The Consummate Mentor

When I think about this journey in mental health, I am often brought back to its origins which proceeded my conscious memories.  I have always known I wanted to be a therapist and I cannot remember a time before this thought.  Yet when I considered the people along the way that have been pivotal in guiding me, actively mentoring me both professionally and personally, I am directed to the beautifully rich mentorship I have had in Michelle – Doc, as we called her in high school.

I first met Dr. Michelle Reardon as a junior or senior in high school as part of our school’s peer counseling/mentorship program.  We were the mentors – part of an initiative that paired peer support with other students who were failing or were otherwise identified as in need of someone to come alongside.  Our own learning occurred in a magical space at the end of a long, wide hallway that resembled that of a counselor’s office — couches, dim lighting, days of sharing and days of learning to listen well.  Entering this environment, Michelle saw past our exteriors and leveled the playing ground in that room for each of us to have the most human experience we could as the athletes, the homecoming king and queen, class president & the class ‘clown’ and the shy, quiet girl who had many thoughts but rarely felt the freedom to share them.  I learned that though we had different backgrounds and various access to resources outside of that room, neither of us were immune to experiencing hurt and pain.  We had our own brand of the breakfast club.  I grew a great deal in that season, simply because my inner qualities were seen and I found a new way to see into others.

Fast forward fifteen years and I ran into Michelle, right as I was about to begin my master’s program.  I was so encouraged to hear her offer to come to her anytime with questions as I begun this leg of my journey.  Michelle, as promised was there for me, as I learned to shape and sharpen my clinical skills and for all of the nuances in building a business.  She shared her knowledge freely with the firm expectation that I had every capacity to not simply follow in her well-earned successful footsteps but exceed them. This is the mark of a true #mentor.  They see you and help you develop you.

The greatest lessons I have learned from Michelle were not gleaned from the practical side of counseling – they were from the messy ones.  Early on when she found the helper in me overwhelmed she taught me to preserve my mental energy for my sessions and to establish boundaries so others in my world would cease the need to seek me out for impromptu “advice”.  She taught me to take rest, reprieve and relax as needed and often.  This field requires a lot from you, much of which needs to be replenished regularly to continue to serve and serve well.   As a clinician we have the onus of developing the awareness to work through our own issues as we walk alongside others educating them to do the same.  Michelle gently and lovingly helped me walk through mine.  I saw the wisdom in her ability to allow the client time to see what she could so clearly see in session one.  Many of my non-traditional ways I have found freedom in incorporating into my practice are because of her influence.  If I have gone way over time in sessions, normalized your pain like no textbook could, met you outside of the counseling room because healing is not confined to a couch or celebrated your victories as if they were my own – you too can thank Michelle.

So, to all the mentors who find themselves in others and can get excited about the uniqueness that their mentee’s individuality brings – this is for you.

Thank you, Michelle, for your unyielding support, direction and belief in seeing the all the special things in me, even before I was prepared to acknowledge them fully myself.

Tag your mentors or favorite fellow mentors.  I find our world is better when we share.

Mental Health Awareness


May is Mental Health Awareness month.  Over the last few decades our nation has drawn more attention to the fact that we need to provide equal care to our state of mind, at least as much as we give to every other part of our body.  There is an obvious line drawn in the sand when we consider the level of care that we give to our brain versus every other vital organ.  It’s almost as if the brain is an imaginary part of us, rather than the one organ that essentially dictates the manner and speed at which the remainder of our body operates…i.e. if our brain is not functioning properly we will feel the effects of that.  So I have to ask — what is the hesitation to go seek help?  Why is it that we shun the thought of medication for the brain when necessary, but we would rarely second guess approaching treating the heart in such a manner?

God has given us resources through His creation: tools, medicine, knowledge and practitioners — we need to use them to our benefit.   We do not need to live in silent pain.  So what does this mean?  This means if you are someone who continually battles with feelings of hopelessness, sadness or are just in a period of emotional transition that you just can’t seem to shake yourself out of – GO GET HELP.  Make an appointment to see a therapist today.   Your friends are wonderful, but you know that they are limited in their ability to provide the professional help that you need…when your vision is blurry do you call your friends to examine you? No you go to the optometrist – you get what I am saying right?

One of the most important things you can do if you are a friend to someone who chronically battles with symptoms of anxiety, depression or any other type of mental illness, is to understand this – it is your responsibility to strongly encourage them to go seek professional help.  At minimum, you are pointing your friend towards the mental freedom they so desperately desire and as we’ve seen in recent days, you could be saving a life.  Please do not attempt to minimize their struggle.  Leave this to a professional to take the time to attentively sort out the details.  The reality is that the courage it took for them to share their pain is in short supply.  And the point in which they are reaching out is likely indicative of a much longer season of silent imprisonment burdened with emotional anguish and instability.

Finally, mental health needs to be maintained.  Making sure that we take time to rejuvenate our energy, clear negative influences off our plates and invest in others are some examples of ways that we can live healthier lives.  My mental health is maintained through taking time to gain insight about myself, by filtering the messages I choose to believe and aligning myself with my purpose.  In addition, I surround myself with like-minded people who are deep wells of laughter and wisdom and I am open to allowing them to speak truth into my life as needed.  I encourage you to take time to develop a healthy regimen to maintain your mental health as well, your mind will thank you for it.