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Teaching, mentoring, and helping others comes naturally to Fairlee C. Fabrett, PhD. As director of clinical training for McLean Hospital’s Adolescent Acute Residential Treatment (ART) Program, she supervises and supports post-doctoral fellows and clinical trainees, helping them gain the experience and skills they will need on the job. In some cases, she guides them toward areas of study and professional opportunities they may not have considered.
“The more involved I’ve become in supervising young clinicians, the more gratifying I find it,” she said. “I like helping people find their path.”
With her background as a clinician and researcher, Fabrett brings a unique perspective to her mentoring duties. “I like giving feedback, and I find that people have been able to trust me,” she explained. “I find myself asking questions to help my supervisees challenge preconceived notions and consider alternative possibilities.”
For Fabrett, the gratification she feels from mentoring is balanced by a sense of urgency that comes from her own experience as a student and trainee. Having had the experience of formative mentorship from professors and supervisors, she said that “some days I come home from work thinking ‘can I be doing more, can I be a better mentor, what am I lacking?’”
Ultimately, however, the experience is rewarding. “I like mentoring people,” she said. “It feels natural.”
Helping people has been central to Fabrett’s work from the very beginning. A native of Mexico, she moved to the United States to go to college and study psychology. After obtaining a PhD in clinical psychology at Arizona State University, she came to Boston to do her internship at Boston Children’s Hospital. Next, she completed her post-doctoral degree at McLean’s Adolescent Acute Residential Treatment (ART) Program and was hired as a therapist, assisting adolescents and their families.
Over time, her role at McLean has evolved to include more teaching and training. She rewrote the curriculum and created a manual for the ART. She expanded the ART’s training program by adding a practicum program for students in doctoral programs in psychology, and she is now the director of the Post-Baccalaureate Clinical Fellowship of the Simches Center of Excellence in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at McLean. This fellowship hires recent college graduates interested in pursuing a career in mental health as community residence counselors in the different child and adolescent programs. Through the fellowship, they receive specialized clinical training through seminars, focus groups, and supervision.
In addition to her passion for teaching and mentoring, Fabrett is extremely interested in helping Latino families navigate the world of mental health. Drawing on her Mexican heritage and her academic work examining Mexican-American populations, she has counseled many Latino individuals and their families.
“There is conflict in immigrant Latino families that you don’t always find in other families,” she explained. “Here, you have Latino families with immigrant parents who are attached to their roots and their traditional values, raising kids in a culture where the values are very different.” In her work with this community, Fabrett focuses on “keeping a connection to the family” to help those with mental illness stay on track in their lives and their treatment.
Whether working as a mentor or a counselor, Fabrett stays committed to helping those in need. “If you had asked me years ago where I would be in my career, I probably would have said that I’d be working in a private practice, helping people one-on-one,” she said. Although her career has gone in a different direction, she’s “very happy” with where she is.
“I really like my work,” she said. “And I love working within a community like McLean.”