Austin, which gives me an opportunity to supervise people who are working in the field. I always choose to teach in an experiential way and I'm not afraid to show my own vulnerabilities and mistakes. Larry taught me to be real, and that's how I want to be with mentees. During the live demonstrations, I try to give positive and encouraging feedback rather than simply pointing out what they've done wrong.

Now I'm entering a phase of life in which people are starting to seek me out to be their mentor, and that is a new thing for me. Mentoring others inspires confidence and wisdom in my skills as a therapist. I cannot believe I've been on this journey for 20 years. It's time to give back and I am eager to do so.

Jane Halonen, PhD: professor of psychology, University of West Florida

How did you find a mentor?

Jane Halonen, PhD (credit: Silver Image/Michael Spooneybarger)
Jane Halonen, PhD

I met my mentor in the library. When I got my first teaching job, I had zero background and didn't really know what I was doing. Out of desperation, I went to the library and found a book by Bill McKeachie called "McKeachie's Teaching Tips," and every problem I ran into he addressed in that book. I started having personal contact with him when I joined a grant for a book that was looking at critical thinking in psychology. When it was time to do the acknowledgements, I approached him and he said, "Of course." I ended up interviewing him for a later book project, and we bonded in a way that made me feel like the person who was the most knowledgeable about teaching was in my court. He was not only exquisitely smart about teaching, but also a very humble and gentle human being.

How did your mentor help you succeed?

Bill has an incredible capacity to help people get excited about learning, and that is something I adopted. He also reinforced the importance of making things better in the classroom and this helped me find a niche of scholarship that was satisfying to me. Before this, research seemed like more of an obligation, but he showed me that collecting data about how students learn is really interesting.

Bill also taught me that even as the professor, I didn't have to be the smartest person in the room. If I didn't know the answer to a question, I could just say, "I don't know." I found that advice so liberating. I use such moments to elicit student opinions and point out the opportunity to think critically.

How are you paying it forward by mentoring others?

When I see people who are excited about teaching, I try to show them helpful resources, such as the APA Div. 2 Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology. For new faculty in my department, I take them to lunch and let them know I'm happy to answer any questions.

Career development is also becoming a higher priority in undergraduate education. So, I teach my students how to be good critical thinkers, but I also recognize that I am getting them ready for the workforce. I take seriously the fact that the majority of my students are not going to graduate school, and I incorporate activities to prepare them for things like job interviews.

Marietta Collins, PhD: associate professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta

How did you find a mentor?

Marietta Collins, PhD (credit: Michael Schwarz)
Marietta Collins, PhD

I was in my third year of graduate school when I applied for a research assistantship with Nadine Kaslow, who worked in psychiatry and behavioral sciences. We shared an interest in providing mental health services for underserved populations, which had not been an emphasis in my clinical psychology program. I hadn't been able to find a mentor, and she was someone I could connect with. She was a very open and available person. She was also interested in helping me figure out where I wanted to go professionally and how to get there.

How did she help you succeed?

Nadine believed in me and encouraged me in a way that nobody else ever had. I was an African-American in a predominantly Caucasian field, and she believed there was a place for me not only as an African-American, but also as a researcher focused on underserved populations. She was one of the first non-African-Americans I felt I could talk openly with about race issues.

Nadine also created opportunities for me professionally. When she was writing an NIH grant about pediatric sickle cell disease, she invited me to be part of the process. Once she received funding, I helped with the study. This experience helped me when I went on to write grants of my own.

When I had my first child, she was also available to talk about the importance of being a mother and how to balance my career as a psychologist with being a parent. She helped me set goals and believe I could successfully navigate both of these roles.

How are you paying it forward by mentoring others?

When I was part of Nadine's research lab as a graduate student, I helped to bring other African-American students to the lab. I had the opportunity to supervise and mentor these students, interns and fellows. Once I was a faculty member, I formed the African-American Training Research Lab, which is a support group for African-American women in psychology. We have co-authored a couple of articles, including one about the importance of mentoring for African-American trainees in psychology. I also hold an annual potluck at my home for incoming minority trainees to give them an opportunity to network with one another and other minority faculty members.

Sue Frantz, PhD: psychology professor, Highline College in Washington

How did you find a mentor?

