By Stacy Soappman, PT
If you look at the first few pages of my course manuals you will see an entire page devoted to thanking people. These people have all been mentors to me through the course of my NAIOMT journey. Some of them, such as Erl Pettman, are giants in the field. Others are therapists you have never heard of, but they are people I have worked with, studied with, and still rely on to help me with teaching.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I believe that it also takes a village to produce a good therapist. Ask anyone who is good at what they will do how they got there and they will cite a mentor who helped them through the process.
I have heard people say that they are afraid of looking foolish in front of their mentor/course instructor and it stops them from asking questions or digging deeper until they fully understand a concept. At the risk of looking less than intelligent, I can assure you that you I have probably asked the most foolish of questions to my mentors. I was lab assisting a level IV course for Erl and he mentioned that the mechanism of injury was a “stiletto in her spine”. I got a bit bogged down trying to imagine how she got a shoe stuck in her spine so I asked if the patient had been in a “cat fight”. Erl got the most puzzled look on his face and said “no, there were no animals involved”. I responded with “well how did she get a shoe stuck in her spine”. He tried to contain his laughter while explaining that a stiletto could be a shoe or it could also be a thin knife blade, and in this case he was referring to the knife. In my defense, no one else in the course knew that a stiletto was a thin knife blade either. However, I was the only one comfortable enough to voice the question. I was comfortable because he had already spent years mentoring me. Which leads me to my point of why mentorship is so great! It pushes you, it can make you feel vulnerable at times, it humbles you. BUT at the same time, with the right mentor, it is fun, it helps you get better at your craft, and it pushes you to do more then you thought you could.
NAIOMT prides itself on being eclectic. We all get to the same end result but the process of getting there might be a little bit different for each of us. This is actually of benefit to our students because with so many different teaching personalities out there you are bound to find one you connect with. Those of us who are faculty, or clinical fellowship instructors, or even CMPT or COMT know we would not be where we are without the help of our mentors. And because of that we want to pass along the gift that was given to us. Call us, email us, ask us your crazy questions. Let us mentor you.