Clinical Fellows: How to Build a Relationship with Your Mentor

Your clinical fellowship year! Ahh—right out of school with a brain filled to the brim with all the latest and greatest research, intervention strategies, and therapy ideas. As quickly as the excitement of getting your first job comes, so will the whirlwind of new information about your new position, your worksite, and your clients.  Here are some tips on making the most of your clinical fellowship year by building a strong relationship with your mentor.

  • Be clear about your expectations.

Do you want your CF Mentor to participate during your therapy sessions or do you want them to primarily observe? Do you want them to share feedback with you as it arises or share the feedback periodically? Know what pushes your buttons and set your expectations around that to avoid tension. 

  • Share your goals.

What do you see yourself doing short term? What about long term? Even if these aren’t fully thought out, it gives your mentor a better idea of who you are and where you’re trying to get, which will in turn, help them provide feedback to steer you in the right direction. 

  • Be vulnerable.

It’s equally important to share your strengths as it is to share your weaknesses. Do some personal reflection before you meet. Tell them what you’re good at, what areas you’d like to improve in, and what you’d like to learn more about. Don’t forget, this can be broad and range from interpersonal skills to navigating the work-place policies to specific populations or disorders.

  • Make a plan.

While things may (and likely will!) change, it’s a good idea to get a head start by having a plan. Maybe your plan is to text message your mentor questions as they arise. Maybe your plan is to save your questions and ask them all when you meet bi-weekly. Whatever that looks like for you, make sure you both have an idea (bonus points for having it written down!) of what to anticipate for the year ahead. 

  • Say “Thank you!”  

“Everyone you meet knows something you don’t—learn from them.”

This one seems obvious when someone is giving you their help but don’t forget that a “thank you” can go a long way. In most jobs, you don’t have a mentor to help you for your first year so when I left grad school, I thought having a CF mentor was overkill and unnecessary. During my CFY, I quickly learned how naïve I was and how invaluable my mentor’s clinical expertise and experience was—from helping me navigate ethical situations to learning about the laws in the school setting to the logistics of teletherapy—a big “thank you” is always in order.


Best of luck in your CF year!



Author: Kristin Padilla, SLP-CF

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