Mentoring Spotlight: Health Psych Connections Q & A

Zeeshan Butt, PhD

Zeeshan Butt, PhD

Zeeshan Butt, PhD

Editor’s note: Health Psych Connections is a professional networking program offered exclusively through the Society for Health Psychology. Through the program, an SfHP member can be matched to another member who can provide one-on-one consultation on professional activities or career development issues. Zeeshan Butt currently leads the program and provides answers to common questions below.

(1) What kinds of questions have members been able to address through Health Psych Connections?

The types of ECP questions we’ve helped people address include things like: how do I become a health psychologist if my training wasn’t explicitly health-focused? How do I make the transition from a research-focused position to a more clinically-focused one (or vice versa)? What are the advantages of working for a hospital vs being a private practice consultant? How do I set up an integrated primary care program? What do I need to think about once I get my first large research grant? The range of questions that could be asked is quite broad.

Most of our members who have made use of the Health Psych Connections program are early career professionals (ECPs), but we are happy to help field questions from any of our doctoral Society members. At this time, graduate student affiliates are not eligible to participate in the program.

(2) What’s it like to “connect” with someone through the program? (ie, what to expect)

This is a great question. The process is pretty streamlined and straightforward.

Anybody who requests a connection through the SfHP website will be asked to provide their contact information and a brief description of their question. Once it is reviewed by our Society Administrator, Barbara Keeton, it is then sent to me. I then contact the person requesting the connection to schedule a brief telephone call – typically 20-30 minutes – so that I can get a good sense for what the person’s question is and the type of person who may be able to answer it. Our program’s goal is to facilitate a connection with another member within 2 weeks of that initial call.

Sometimes the person making the request has in mind who they’d like to talk to, but more often than not, I tap my own mental rolodex and those of the Connections Committee (RoseAnne Illes, Bob Kerns, Martita Lopez, Vanessa Malcarne, Krista Ranby, and Nancy Ruddy) for appropriate matches. From there, I contact the potential short-term mentor, ask if they are willing to serve as a connection, and if so, introduce the requestor and the mentor via e-mail. The expectation that I set with both individuals is that the Health Psych Connections program is intended for brief mentorship – on the order of 1-2 phone calls or in-person meetings. Sometimes a matched pair decides to continue their relationship beyond that commitment, but that’s entirely up to the matched pair.

A few weeks after making the connection, I contact both individuals separately to make sure that a connection was made and to find out how it went. The overwhelming feedback so far has been quite positive. You can read some recent stories of our connections in past issues of The Health Psychologist.

(3) If I’m interested in serving as a mentor, what kind of time commitment would that entail?

We’re always interested in hearing from potential mentors. The time commitment is pretty minimal. We ask mentors to commit to at least 1-2 phone or in-person meetings per connection and we typically do not ask individuals to serve as a mentor more than once (although we’d welcome repeat mentors).

(4) How can Health Psych Connections help me with networking?

Health Psych Connections is a very focused networking opportunity. Our goal is to facilitate meaningful connections between our members on targeted questions or topics. Sometimes we help our members with an introduction to a specific individual identified by the member, but most often, we serve as matchmaker, helping connect members with other members we think can provide useful information or perspective.

(5) I’d like to get some advice on a career development issue but I’m not sure quite how to approach this through Health Psych Connections. Do you have any advice for getting the most from the program?

If you’re not sure whether the Health Psych Connections program can be helpful for you, please just ask. If you fill out the inquiry form or contact me directly (z-butt@northwestern.edu; 312-503-7708), I’m happy to talk through your specific situation to let you know how the program may help.