Mentor–Mentee Collaboration Illustrates Impact of Volunteers
Since the NBCC Minority Fellowship Program began in 2013 with the first doctoral cohort, there have been many examples of mentor/mentee pairings that have grown into successful professional collaborations and friendships lasting for years. Through these stories of deeply rooted and supportive networks, many MFP Fellows and Foundation Scholars share that although the financial benefit of the fellowship or scholarship is essential, it is the relationship with their volunteer mentors that is often the most influential and lasting piece of their time in the program.
Although the thought of engaging in a mentoring relationship either as a full-time professional or as a graduate student can seem like it may be a burden at times, Foundation staff and leaders in the NBCC MFP have seen the tremendous benefits of this type of engagement and how these relationships often become a mutually beneficial experience for both mentor and mentee.
During a recent call between NBCC Foundation staff, current volunteer mentor Dr. John Harrichand, and NBCC MFP doctoral fellow Dhruvi Patel, similar themes of support, collaboration, and connectedness were present. Dr. Harrichand and Dhruvi graciously shared their experiences with the Foundation’s mentorship program and how others could benefit from similar involvement.
Dr. Harrichand, NCC, CCMHC, LPC-S, LMHC, is an assistant professor in the counseling department at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and is currently serving in his second year as a volunteer mentor with the NBCC Foundation. When asked why he wanted to become a volunteer mentor, Dr. Harrichand shares that it was in part because he was not eligible to receive the MFP award as an international student because the MFP is federally funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). However, during his time as a student and now as a counselor educator, he heard many positive things from peers who had been MFP Fellows or those who also volunteer, which helped inspire him to get involved with the program.
When asked what he enjoys most about mentoring students and future counselors, he says that it is “knowing that I am in some small way contributing to growing the pipeline of BIPOC counseling leaders—hopefully passing on my passion for the profession.”
Dhruvi Patel, MS, NCC, LPC, is a 2021 NBCC MFP doctoral fellow and is completing her program year while also earning her PhD in counselor education and supervision from UTSA. She shares that she has been surprised at just how supportive the mentorship aspect of the MFP has been. She goes on to say, “Dr. Harrichand consistently makes me feel seen and proactively supported by extending and creating opportunities.” She has also been inspired by having the opportunity to see an Asian counselor and counselor educator embody “excellence, reliability, support, and authentic connection.”
Dhruvi first requested to be matched with Dr. Harrichand after attending mentor introductory mixers, which were held virtually at the beginning of her MFP year. These virtual mixers give volunteer mentors an opportunity to introduce themselves to the incoming cohorts of fellows and share about their research, practice interests, or specific populations they serve.
When asked what advice she would give an incoming MFP Fellow about the mentor experience, Dhruvi shares, “Once paired with a mentor, I would encourage MFP Fellows to be vulnerable and forthcoming with their struggles, wishes, and needs—to first be honest with themselves and to invite their mentor into that experience. Ideally, the mentor will have fostered a safe space for the mentee to show up in full.”
Dr. Harrichand shares similar sentiments when speaking about advice for new mentors or those considering becoming a mentor. He shares, “I am still a new mentor navigating this process. I remember being highly anxious and insecure, questioning what I have to offer other doctoral students; so if new mentors have these negative thoughts and feel the weight of the imposter phenomenon (I still do), don’t give in to it. Trust that you are enough and can be a significant contributor in the life of your mentees. Know that your mentees are eager to learn from and grow with you.”
Dr. Harrichand and Dhruvi both noted ideas around collaboration, authenticity, and reliability when prompted to share what strengths they both bring to the mentor/mentee relationship. Grounding their mentorship relationship in these themes has led to several collaborations between the two, including a recent presentation at the Texas Association for Counselor Education & Supervision (TACES) Mid-Winter Conference in February 2022 on the topic of Supporting Asian Americans During a Double Pandemic: A Conversation for Counselor Educators and Supervisors. They have also collaborated on a book chapter titled “Counseling Older Asian Indian Americans: Mental Health Considerations for Distinguished Desis,” which will be in an upcoming publication expected in 2023, Counseling Aging Clients: Some Common Challenges of Gerontology.
Throughout the call, Dhruvi listed numerous areas of professional and personal development where having a mentor has helped support her time as a student. From the noted professional collaborations to having a mentor who helps instill self-belief and confidence in the face of imposter syndrome, she shares that this experience has been invaluable. As often one of the only South Asian American students in her university programs, Dhruvi shares of Dr. Harrichand’s incredible level of generosity in helping to push her toward new goals and opportunities to grow in the profession and as an advocate for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ clinicians, educators, and communities.
Although Dr. Harrichand and Dhruvi noted that being close in geographical location has helped strengthen their ability to conduct some meetings in person, they both see the time commitment as the possible biggest hurdle to a successful mentor/mentee relationship. It is often the sole factor that may keep some counselors and counselor educators from taking the step to engage as a volunteer when they feel led.
However, Dr. Harrichand sees this time giving back to the profession as a valuable part of his counselor identity and his own self-care. He shares, “Being at a research institution, there is an expectation that research is of highest value, which can be anxiety provoking when I could be using my NBCC time elsewhere that could better prepare me for tenure and promotion. But I have thoroughly enjoyed the relationships I have developed from this mentoring experience, making this a non-issue; I see it as part of my self-care.”
Though many mentors and mentees meet monthly and have found that level of engagement to be the best for them, others find that the quarterly required number of meetings for fellows and scholars still offer valuable connection, especially as many volunteers and students juggle the daily demands of professional, academic, and personal family life.
Dr. Harrichand and Dhruvi share that part of what keeps them connected when they can’t meet in person or talk via phone or Zoom are small regular check-ins via text or email or even sharing an article or application for a leadership opportunity. These smaller examples of support can mean the world for a student during a particularly tough week of dissertation writing, classes, or practicum.
Dr. Harrichand and Dhruvi are looking forward to also engaging at the upcoming Bridging the Gap Symposium, hosted by the NBCC Foundation, where Dr. Harrichand will be presenting on the topic of Othering, Intersectionality, and Americanism: Examining How People of Color Navigate Leadership in Counseling. This year’s Symposium will be the first in person since 2019 and is a valuable opportunity for present and past MFP Fellows and Foundation Scholars to meet their mentors, some in person for the first time.
The NBCC Foundation’s MFP and Scholarship Programs offer many areas for counselors and counselor educators to become involved as volunteers to help shape and support the future of the profession. For more information on volunteer opportunities with the NBCC Foundation, visit nbccf.org/beinvolved/volunteer or email Foundation@nbcc.org to connect with our Volunteer Coordinator.
To view this year’s Symposium schedule and opportunities for connection and continuing education around topics centered on counseling and the mental health of underserved and underrepresented communities, visit nbccf.org/symposium. Registration for the in-person event in Washington, D.C., is open through May 27.
More information about upcoming virtual Symposium workshop opportunities in July will be available in the coming weeks via our website, nbccf.org and our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.