Mentoring Tomorrow’s Mental Health Providers

January 26, 2024

Many students know their career path from the day they enter college, if not before.

But for those who find themselves pondering their next steps as graduation approaches, McLean Hospital now offers an opportunity to road test some of their ideas.

The Post-Baccalaureate Child and Adolescent Clinical Fellowship Program (PBac), directed by Fairlee C. Fabrett, PhD, is a two-year commitment for college graduates interested in pursuing a career in mental health, whether in psychology, psychiatry, nursing, or social work.

Unlike many other post-bacc programs, fellows are hired to work full time.

Approximately 100 fellows have passed through the program since it launched in 2019, including 57 individuals who are currently enrolled.

Fellows are placed in child and adolescent programs across McLean campuses in Belmont, Arlington, Middleborough, and Cambridge, as well as at the McLean-Franciscan campus in Brighton.

A group of people smiling at the camera

Fairlee C. Fabrett, PhD, middle, has been instrumental in mentoring Post-Baccalaureate Child and Adolescent Clinical fellows

The fellows always have direct contact with patients, providing care and assistance. That hands-on experience is supplemented with additional training in the form of monthly seminars on topics such as understanding different levels of care in psychiatry, understanding the hallmarks of professional behavior, setting boundaries, applying to graduate school, and learning about different professions.

There is also regular supervision, peer mentorship, and opportunities for academic research.

“I felt like the fellowship was a chance to jump into work in a really supportive environment that combined hands-on experience with informative seminars. Having a group of peers going through the experience at the same time was invaluable as well!” said one 2020 participant in evaluating their experience.

An important part of the program is community service. Recent PBac fellows have provided a variety of trainings to the community and are now also part of the hospital’s Deconstructing Stigma campaign.

For Fabrett, providing support comes first and foremost. Early in her McLean career, she asked to supervise the program staff of the residential program where she was a clinician.

“Most of our programs at McLean are milieu-based programs, which means that we expect the milieu (environment) itself to be therapeutic, and that informal interactions between staff and patients are as important as individual therapy,” she said. “Our staff assist our patients with activities of daily living, and they provide the immediate care in moments of crisis.

“In my opinion, they are the most important players on our team, and most of them do this without graduate training or a degree. They’re the ones who are getting burned out and need support, supervision, and mentorship.”

Hear more from Dr. Fabrett and PBac fellows in their own words

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The PBac program is part of Fabrett’s portfolio as director of Training and Staff Development for McLean’s Nancy and Richard Simches Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, where she oversees psychology training programs across the division.

It is also an extension of her commitment to mentor students from underrepresented backgrounds, paying forward the assistance she received from others when she came to the United States from Mexico to launch her academic career.

“I don’t think that I would be here without the help of mentors. I realized how important it is for someone to believe in you—especially when believing in yourself is hard,” she said. “I started pursuing roles at McLean and choosing activities where I could be a mentor for others.”

It all ties in with Fabrett’s commitment to actively work to recruit trainees and students of underrepresented backgrounds.

“My new goal for the PBac is to recruit a racially and ethnically diverse group of college graduates, with the long-term goal of helping diversify our field,” she said. “This is also part of McLean Hospital’s mission to better help our patients—representation matters.”

Fabrett’s commitment to training and staff development is fueled by her passion for connection and value of community. “I love people,” she said. “I do my best when I’m surrounded by a group.”

The Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship is an example of how philanthropy helps McLean develop a more diverse pool of staff and trainees, including people of color, first-generation Americans, international students, and individuals from diverse family and socioeconomic situations.

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