Sue Frantz, PhD (credit: Brian Smale)
Sue Frantz, PhD

I wasn't actively looking for a mentor when I met someone who turned out to be a mentor for me. I was working at Highline College when I was serving as the director of Project Syllabus for APA's Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology). I had heard of Ruth Ault because she was the director of the Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology. I met her for the first time in Florida in 2005 because we were both readers for the AP psychology test. Throughout the week, we had time to socialize and she encouraged me to go to APA's Annual Convention. I thought the convention seemed overwhelming, but she suggested that I focus on division activities.

How did your mentor help you succeed?

When I attended my first convention, Ruth invited me to sit next to her at the division's annual meeting and introduced me to people. She helped me understand what Div. 2 was about, how APA works and who the people were in the organization. This background helped me move into leadership positions, such as a member and later a chair for the Committee for Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges. I also served on APA's Membership Board. Currently I'm vice president for resources for the division and a college representative for APA's Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools. When I was thinking about creating ToPIX (Teaching of Psychology Idea Exchange), a wiki of teaching resources, she provided valuable advice on how to move that idea forward.

How are you paying it forward by mentoring others?

I used to go to conferences with the goal of learning something new for myself. That's still a goal, but not the primary one. Now I want to meet people who are new to the profession to find out what they want to do. I have conversations about the starter opportunities in APA, like being a reviewer for different resources. In January, APA's Early Career Psychology Committee had a social, and I had wonderful conversations with several people. Five years ago, I also started a blog (SueFrantz.com) about technology you can use that is specifically geared for instructors. I started it because I think there are a lot of instructors doing things the hard way, and I wanted to share ideas with them.

Sue Frantz, PhD: psychology professor, Highline College in Washington

How did you find a mentor?

William Buskist, PhD (credit: Tracy McDaniel)
William Buskist, PhD

I was a graduate student at Brigham Young University in a new experimental psychology program when I found my mentor. Initially, I was involved in research on errorless learning, but I discovered I wasn't all that interested in it and switched major professors. I was intrigued by the work of a new professor in the department, Hal Miller, who was fresh from Harvard where he had worked with the matching law. He was interested in applying the matching law to human behavior and I switched to his lab. The more work I did in the area, the more fascinated I became with this line of research. I also enjoyed being around Hal — I liked his work ethic, the way he treated people and his interest in helping his students succeed in whatever they attempted to learn.

How did your mentor help you succeed?

Hal represented the kind of professional I wanted to become. He showed me it is important to take an interest in the individual, and modeled that by being extremely generous with his time. I fell in love with what I was doing as a graduate student, and I would wait for him to show up at his office nearly every morning because I was so eager to share what I was learning or my ideas for a new study. Even though I was probably a pest at the time, he took it in stride and always supported me.

He also encouraged me to take the next steps in my career. For example, we had replicated some research on birds with humans, and he suggested that I send my data to the author of the research we replicated. I eventually met the researcher and we stayed in touch, and that connection led me to my position here at Auburn University.

How are you paying it forward by mentoring others?

About eight years after I started at Auburn, the department chair asked me to help him revamp our introductory psychology course. At the time, the department was using only graduate students to teach the course. These first-time instructors had received no training for teaching and were unsupervised while they taught. He asked if I'd be interested in developing a training program for new graduate instructors. I created two graduate-level courses on teaching and a teaching fellows program. More than 100 graduate students have gone through the program and of those, seven have won national teaching awards.

Overall, I try to involve graduate students in every aspect of my work, and always publish graduate student co-authors. I get so much satisfaction from watching these students succeed, whether it's giving their first lecture, publishing research or landing their first job.

  • Reach out to a professor.
  • Attend APA's Annual Convention and approach someone with like interests.
  • Assist a researcher involved in a study that interests you.
  • Serve on an APA committee, board or project and network with people in the group.
  • Reach out to a practicing psychologist who has expertise in your specialty.
  • Explore APA resources that offer mentoring at www.apa.org/gradpsych/2005/01/mentor-find.aspx.
  • Think about what you need in a mentor and start looking for these qualities in people you meet.
  • Get involved in smaller state or local psychological associations.
  • Approach someone during a field placement while in graduate school.
  • Attend social gatherings offered by psychology departments or APA divisions that give you an opportunity to network.

By Heather Stringer


Interested in Mentorship? Read our collection of articles on Mentorship curated specially for APA members and affiliates.

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01 Aug 2016

The High Cost of Helping: Grad Student Debt in Psychology

It's never been more expensive to become a psychologist. Higher education costs have skyrocketed in the last decade, while salaries have stagnated and, in some subareas, actually declined. The confluence of these trends has created a crisis for students, recent grads, and early-career psychologists.

