Improving patient care and staff development through mentorship. By: Jane Reilly, LICSW, Chief Psychotherapy Officer

Jan 11, 2016 by Jane Reilly, LICSW

In support of National Mentorship Month I would like to provide an update on PrairieCare’s Psychodynamic Mentorship program – a 9 month psychoanalytically informed psychotherapist development program. This program was developed to support our social workers, needs assessment counselors and therapists new to clinical practice.  Our intention is to enhance the work therapists are currently doing, prepare social workers and needs assessment counselors on a clinical track to be therapists and ensure that PrairieCare’s  team of therapists represent the highest standard of care in the community.

The benefits of the program have been recognized by the program participants, our patients and staff.  Important to the success of this program is the involvement of PrairieCare Mentors. Mentors are PrairieCare senior therapists who are committed to their continued growth as therapists, committed to the success of PrairieCare and have an interest and the required skill set to supervise and mentor new therapists effectively.

In order to maximize the development process, we have partnered with the Minnesota Psychoanalytic Society & Institute (MPSI). Their important contribution to this program offers a dynamic opportunity for clinicians interested in expanding and deepening their professional skills and developing their identity as psychoanalytically informed psychotherapists.

The mentees in this program spend one day each week for 9 months engaged in 2 hours of direct patient care under the tutelage of their mentor. Mentees begin direct patient care by shadowing their mentors with the possibility of progressing to a small case load in one of our outpatient clinics.

Both mentors and mentees receive 90 minutes of clinical supervision weekly with a MPSI clinician and attend seminars/classes taught by faculty from MPSI that includes case consultation.

The first year of this program was a great success. In the spring 2015 our first graduating class included 8 mentees and 4 mentors.

Feedback received from first year participants included:

  • I feel that not only has my ability to listen increased, but also the “type” of listening has shifted.
  • Gaining additional education and understanding regarding attachment, trauma and development has allowed me to approach patients and engage with greater empathy. I am looking through a lens from a psychodynamic theory using attachment, trauma and development models and knowledge.
  • I am listening for attachment cues and historical patterns of progress in treatment and this helps formulate the case
  • I always understood that childhood trauma impacts our patients.  However, I feel I now have a better understanding of specifics which has led me to develop greater empathy.
  • My self-awareness has increased significantly and I find myself giving myself permission to listen/attend to my experience in order to inform my assessment and intervention.
  • I have been able to be more self-aware while interviewing clients and I better understand my internal feelings and how they can affect my thoughts and decisions
  • I have become much more experienced and knowledgeable about transference and counter transference. For instance, this has greatly influenced my work with patients, parents and even co-workers. I find myself considering use of self in most, if not all, interactions and processes and will continue to do so
  • I am noticing the links between empathy, countertransference and at times compassion fatigue – due to increased awareness of self within the therapeutic process
  • I notice a shift in my ability to be present with patients
  • I feel more attuned to patient’s feelings and better understand how to be more truly present in session by using mindfulness
  • I am more present and more engaged with the patients!!

We launched the second year of this program fall 2015. This cohort consists of 8 new mentees and 2 additional mentors. The program continues to grow in numbers and in purpose.   PrairieCare is committed to the professional development of our employees and works to find creative ways to support this process. PrairieCare leadership is equally proud and grateful for the dedication and expertise our professionals bring to their work and share with their patients and their families.

  • For more information on The Minnesota Psychoanalytic Society and Institute visit

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