I was so hopeful. For 15 years I have been the only therapist at my agency, indeed the only therapist working west of the Missouri  River (100 miles to the  east) and south of Williston  (a 2 hour drive north) who does therapy with young children. My colleagues all seemed to profess a profound fear of the under-5 crowd and would not treat them, referring them all to me. I plan to retire in about 18 months. I worry about my region’ s littles, and who will see them when I am gone.

Last spring we hired an older,  master’s level social worker who was excited to learn play therapy and who was excited to read all the materials and books I gave her. I supervised her with her cases and she really got it. Now, due to personal issues with her significant other, she is moving to Colorado.  Sigh! It is back to the drawing board and profound hope that someone will show up who I can mentor and support to treat children.

Who have you mentored? How did it work?

31 thoughts on “Mentor”

        1. I see another possible explanation for therapists fearing working with children. From the perspective of legal liability, it is more dangerous to work with children than adults because the consequences of a lawsuit are more devastating when children are involved. Of course, that is no excuse.


        2. “From the perspective of legal liability, it is more dangerous to work with children than adults because the consequences of a lawsuit are more devastating when children are involved.” That statement sounds preposterous to me, and I’m wondering whether or not it’s true? Jacque, Renee, do you know? Is this in fact a consideration? I would imagine that professional liability insurance would cover such lawsuits unless there was gross negligence or wrongdoing involved.


        3. I don’t know that the liability issues are different. What is different is the involvement level due to the need of parents of small children and that the insurance payment rates are limited by time and billing codes. So what that means is that parents of small children are in need of information and support and insurance companies are unwilling to pay for that. This is why there is a shortage of child psychiatrists.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I wouldn’t put too much weight on your colleagues’ excuse for not stepping up. It just sounds a little better than “I don’t want to.” It’s obvious that having no therapist at all is the more ruinous alternative.

        But your colleagues already have full time jobs and clients they are helping. Presumably dealing with preschoolers is a specialty they would have to prepare for with additional study and practice. The void that will be left when you retire is troubling and I appreciate your concern about having a replacement in place and up to speed by the time you leave. I’m sure your colleagues share that concern but stepping in to become that replacement isn’t their duty and, for that matter, recruiting that replacement isn’t your job either.

        Given that what you do is a specialty, dedicated candidates like the one who just left seem like the best option. Persuading one to locate in your community may require incentives that are certainly beyond your purview and it may be that future practitioners of your role in the therapy community come and go more frequently than you have.

        Assuming they are aware of your retirement plans, somebody above your pay grade should be working just as hard as you to secure your replacement. That should be one of their primary duties. There’s only so much you and your colleagues can do.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Thanks, Bill, for your usual clear-eyed assessment of the situation. Renee’s concern is certainly understandable under the circumstances, but, you’re right, it’s not her responsibility to fix it. What’s more, even if it were, she doesn’t have the resources to do so.


        2. Bravo Bill! There is a shortage of mental health providers everywhere. It will take high level managers and public representatives trying to solve staffing shortages in rural areas with incentives you describe.


  1. I “mentored” two special students when I was a music teacher. The first was absolutely brilliant in everything he tried (other than sports). Why mentor a kid who’s a can’t miss? Because in small towns, lots of kids can’t see farther than the county line. I urged him to think big when attending college and apply anywhere he thought had the best programs for his intended major–computers; this was back in ’84 when personal computers were in their infancy.

    He applied and was accepted to several top-rank schools and eventually chose Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh. From what I hear, he’s made a fine career for himself in the computer industry.

    The second boy I know believe was on the autism spectrum–Aspbergers Syndrome–he reminds me a lot of a neighbor kid on my street who has the condition. Mentoring there was more basic, but giving him something to intently focus on–music. He excelled but was otherwise an okay student. His social skills were limited too, But I like to think he’s better off than he would have been had I been a teacher who was put off by his quirkiness.”

    I’ve also been a Big Brother to two Littles over the past 20 years. My first could have been a disaster but he pulled himself up from close to rock bottom and is what we Bigs call a success. He graduated from HS, has a steady job, has NOT been arrested as an adult (but the stupid kid got busted twice for shoplifting). He’s a single father with two daughters and his goal is to be a much better father to his girls than his dad (ex-con) was to him.

