While celebrating Occupational Therapy Month, I took the time to reflect on what the field means to me and how it has shaped my professional journey. Fifteen years ago, I entered the field with a vision and an insatiable hunger to support children and families with innovative, multidisciplinary therapy. Back then, I was the mentee, eagerly soaking up every piece of wisdom, advice, and critique from Dr Gary Kielhofner, DrPH, OTR, FAOTA, Dr. Renee Taylor, PhD and Dr. Brent Braveman, OTR, PhD, FAOTA, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

 OT Month has given me the time to marvel at the metamorphosis of my role—from being the student to becoming the teacher. Watching the children and clinicians across my 5 centers engaging in playful collaboration reminds me of the broader impact of our work. These interactions, though seemingly simple, were underpinned by a philosophy of support, growth, and mutual learning that mirrored the mentorship which had been so crucial to my own development. 

 Mentorship, I realized, is more than just the transfer of knowledge; it is the cultivation of a nurturing environment that enables individuals to explore their potential, without fear. It is a relationship built on trust, respect, and the shared joy of seeing one another succeed. This ethos has become the foundation of Eyas Landing, Merlin Day Academy and Blue Bird Day. Places where every team member, client, and family feels valued and empowered to lend their expertise. 

 The transformation from mentee to mentor has had its challenges. It required me to stretch beyond the comfort of being a follower, to lead with conviction, humility, and a willingness to learn from those I was now guiding. I am forever grateful for my mentors and professors that curated my educational, clinical and advocacy experiences – shaping me into the clinician, mentor and leader I am today. 

Five Lessons I Learned as a Mentor 

Mentoring is often viewed as a one-way street where mentors dedicate their time and resources to guiding mentees, but this relationship is far more reciprocal than it initially appears. Below are 5 lessons I learned as a mentor. 

  1. Leadership Development: Mentorship is a forum for developing leadership skills in yourself and your mentees. Resources that have inspired my growth include What Makes a Leader?by Daniel Goleman a classic article that explores the role of emotional intelligence in leadership and Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sineka foundational read on how great leaders inspire action and build trust within their organizations. 
  2. Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration: Mentoring others encourages interdisciplinary cooperation, breaking down silos, and fostering a culture of ongoing learning. As therapists, we commit to continually learning and growing to meet the emerging needs of our clients and the evolution of our field. Engaging in mentorship roles benefits extend both ways, with mentors gaining invaluable experiences and insights from their mentees. I take pride in investing in the future and watching the growth and evolution of my workplace and the growth of the therapists on my team. As mentors, we invest in the future of our field and play an important role in inspiring our mentees to continually grow, incorporate new research and best practices into their work, and spark the continued evolution of our field.  
  3. Improved Communication Skills: Effective mentorship is built on clear, open communication. Mentors refine their ability to convey ideas, provide constructive feedback, and listen actively. Radical Candor by Kim Scott – a new approach that offers invaluable advice on how to communicate more effectively and The Intentional Relationship Occupational Therapy and Use of Self by Dr. Renee Taylor have helped me continue to develop my and my mentees’ communication skills. 
  4. Increased Job Satisfaction: Many mentors find great fulfillment in helping others succeed. Sharing success by guiding newcomers can be a rewarding way to contribute positively to the professional ecosystem. This sense of purpose and the positive impact they have on their mentees’ careers and clients can significantly boost job satisfaction and overall happiness at work. Dr. Marcia Finlayson, PhD,OT (c), OTR reflected in a tribute to the late, Dr. Gary Keilhofner in the Canadian Journal Occupational Therapy writing,Gary loved to teach and interact with students, and watch them as they experienced the “ah-ha” moments. He was able to see potential in students and then push them to discover their latent abilities. He challenged them, offered them a range of experiences, and built their confidence over time as they moved to doctoral and post doctoral training.”
  5. Enhanced Professional Networking: Through mentorship, both mentors and mentees significantly expand their professional networks. Mentors often introduce mentees to industry contacts, which can lead to opportunities for collaboration, job openings, and professional growth. Mentors can benefit from the fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that mentees bring, often leading to fruitful partnerships and enhanced intergenerational connections within their networks.  

Mentorship in Practice 

As the CEO and Founder of Eyas Landing, Blue Bird Day, and Merlin Day Academy, I have seen firsthand how the mentorship and professional development we provide on our collaborative, multidisciplinary team supports our staff and clientele. Below are details on the structured mentorship program we provide for new therapists during their first year employment paired with season therapist mentors. 

  1. Onboarding Week: New hires go through an onboarding week designed to promote a successful transition into our organization. During this week, they gain an understanding of the processes of care and orient themselves to our environment. The onboarding week includes a blend of in-person and self-guided interactive training, as well as in-person observations of therapy sessions tailored to their unique role. 
  2. Mentorship: New hires participate in the structured mentorship program including weekly supervision sessions, session observations from their mentors, along with feedback on client strategies and approaches. Professional goals are collaboratively identified with mentors to promote clinical development, focusing on discipline-specific skills, confidence in procedures, and inter-professional teamwork. 
  3. Clinical Training: New hires receive clinical training on the application of a variety of practice models related to their discipline. All clinicians are also trained in the Model of Human Occupation, Intentional Relationship Model, Sensory Integration, and DIR/Floortime to incorporate within pediatric practice. 
  4. Professional Development: We host Professional Development training throughout the year to keep our team on the cutting edge- we’ve hosted trainings on PROMPT for SLPs, Sensory Integration, Motor Control Theory, Parent Perspective Trainings, Seizure Training from the Epilepsy Foundation, AAC Device training, and many more. All staff are also trained on CPI crisis prevention and intervention training, CPR, First Aide, food safety & handing, and sensory equipment competency. 

Remember, mentoring is a two-way street, benefiting both parties involved. Whether you are a mentee seeking guidance or a potential mentor looking to be effective, consider the powerful impact of mentorship in your professional journey. The legacy of mentorship that has shaped our past will undoubtedly light our future. For it is in giving that we receive the greatest rewards, and in teaching, we uncover the deepest learning. 🌟🤝 

To learn more about my experiences with mentorship, check out 5 Lasting Lessons I Learned from My Mentor.

Learn More About My Programs

Blue Bird Day is a rotational therapy program structured like a preschool or kindergarten, but instead of teachers all our staff are therapists! This program is designed to foster socialization, sensory regulation, and learning for children ages 2-7 and helps provide children the tools they need to succeed in a traditional classroom.

Eyas Landing is an outpatient therapy clinic that provides services for children ages 0-21. Our multidisciplinary team of therapists provide ABA, developmental, occupational, physical, speech, nutrition and feeding therapy along with early intervention, social work, counseling, and neuropsychological testing at our West Loop clinic, in-home, at school, and virtually.

Merlin Day Academy is a therapeutic day school for children ages 6-14. Our proprietary model utilizes daily therapeutic and educational rotations to support children’s growth, learning, and their transition into the least restrictive environment possible.

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