Our hope is that trainees will establish mentoring relationships that will support their work related development needs and help to make training a valuable and manageable experience. Please note that mentoring is optional (but strongly encouraged) for trainees.
We recognised that what makes a mentoring relationship work for one mentee/mentor pair may be very different from another. Your mentoring relationship can be one that is shaped by you and focuses on what is important for you.
You can find guidelines for getting started with mentoring, information on how to develop a mentoring contract and an example tempate for the contract in the Getting started with Mentoring document.
My initiation into being a mentor seemed to evolve quite naturally. Having been a trainee on the Lancaster programme, I have remained working in the north-west and have built up a number of links over the years through working in different departments. I was initially approached to be a mentor by a trainee I was supervising at the end of her placement with me. The trainee, who was in her second year at the time, felt she would benefit from continuing our relationship in this way, with us meeting regularly in order to discuss her progress on the course and to have the chance to talk through her experiences with someone who understood the experience but who was separate enough from the course to be able to speak openly and honestly about how she was managing. I currently also mentor another trainee in the same way. This mentoring relationship, again, evolved quite naturally, from our having crossed one another's paths in a couple of clinical departments over the years.
In mentoring I try to draw on my own experience of receiving support from a mentor myself when, as a trainee, I felt well supported by having an opportunity to speak to someone outside of the course environment about the frustrations, stresses, and rewards about the course, as well as how I was managing to balance both the demands of the course alongside my day-to-day personal world. In terms of the practical issues of mentoring, with each of my mentees (providing no confidential information needs to be discussed) we have arranged to meet part way between one another's bases, often over dinner at the end of a work day. I'm aware that other mentoring meetings have been organised in the workplace, however, this, rather less formal arrangement has worked well in our experience. These meetings have tended to take place approximately every 2 months, and, having a regular timeslot seems to have been helpful to each of us. Whilst, in my experience so far, I have mentored trainees with whom I have had previous contact, I'm aware that it can be difficult to identify someone to contact about being a mentor. I would say that the mentoring relationship – whether you have or haven't known the mentor before – can be a very valuable one, with the mentor offering a different source of support and understanding, and being flexible in terms of the amount and frequency of support needed. As such, I'd encourage trainees to think about utilising this resource, to add to their network of support to help make their time in training as positive and rewarding as possible.
During my time as a trainee I had a mentor which I found extremely helpful in terms of navigating the training course and helping me to think about life beyond training. When I qualified from the Lancaster course years ago I signed up to be a mentor for and I have since been a mentor for two trainees. My first mentee qualified this year and has now started in her first qualified post and I have met my second mentee once.
Being aware of how precious time is as a trainee I have feel that it is important that mentoring sessions are useful and beneficial for the mentee. What's useful can change throughout the process of training so flexibility is important. I did not know the trainee's I have mentored previously. They both approached me by email asking for information about my clinical areas of interest. Following an email discussion we agreed to meet at my place of work at a mutually convenient time.
I found it useful to spend the first meeting discussing what the trainee would hope to gain from a mentor and getting to know one another. Thinking about what other support the trainee is receiving and where the gaps might be can help to inform this. With my first mentee we identified that she did not have someone supporting her professionally who was not evaluating her or did not has a specific focus on one area of training. She felt that it would be helpful to have somewhere she could think about all components of training; such as placements, academic and research throughout the 3 years and how these may affect life outside of the course.
We agreed to meet initially every three months and that additional meeting could be arranged if the mentee felt that that would be helpful. A review meeting was agreed after the first year to allow us to discuss how the mentoring relationship was developing and to adapt it if necessary.
The time between meetings meant that we met at least once during a placement. This gave us the opportunity to reflect over her current placement and think about what she may want to focus upon during her next placement. My mentee reported finding this helpful as it allowed her to reflect on the changes she had made since our previous meeting in terms of her confidence and progression in university work.
Initially meetings focused mainly training and as we got to know one another discussions broadened to what was felt most helpful at the time for the mentee. This included thinking about the impact of training on life outside of the course and managing difficult interpersonal dynamics while on placement. As my mentee progressed throughout the course we used our meetings to think about her long term career options, how to go about completing job applications and preparing for interviews. I think that having similar areas of clinical interest was useful to be able to offer more specific suggestions but I don't think it is essential.
I have found the experience of mentoring enjoyable and felt very proud when my first mentee was offered her first qualified job. I also think that the experience has helped me to develop my own supervisory and leadership skills.
Prospective mentors should complete the Mentor Pro-forma document.
I'm a second year trainee, and I've had a mentor since my first month on the course. When the idea of a mentor, or personal tutor as it was then, was mentioned it sounded like something that would be really useful. I didn't know any clinicians in the area though, and I was hesitant about just choosing someone off the list without knowing anything about them. We had a teaching session early on, from a local clinician, and I really liked her. I approached her to ask if she'd be willing to be my mentor, and she said that she'd be happy to.
I've met with my mentor roughly every 3 months, although I know that she's there if I need some support in between meetings. On 3 occasions we've met at her house, and the other time we met at a pub and chatted over dinner. For me, I like the informality of meeting outside of a work setting, as it emphasises that she is completely removed from the course. I have, however, found it beneficial that she trained at Lancs, as she understands the different pieces of work that I talk about, as well as the demands and pressures of the course. It's also meant that I can discuss some of my ideas for pieces of work with her, or ask her to read over things that I've written.