Even if you're fortunate enough to be debt-free, you're still likely to feel the effects on your career and psychology in general as an entire generation of potential and new psychologists face significant obstacles to surviving and thriving in the discipline.

In this webinar, "The High Cost of Helping: Grad Student Debt in Psychology," our panel of experts break down the causes and impacts of the graduate student debt crisis, including:

  • What are the trends regarding educational costs, debt, and salaries?
  • What tips and tricks can people use to manage and live within their debt burdens?
  • What are the unique mental and emotional stresses caused by debt?
  • How can students and grads avoid feeling overwhelmed?
  • Are psychologists uniquely prepared to manage the stress?
  • Will people become reluctant to consider psychology as a career option? What impact might it have on the discipline?

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01 Aug 2016

Membership Recruitment and Engagement

We are working to provide members with solutions to specific challenges they face in areas ranging from student debt to research funding and beyond.

Ian King, Executive Director, Membership, American Psychological Association

In 2015, APA established its first-ever office dedicated entirely to issues of membership. This newly created team is tasked with attracting new members to APA and retaining current members of the organization. To achieve these broad goals, the Membership office will focus on engaging with members and making APA membership more valuable and enjoyable. In large part, this means delivering to APA members the tools, services, information, and experiences they need to excel as psychologists at every stage of their careers.

At the outset, we will primarily concentrate on providing members with assistance in the following areas: career and professional development, networking, access to psychological research, and information on trends and developments across the discipline. We will also work to provide members with solutions to specific challenges they face in areas ranging from student debt to research funding and beyond.

We cannot do any of this, however, without detailed input and feedback from APA members. If you have questions or comments about the Membership office or anything you have read here, please contact Ian King, Executive Director, Membership, at iking@apa.org.

MEMBERSHIP COUNTS

The 2015 membership total was 117,575, including 77,552 full members and 40,023 affiliates. In the full-member category, there were 19,826 early career members and associates (within 10 years' receipt of their doctorate); in the affiliate categories, there were 24,190 graduate students. Overall, membership declined 4% in 2015. The life status category increased by 4.5%. (A life status member is one who has reached age 65 and has belonged to APA for 25 years; these members may choose to begin the dues-reduction process, which culminates in dues exemption. In 2015, 766 members moved from the full-member to the life status category.)

Integrated marketing efforts in 2015 focused on recruiting new members, upgrading students to full membership, and engaging members. The Membership office also continued its partnership with the Practice Directorate to develop a campaign to recruit licensed practitioners. Overall, the 2015 fall recruitment campaign targeted nearly 200,000 prospects for membership (up from 167,000 prospects in 2014). By year's end, 14,782 new members or affiliates had joined APA, and 1,074 graduate students had upgraded to full membership.

SERVICE CENTER OPERATIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS

The Service Center's operations unit is responsible for maintaining the member, subscription, and customer database records and processing new member and affiliate applications, dues and subscription payments, and book orders. The unit's circulation staff handle the postal filings for APA journals and the audits for the Monitor on Psychology.

After staff's review of applications, APA elected 4,482 new members, reinstated 1,477 members, and processed applications for 8,800 student affiliates, 900 teacher affiliates, and 600 international affiliates (totals for affiliates are rounded estimates) in 2015. In April, in collaboration with APA's Information Technology Services, the operations unit introduced a new member application system to accept new member dues payments electronically.

The Service Center's communications staff handled approximately 52,000 direct calls in 2015. Approximately 44% of those calls were member related, 30% required directory assistance, and 21% were from members and the general public placing a book or subscription order or requesting other information. The remaining 5% were technical calls pertaining to online products and services.

DIVISION SERVICES OFFICE

APA divisions are organized around psychological specialties and the interest areas of APA's members. APA channels support for its divisions through the Division Services Office, which offers an array of services and resources, including help with accepting and tracking members, assistance with division publications, and support in managing meetings and conferences.

Division Services is also the liaison to the Committee on Division/APA Relations (CODAPAR), which represents division interests within APA's governance structure. The committee is responsible for creating the Division Leadership Conference for presidents-elect to prepare them to assume the role of division president. CODAPAR also encourages division collaboration through joint conferences, programming at the APA convention, and the interdivisional grant program.

- From the 2015 Annual Report

 

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