Academic journal article Michigan Family Review

Social Justice Mentoring: Preparing Family Therapsists for Social Justice Advocacy Work

Academic journal article Michigan Family Review

Social Justice Mentoring: Preparing Family Therapsists for Social Justice Advocacy Work

Article excerpt

Mentoring is an important component of the development of emerging professionals; however, within the field of family therapy mentoring has received little attention (Prouty, Lyness, & Helmeke, 2008). Although mentoring is not widely written about in the family therapy field, it appears that most often the roles and functions associated with mentoring occur within the context of clinical supervision. Mentoring involves helping emerging professionals learn about their new roles within their chosen discipline through education and personal development (Williams-Nickelson, 2009). Additionally, the role of the mentor involves providing encouragement, direction, emotional and professional support, and constructive feedback that fosters personal and professional growth (Johnson, 2006; Prouty, Lyness, & Helmeke, 2008; Williams-Nickelson, 2009). The processes that comprise the mentoring relationship are similar to the processes that occur within clinical supervision. Specifically, the role of the clinical supervisor is to assist student trainees in developing an identity as a family therapist, and thus, integrate them into a new professional role, while also helping them develop a specific set of clinical competencies (Todd & Storm, 1997). Thus, one reason why the topic of mentoring may have received little attention in the family therapy field is that clinical supervision encompasses what other disciplines refer to as mentoring.

The family therapy literature on supervising and mentoring graduate students has focused on issues related to self of the therapist and addressing professional and ethical practices (Baldwin, 2000; Carlson & Erickson, 1999; Fontes, Piercy, Thomas, & Sprenkle, 1998; Satir, 1988; Timm & Blow, 1999). Self of the therapist work is based on the notion that, if left unexplored, therapists' personal life experiences and family histories will become a barrier in their work with clients (Aponte, 1994). Specifically, self of the therapist work has involved assisting students in exploring the patterns that exist within in their own families of origin in an effort to be less reactive to transgenerational patterns, and in order to create greater objectivity on the part of the therapist (Aponte et al., 2009; Aponte & Winter, 1987; Guerin & Hubbard, 1987).

While the purpose of this self of the therapist work is to assist therapists in becoming more aware of their position within their own families, less focus has been placed on the therapists' positions within larger societal structures. The importance of exploring therapists' positionality (i.e., social location in regard to gender, race, class, sexual orientation, etc. ) within dominant power structures has become more salient in recent years as the family therapy field has been engaged in a dialogue about the need to expand the practice of family therapy to include social justice advocacy work (Almeida, Dolan-Del Vecchio, & Parker, 2008; Green, 1998; Hardy & McGoldrick, 2008; McDowell & Jeris, 2004; McGeorge, Carlson, Erickson, & Guttormson, 2006; Parra-Cardona, Holtrop, & Cordova, 2005). This need to include social justice advocacy work in family therapy is well captured by Green (1998) when he asked "will we continue to only huddle in our offices waiting for individual families to request treatment, or will we move beyond family therapy to include prevention, community intervention, and family social policy within our scope of practice?" (p. 107).

Researchers argue that a central component of preparing students to engage in this advocacy work involves helping students become aware of their social location within dominate power structures (Hardy & McGoldrick, 2008; McGeorge et al., 2006; McDowell, Fang, Young, Khanna, Sherman, & Brownlee, 2003). In particular, this process involves helping students gain an awareness of how systemic oppression and advantage influences clients, the therapy process, and their own personal lives. …

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