    The current Little is also walking a precarious line. His home life is worse than my first Little’s home life. He has anger issues, lacks motivation in school (although I’m sure he’s fairly intelligent). He’s almost 13, which is about the time where things can start to go really bad for kids like him. But he’s made some good progress with me lately, simply because he hasn’t canceled a “date” in 4-5 months. Last summer it was “I don’t wanna,” every other time I tried to arrange some time with him. Now he’s open to almost any activity the BBBS organization sponsors, and we have good times together outside of group activities too. So I hope he will be a better person for knowing me than not, but Bigs never really know if that’s true or not because we can’t predict what might have been.

    BSP–If you or someone you know has a few hours a month to spare and is interested in helping troubled youth, contact your local BBBS organization. There’s one in the Twin Cities and many more across the country. The waiting list of kids is always huge. More than 200 here in southern MN alone!

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The kind of mentoring you’re doing through BBBS, Chris, is so, so important. To make the commitment, and stick with it even when no immediate rewards or payoffs are evident, that’s really tough. I salute you. I have a couple of friends who are also involved in that organization here in the Twin Cities, and have been for years, and I’m so impressed with their ability to stay with it through some really tough challenges.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been tempted to throw in the towel with each Little on many occasions. So frustrating when you know your few hours a month with them can’t possibly offset the 24 hrs a day of their chaotic lives that are often riddled with bad influences by “friends” and poor parenting skills.

        But something inside me always says, “Don’t give up on him unless he gives up on himself.” I think they’ve both been close in the past, but never surrendered. So we Bigs keep on going because there is always hope. and kids are amazingly resilient.



  2. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I have had company this weekend, so I am late logging on.

    I mentor social workers a lot, especially interns finishing their MSW degree (Master of Social Work). There are many opportunities to do so, because they are so in demand and the training is fairly long. We have had an intern and the office this year who will stay with us, and there is one already lined up for next year. Usually it is enjoyable to do this.

    My next project will be to sign up to learn to be a Master Gardener so I can mentor the gardening crowd. That has a far more tangible product.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I have a friend young enough to be my daughter, to whom I suppose I am a sort of mentor – she was originally a neighbor, and took to heart a lot of tips I had to share on a number of fronts – organizing, parenting, etc. But I will have to say I learn from her as much as she does from me, just in different areas like creativity and risk-taking…

    Liked by 4 people

  4. OT – Went to a matinee performance this afternoon at the History Theater of Susan Kimberly’s play “When Superman Became Lois Lane.”
    What an interesting and informative play, and what a great set. Ben, I think you’d really appreciate this whole production.

    Susan Kimberly was present at today’s performance. The actress who portrayed Susan after her transition from Bob Sylvester is Freya Richman, she is trans herself. She and the rest of the cast participated in a “conversation” with the audience after the performance. Very informative, open and honest. I’d recommend this play and performance to anyone. Here’s a link to a little more information about the whole thing:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HI- I have not heard of this. Thanks for sharing.

      I’ve had some good theater mentors. Gary, Thom, Paul.
      I’d like to think I’ve mentored some too. Sometimes without even realizing it. There was a student working for me who remembers me working with his older brother and told me it made an impact.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. tt would be a comforting thing, Renee, to walk away from your job knowing that there was someone there to fill the need. But it’s possible that until the demand is actually there and immediate, that person might not appear.

    I have a friend who is taking on a job as town clerk in the town where she lives. The previous clerk is supposed to be retired, but is still mentoring her in the position. Transitions aren’t always orderly; they happen when they have to happen. Mostly people muddle through them.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. i try to teach my kids to do a life they’ll be proud of. it’s a joy to see them all doing well. they all have turned out to be good people. they are all figuring it out every day and again tomorrow.

    i’ve always had great vision for seeing the answers to others situations and hope the thoughts i pass along are of some value.

    thanks for the birthday wishes
    it was a very nice day

    Liked by 4 people

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