For the second year, APA's Disability Mentoring Program is supporting psychology students and new professionals with disabilities-as well as psychologists who acquire a disability-by matching them with veteran disabled psychologists.
The program, developed by the association's Office on Disability Issues in Psychology, aims to increase the number of students with disabilities going into psychology, given that the group is underrepresented in the profession, says Anju Khubchandani, disability issues officer in APA's Public Interest Directorate.
Linda Mona, PhD, a former member and chair of APA's Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology, says she became a program mentor because today's students shouldn't have to experience the isolation she felt as a graduate student with a mobility impairment.
"We have so few role models in the disability community in general," says Mona, a clinical psychologist with the Veterans Affairs Long Beach Healthcare System in California. Less than 1 percent of APA members report having a disability, which can make finding mentors in psychology daunting. Yet, she says, "that's how people make it through the process of becoming a psychologist."
New psychologist Justine Hillig, PhD, became a mentee in the program last year. In 1995, Hillig was rear-ended in a car accident right before completing her doctoral psychology courses. She has since recuperated from her physical injuries but had to learn how to adjust to a nerve impingement that causes pain.
"Having a mentor puts you right in touch with someone in the field who knows what you're going through," says Hillig, a counseling and educational psychologist who consults and writes for MarsVenus.com, the Web site of psychologist John Gray, PhD.
Hillig communicates with her mentor-who also lives with chronic pain-mostly via e-mail. According to Hillig, her mentor has helped her develop strategies to prevent and cope with extreme pain, shared exercise tips and counseled her on developing patience with her disability and realistic expectations regarding work.
"I would have loved to have had this program available right after my accident," says Hillig, who completed her doctorate in 1999.
For information on APA's Disability Mentoring Program, visit the APA Disability Mentoring Web site or call Khubchandani at (202) 336-6038; TTY: (202) 336-5662.