A True Mentor

Dr. Naomi (Nonie) Lohr (A.M. 1957, Ph.D. ’67 Clinical Psychology), emeritus assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology, was a gifted clinical psychologist dedicated to providing in-depth and multidimensional treatment tailored to the individual needs of each patient. With a 37-year career at the University of Michigan rich in depth and breadth, she was known for her ability to treat a wide range of patients, including those with severe psychopathology, and her research group was one of the first to uncover the correlation between sexual and other forms of abuse and borderline personality disorder.

Nonie was also a treasured mentor, who was deeply fulfilled by her work with generations of young clinicians in the University of Michigan’s psychology and psychiatry programs. As a clinical supervisor and member of numerous dissertation committees, she made a lasting impact on their lives with her insightful guidance.

“Nonie pushed me both professionally, to work harder to do better by my patients, and personally, to be present in the world, to be open, genuine and curious—because that’s what a true mentor does,” says Dr. Julie Eastin, a clinical psychologist at the United States Coast Guard Academy’s Center for Counseling and Development. Dr. Eastin took ‘the scenic route’ through graduate school, and recalls that Nonie’s firm guidance is what gave her the final push needed to finish her dissertation.

She “possessed a marvelous capacity to demystify the clinical process,” says Albert Cain, professor emeritus of psychology, who worked alongside Nonie throughout her career. She was able to translate complicated concepts into practical language that her students and patients could understand and act upon, and so she was in great demand as a clinical supervisor. It was a role she relished, and one in which she excelled.

Nonie embodied mindful leadership in the truest sense. She was perceptive and an engaged student of human nature. She provided patient and flexible guidance, encouraging her students to approach clinical work with compassion for their patients and, perhaps most importantly, compassion for themselves.

Those same qualities helped her to recognize the sometimes hidden potential in her students. Dr. Lawrence Thompson, Jr., is the Director of Therapy and Psychological Services at The Harris County Children’s Assessment Center, an advocacy center in Houston for children who have been abused. When he arrived in Ann Arbor to begin his graduate work in psychology, however, he had no interest in working with children. In fact, he says, he was afraid of them.

“I came into the graduate program fairly certain of my future working with adults. Nonie made a point to tell me I should do some work with kids. She saw I had something—a knack, a skill—to offer children,” Thompson says. “She had a gift for seeing things in people, and also a way of conveying that so you could hear it, consider it, and accept it, even if it scared you. She had your best interests at heart, and you felt safe in trusting what she saw that maybe you couldn’t see in yourself.”

“Nonie invested her passion and knowledge in me and in all the young people that she mentored,” says Dr. Thompson. “She was an exceptional clinician who helped countless people directly, but it’s mind-boggling to imagine just how many people the clinicians she mentored have helped – how many families, how many children. Her legacy lives on through us.”

An Inspired Gift Creates New Opportunities

When Nonie passed away in November 2007, scores of former students, supervisees, and colleagues from across the country filled her home in Ann Arbor to share stories of the many ways she had enriched their lives, both professionally and personally. It was with this emotional outpouring in mind that her sister, Nancy Lohr (B.S. Ed. 1962, M.S. 1969), was inspired to establish the Naomi E. Lohr Award for Excellence in Clinical Psychology.

Today, as a result of a thoughtful and strategic repositioning by Dr. Patricia Deldin, chair of the psychology department’s program in Clinical Science, the Lohr Award honors Naomi Lohr’s legacy even more directly. Funds from the Naomi E. Lohr Award are enabling the program to provide hands-on, evidence-based training in effective clinical supervision to talented graduate students who demonstrate clinical aptitude and excellence.

Lohr Fellows, senior students usually in their fourth or fifth year, serve as clinical supervisors of second year students in their initial practicum placement. The Lohr Fellows have the unique opportunity to benefit from the guidance and support of faculty with years of experience in clinical supervision, while interacting directly with supervisees and their patients in the clinic.

The new model allows the program to better respond to an emerging emphasis on formal clinical supervision training from the American Psychological Association, and enhances the department’s already rigorous training program in Clinical Science, including research, teaching, ethics, cultural and contextual analysis, and evidence-based treatment. It also addresses recent changes in insurance requirements that specify a licensed therapist must be present in the room to qualify for coverage (U-M Clinical Science graduate students hold a temporary license from their third through fifth years).

This year, three Lohr Fellows are serving as clinical supervisors at the Mary A. Rackham Institute (MARI) University of Michigan Psychological Clinic, the MARI University Center for the Child and Family, and within the Department of Psychology assisting faculty with the assessment practicum course.

“It’s a great honor for these students to be recognized with the Lohr Award. The Lohr Fellows benefit from this fantastic new opportunity to develop their clinical supervision skills while they are still in graduate school.” says Dr. Deldin. “It gives them a competitive edge when applying for clinical internships, as well, because interns often supervise undergraduate or graduate students. Past Lohr Fellows who trained under this new model have received their first choice of internship placements, and we believe the supervisory experience was a big factor.”

The Lohr Award also increases the program’s clinical supervision bandwidth, providing reassuring support for young clinicians that translates to better care for patients in the clinic. Dr. Deldin notes, “It’s a win-win-win. We’re seeing a positive outcome for all three populations: patients, the second year Clinical Science students, and the Lohr Fellows.”

“By developing the next generation of well-trained clinical supervisors, we’ve found a unique and mindful way to align the Lohr Award’s impact with what was important to Dr. Naomi Lohr,” says Dr. Deldin. “At the same time, we are improving our program. We’re very grateful to Naomi’s sister, Nancy Lohr, for her support. We would never have been able to do this without her.”

“It was a pleasure for Nonie to watch her students succeed,” says Nancy. “She found her work boundlessly rewarding. It’s gratifying to see this award being used to help advance the careers of graduate students in her discipline by teaching them how to be great clinical supervisors. I think Nonie would be delighted.”