We agreed early on that we'd have an informal review of our meetings after a year, to see if we were both happy with how it was going. I've found that I often go to our meetings thinking that I don't have anything to talk about, but then find the sessions really beneficial. I suddenly realise there's quite a few things on my mind that don't feel necessary to mention to course staff, but I feel better for discussing them and getting a different perspective. Sometimes it's been nice just to have some encouragement or validation that I'm doing ok on the course, especially when I'm having those inevitable moments of self-doubt!
I wondered if it might feel difficult to navigate the mentoring journey without a clear guideline of what a mentor or mentee "should" be or do, but actually the flexibility has meant that the relationship can adapt to what feels most useful or needed at the time. Each of my meetings with my mentor has had a different focus, depending on what's going on for me at the time; we might talk about written work, placements, the impact of the course, or long-term career. I also know that should I feel I don't want to meet my mentor for a while, that would be fine, but the support would be there whenever I needed it.
When I heard about the Lancaster DClinPsy's mentoring scheme I was keen to use it, as I thought it sounded like a useful source of extra support to draw upon in order to negotiate training. I moved over to the North West specifically for the course, meaning I didn't know any clinicians practicing in the area. As a result, I relied on the list or potential mentors provided by the course.
It was difficult to know where to start with approaching people at first. To narrow it down I decided to focus initially on people working in the same geographical area, thinking that might make it easier to meet around busy times such as deadlines. I spotted a mentor located quite close to where I live, working in the field of learning disability. As this is an area I'm interested in working in I thought I'd get in touch to see how we got along and if we could build up a mentoring relationship.
Initially we had a chat about what I might want to get from a mentor, and what my mentor felt she could offer and how she had approached mentoring relationships with previous trainees. This was all done very informally. Broadly we agreed that we would spend time thinking about how I was generally getting on with the course, specifically in relation to things like workload, placements, and how it all might be affected by other things going on in my life (if I felt comfortable discussing this). We also agreed that, because I thought I might like to work in the field of learning disability in the future, that it might be helpful for my mentor to help me keep up to date with what's happening in that specialty and think about how my other experiences in training might transfer to that area of work.
We started off by meeting every couple of months, though this has recently become more like every three months due me having more work and it being harder to make time to schedule the meetings in during my study days. It's been really helpful to have someone external to the course to be able to talk to about the stresses and strains of training. Sometimes it's been very helpful to have someone there who's quite removed from training, who can provide a bit of perspective and reassurance that people get through it and there is life on the other side! I've also found it really interesting to talk to my mentor about the placements that I've had and the research I'm doing, as I find she brings in yet another different perspective on certain issues that helps enrich the way I look at things.
Now I'm already having to think about specialist placements, I can also certainly see the value in having a mentor who works in a field in which I'm interested in working. We've had useful discussions about whether I should do a learning disability specialist placement, and it's been valuable to get advice from somebody who recruits and selects people post-qualification and what they might look for. Overall I've found that my mentor has provided me with really helpful perspectives on the process of training that are a bit different to those I've received from elsewhere, and I'd certainly recommend the mentoring scheme to those who are thinking they might like to use it.
I am a third year trainee at Lancaster and have had a mentor since I began the course. When I was introduced to the idea this was still known as the 'Personal Tutor' system and I think this name helped to shape my idea of what I would hope to gain from this role. Being aware of the potential stressful time ahead of me I certainly felt I could benefit from having someone to share the more personal impact of training with and I felt this role would compliment the clinical and research tutor support provided by the course.
Given the way in which I intended to use this resource on a personal level I decided to choose a personal tutor/mentor that I already had an established relationship with. I was in a fortunate position as I had previously worked locally in two assistant psychologist posts and formed positive relationships with a number of colleagues and so had a couple of people in mind when I approached the list. I was then pleased to see the name of one of these people upon the list and so approached her from there.
My mentor and I meet on a fairly regular basis, around once every 2-3 months. Due to our pre-existing relationship it felt natural for us to arrange to meet in an informal setting and so we usually construct our meetings around meeting for dinner at the end of a working day. I find the relaxed atmosphere of this conducive to my being open and it also reinforces the feeling that my mentor is independent to either the University or any form of placement.
In the early days I generally would reflect upon my experience of the course so far and enjoyed having a source separate from my peers with whom I could check out my experience. I often use my mentor as a sounding board for how I am finding things as I feel she is able to take a more objective stance from a position of having been there but no longer embroiled within it. I also find it very helpful that she also trained at Lancaster and so is able to reflect upon her experience of similar issues with me.
More recently our conversations have been focused upon the stressful elements of training and I find it normalising and validating to hear that what I am feeling is ok. I think that hearing this from another objective voice is again helpful, also I feel that as my mentor qualified relatively recently she is still in touch with a lot of these feelings which I find has an increased normalising impact for me, (I believe this is different to my tutors who have been qualified for a number of years, although I realise this is not the case for all the tutors at Lancaster). I also find it reassuring to hear from the perspective of someone who has come through it in recent years and is now in a very positive place. This gives me hope that things will work out in the end!
Overall I believe that having a mentor has been a crucial element of self-care for me. I am really pleased to see the efforts being made by Lancaster to encourage the use of this resource and would also encourage all trainees to consider this option. It feels now that the shift to a mentor role creates flexibility of how this may be best used. For those who may not necessarily feel a need for the more personal element they have the advantage of being in a position to negotiate the benefits they would hope to gain from this relationship, of which I believe there are potentially many.
For further information or for any mentoring related queries please contact Katy Flynn, Clinical Psychologist/ Mentoring Scheme Associate Tutor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org