Finding Unexpected Mentors

Finding Unexpected Mentors by Dr. Abi Weissman

Finding Unexpected Mentors by Dr. Abi Weissman

Finding Unexpected Mentors


Yesterday, I spent my day off at a conference. Sure, it was supposed to be a great chance to learn more about working with children, youth, and adolescents. I was excited for the chance to spend time with Dr. Sarah, my psych assistant, earn 6 continuing education units (we need these to renew our licenses), the free food, great opportunity to meet like-minded clinicians, and the presentations sounded fascinating too. I was dreading it because while it is one of the suggested activities for me as a board member of the San Diego Psychology Association, it required being inside on a beautiful, sunny, warm San Diego day, my only full day off from my practice. Plus, the topics were about suicide and risk, which, while a part of my life as a clinician, was not how I relax.


The food was great and I filled my belly with it. The conversation with Dr. Sarah was wonderful; I can’t wait to hear more about how she experienced this conference. I saw and celebrated the well-deserved accolades of San Diego Psychology Association and the planning committee of the conference. I even got a chair massage from a new-to-me massage therapist, Reneé, and talked and connected with fabulous clinicians and providers.


What I didn’t expect was. . .


To find mentors at the bookshop.


You see, I’ve wanted to be a paid presenter/speaker/trainer since I first saw my mother give a presentation at my elementary school on the difference between how a scissor and the innards of a person appear on x-ray. I’ve admired my mother’s skill at research, preparation, and delivering a speech that left its audience members simultaneously enthralled and actively engaged. I’ve followed her work throughout the years and tried to glean whatever I could from her; I have to admit, though, that I probably will never use an x-ray as a prop, as I am a psychologist, not a bone radiologist. Thus, I am always on the lookout for clinical psychologists who can take a depressing topic and make it sing.


Yesterday, I found two such mentors.


I was so thrilled by the presentation on suicide, that I stood up and applauded at the end of it. It was not the most cheerful topic, to say the least, but it made me think, and I made me want to reach out and change my work for the better. I was actively engaged. My mind was bubbling over with questions and when I got home from the conference, I couldn’t wait to share what I had learned. Dr. Lisa Boesky made me want to learn more.


I was not looking forward to the presentation on risk and sexuality in teens and children. I wanted to learn how to help younger clients embrace their sexuality not run from it. I listened anyways as I was disgusted and fascinated with the information she presented about how mostly female youth are being exploited by their male peers. And, while her topic was largely about cisgendered (non-trans) and heterosexual (non-queer) youth, there was much benefit in me learning more information about the normalcy around social media being used to exploit girls and young women. I wanted to learn more from Dr. Janet Rosenzweig.


I went to the bookstore because I love to read and I am always interested in learning. I knew that the books displayed were ones that the presenters had themselves encouraged the bookseller to have so I was especially intrigued to browse.


And that’s when it happened.


I looked up and saw these two speakers talking together. They were waiting to sign copies of their books. I don't usually care to have books signed. I would much prefer to devour books, crinkling up their pages with my fervent reading and writing my questions in the margins rather than delicately handling their pages. 


But this was my chance to interact with these two presenters so 


I took a copy of each of their works and


I went up to them, at a break in their dialogue, and asked them about their work.


            I said that I wanted to be a paid speaker and I asked for their suggestions.


            I referenced my mom’s work and how proud I was and am of her.


            I explained my vantage point and we made connections to my hometown, sexuality education, deep depression that warrants more than one suicide evaluation, trans kids who are suffering and how to make change, and the gifts of their presentations to me.


I learned because I asked about their path and what they have learned.


It wasn’t so easy for me to step up and ask. But I did it. Because the results of my learning are that I am a better help to kids,  youth, and adolescents, and yes, even, adults for my asking. I am a better speaker and presenter and trainer too.


And, each of them signed each of their books to me and for me.


When I went home last night, I started reading through both of their books. As I flipped through the pages, I thought, I can learn something from their published messages and from the personalized notes they left behind. I can still bury myself in the pages of these books AND use them as a guide in moving forward.


When I need a reminder to keep working although it’s tough to forge forward, I know that I will be able to flip to the beginning of their published works and read the words of my unexpected mentors.


Here are links to the books. I hope you find them as helpful as I have begun to. They are linked to my Amazon affiliate account.


I'd love to hear your anecdotes of unexpected mentors in the comments, if you would be willing to share. How did you find them? What did you learn from them?


May you too find unexpected mentors in the bookshelves and in the bookstores.


In solidarity,

Abi Weissman, Psy.D.

PSY 27497

As always, this blog does not represent a therapeutic relationship between you and any clinician at Waves, A Psychological Corporation. This blog is filled with general advice. For suggestions specific to your situation, please contact a local licensed therapist, psychologist, or counselor. For people in the Poway and San Diego, California areas, please feel free to contact me at 619-403-5578 or at for a free 15-minute consultation to continue your journey towards wellness. 


The logo of Waves, A Psychological Corporation in black complete with ocean waves on the top of text.

The logo of Waves, A Psychological Corporation in black complete with ocean waves on the top of text.