Editor’s note: The Mentoring Spotlight is a recurring feature that highlights Division 38’s Health Psych Connections program with experiences from mentor-mentee pairs and occasional articles on effective mentoring. Our fall 2014 article features the experience of Dr. Lloyd Berg, a mid-career professional who contacted the program for a specific mentoring need, and Dr. Sharon Berry, who agreed to serve as a mentor. For more information about the Health Psych Connections program, visit http://www.health-psych.org/Connections.cfm.
Lloyd Berg, PhD, ABPP
Seton Mind Institute & University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
I recently reached out to Division 38’s Health Psych Connections mentoring program for guidance on developing a potential clinical health psychology research project and also how to find an experienced collaborator to co-write a clinical health psychology journal article. My experience was extremely positive and I’m still kicking myself for not reaching out sooner!
I am a mid-career clinical health psychologist in Austin, Texas. Since receiving my doctorate in 1995, I have provided clinical health psychology services in a wide continuum of medical settings, including primary care, acute care, long-term care, rehabilitation facilities, and specialty care clinics. I offer this background to explain that at this stage of my professional development, the thought of seeking mentorship, until recently, had really not crossed my mind. Four years ago, however, I was invited to join the psychiatry residency program in Austin as a non-tenure track clinical assistant professor. It’s been dream position for me, with a great blend of hospital consultation-liaison work, collaboration with departmental psychiatrists and interdisciplinary teams, and training residents, medical students and psychosomatic fellows. But…
During my second year performance evaluation, my program director encouraged me to start preparing for academic advancement. She noted that even though I was on a non-tenure clinical track and had strong clinical and teaching evaluations, she also expected me to become board certified and to publish to be considered for academic promotion. I was excited to be prodded to pursue board certification; it was a goal I had already been considering for quite some time. The prospect of publishing, though, filled me with trepidation. I have never been comfortable committing my thoughts to paper. Writing my dissertation was a very stressful experience, one I thought I’d never have to revisit as a clinician. The thought of doing research or submitting an article to a peer-reviewed journal intimidated me. And my experience of seeking out graduate school and early career mentors was decidedly hit or miss.
I proceeded initially with the relatively less anxiety-provoking goal of attaining board certification in clinical health psychology, which I completed earlier this year. Only then did I finally decide to contact Health Psych Connections after reading on their website that they could put me in contact with another Division 38 member with the expertise I was looking for and had volunteered to help.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email the following day from Martita Lopez, the chair of the Health Psych Connections program at the time, whom I serendipitously met the previous week at an integrated behavioral health conference. I shared some of my scholarly activity thoughts with her. Within several days, she put me in touch with Sharon Berry, who is on the boards of the Council of Clinical Health Psychology Training Programs and the Association of Psychologists in Academic Health Centers (APAHC).
Sharon was incredibly informative and facilitative. After exploring and clarifying my potential research interests, Sharon provided a detailed overview of relevant organizations I could contact, the names of key contact persons, and specific ideas about how I could proceed. We also discussed my thoughts of writing a “practice tips” article for clinical health psychologists wanting to explore clinical practice opportunities in community (i.e., non-academic) medical hospitals. When I mentioned a reference written by two prominent clinical health psychologists that had inspired me, Sharon responded that she was colleagues with both and offered to make introductions. She did so and, I swear, both of them replied within the same day and expressed interest in helping write the article!
I cannot tell you how grateful I am that a resource like Health Psych Connections exists. And that leaders in the clinical health psychology world like Martita and Sharon are so gracious in sharing the knowledge and contacts they have cultivated throughout their careers. I feel more confident now in pursuing my scholarly activity goals. I also feel a stronger sense of connection with the clinical health psychology community. And I will look for opportunities to “pay it forward.”[Editor’s note: After serving the Health Psych Connections program well in her role as Division 38 Member-at-Large, Dr. Lopez has handed the reins to her successor, Zeeshan Butt.]
Sharon Berry, PhD, ABPP
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
I am grateful to Division 38 for establishing the Health Psych Connections program. This is an opportunity that benefits all involved, from students and early career psychologists who can learn from the extended network among those who practice within the health psychology domain, to the early/mid-career psychologists who can “pay it forward” and assist undergraduate and graduate students who are beginning to explore the field. I like the label of “Connections” program as I think it best reflects the “extended networking” this type of program facilitates…and I like the small-world feeling of fewer and fewer degrees of freedom between health psychologists across the country and even internationally.
The program gives each of us an opportunity to learn from others in key areas of development across the professional lifespan. Likewise, as we individually explore areas for development, we often take time to reflect on past mentors and those who have influenced our career choices over time. As a training director, I like the emphasis on “change over time” so that students and early career psychologists remember that development is not static, we do not complete graduate school and stop learning, but that professional development is an evolution.
The extended networking process involves “mentoring” but it almost never include true supervision which is best left to those who take on this legal and ethical responsibility. Networking extends our support foundation and access to role models. The profession of health psychology has taken seriously the idea of mentoring toward continued competence across one’s career. The need for mentoring relationships does not change, only the form of the mentorship and the individuals involved. Mentoring often involves sharing “wisdom” to guide others moving forward, and reflects our commitment to vicarious learning through observation.
Most recently, I was connected with Dr. Berg, who was very specific with his mentoring requests, and this targeted model was instrumental to meeting his needs. Specifically, Dr. Berg wanted to explore survey research to better understand psychologists practicing within community based medical settings. I could readily provide him with resources for additional information and assistance whenever he is ready to move ahead with this survey. In addition, he aspires to develop an article with “survival tips” for clinical health psychologists working in the area of consultation-liaison and/or acute care settings. He has given this topic a great deal of thought based on a published article for neuropsychologists in rehabilitation settings. He went so far as to identify possible co-authors, senior psychologists he held in high esteem, who were well suited for this type of article, but he was not sure how best to move forward. Fortunately, I have known both of these individuals as friends and colleagues for many years, connected them to Dr. Berg, and they are moving ahead as a team!
I have had the opportunity to be connected with several health psychology professionals, and enjoyed the chance to meet others and help connect them with others in the field in a meaningful way. Sometimes a connection through a third party helps ease the awkwardness of approaching others for assistance or collaboration. I have found senior health psychologists uniquely open to involvement in this process, and willingness to share ideas and lessons learned without reservation. This commitment to others is a hallmark of Division 38, which incorporates individuals with varying career paths, from those in academic training to practice to research (both applied and laboratory). Viewing “mentorship” as an intentional, professional activity is important and is increasingly apparent with early career professionals, leading many to seek out these opportunities at various times in their career. I encourage all clinical health psychologists to consider involvement – either seeking a connection or offering to serve as a guide/mentor to another colleague!