Mind Map: Counselling Theories and Remote Mentoring

A mind-map design rationale

According to Tony Buzzan[1], the goal of a Mind Map is to format information in a two dimensional fashion, in an easily retrievable format that is easy to review, allowing for easy association. The Mind Map is a method of reviewing great quantities of information “at a glance[2]”.Mind Maps are used as alternative methods of organising information in a manner that obviate linear thinking, in an attempt to work the way the brain works[3].

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Different methods of Mind Mapping range from computer programs to hand drawing; with free-form hand drawing the most effective for incorporating brain-storming. Russell[4] states that during the Mind Mapping process, one should not “hold back” on ideas or thoughts, but include what comes to mind without judgement or boundaries. Landsberger[5] suggests that the Mind Map should develop based on the direction a topic takes rather than limitations imposed on mapping methodology or self-imposed boundaries.

Within the field of psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic training, mentoring is an important concept. With the growth, development and generalised reliance in our society on computers along with the development of virtual working and training grounds, the concept of e-mentoring, or online mentoring is a high growth area and is one achieving attention in the literature. Therefore, this essay will focus on the development of a Mind Map with the central theme of e-mentoring. Specific topics related to detailed development within psychological schools of thought are considered beyond the scope of the current essay and as such, as explicitly omitted.

Mind Map Design

With the central theme of e-mentoring, there were many topics that vied for prominence as secondary central themes, however, four became primary in early thoughts on development:

Training in psychotherapy

Based on the four pronged conceptualisation, the original mental image presented itself as the Greek symbol for psych, the three pronged fork with a base extension. In this case, the base extension was the use of computers and technology which is the underlying foundation for an e-mentoring programme. Unfortunately during the actual execution of the Mind Map development, so much information naturally flowed that the original mental picture of the design did not materialise.

Mind Map researchers emphasise the use of colour in the design of one’s Mind Map[6],[7]. Colours were originally chosen for their visibility and distinctiveness from one another against the white background of the page, upon reflection. However, it is interesting to note the pink used for the mentor, as significant emphasis was on female mentor relationship issues and the generalised assumption that mentors would be female. Training in Psychotherapy was evidenced by turquoise coloured branches, which seems somewhat appropriate based in training needs being more clinical. Psychotherapy’s branch was in purple, also appropriate upon reflection, as the many modes and modalities of psychotherapy are about wellness; often represented in the media with purple. Finally, the surprising colour for computers and electronics, forming the base of the psych symbol was in green. One would normally not think of computers and technology as living, represented by green, however, in today’s age, with technology being so important in our lifestyle and that of an e-mentoring programme, in many ways, computers represent life.

Main branches in the design of a Mind Map are representative of sub-themes[8]. In this case, mentor, computers/electronics, psychotherapy and training in psychotherapy were all believed to be specific subdivisions of the e-mentoring process in the field of psychology/psychotherapy. Research states that sub-points are representative of additional levels of information, with the initial branches from the central theme representative of directly related important facts[9]. Although some Mind Map methods suggest linear composition[10] rather than free-flowing forms[11],[12], this writer chose to use a freer flowing format for the sub-themes presented.

Russell[13] suggests using arrows, icons and other visual aids to show linkages whereas other researchers suggest using arrows to demonstrate connectivity[14]. Landsberger suggests the use of arrows with connectivity labels, even if the words are nonsense words with meaning attributable only to the Mind Map creator[15]. In this instance, linkages were depicted by double sided arrows, many of which were flexible and bended around objects or attributes. Several arrows/links representing relationships in the Mind Map designed around e-mentoring crossed between sub-themes or domains and due to colour coding and information congestion, were difficult to fully express. For example, the link between female mentor and psychotherapy was delineated as it is believed that the mentor role is in part counsellor[16]. Kotkov states that the mentee-mentor relationship is similar; based on the academic model, to that which transpires in the psychotherapeutic setting[17]. Another example is the integration between the four themes of cognitive behaviour therapy that are linked in the Mind Map: stimulus, thought, emotion and behaviour[18]. Looking to security risks inherent in the e-mentoring process, the link was drawn between emails and digital attachments[19],[20]. There were also very strong relationships/links apparent in the female mentor in the mother/daughter role, and in the mother mentor figure seen as the powerful parent[21],[22] that was noted via a linkage. A more convoluted, but none the less important linkage was illustrated in the psychotherapy branch by linking person-centred with relationships and effectiveness and critical engagement with both relationships and effectiveness, person centred with empathy and unconditional positive regard[23].

On the other hand, although concerns are shared about security, the security risks commented on through the integration of internet use noted by Kane[24] was not linked to the legal risks associated with mentoring noted by Heinrich[25] although both loosely relate to potential legal issues it was felt by this writer that internet security and the potential legal issues of the mentor-mentee relationship were distinct from each other. Personal Reflection

As a personal approach to psychotherapy, this writer believes in a person centred approach that is heavily based on relationships for effectiveness in therapy. As a result, the links described above emphasising relationships as a key element of the psychotherapy sub-theme in the Mind Map demonstrates its lead in to person-centred psychotherapy. Other branches of the Mind Map explored other theories and therapeutic avenues, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, which were also important for display as evidencing those areas in which these theories no not fit within the structure of a person-centred approach.

Lessons Learned and Conclusions

The primary conclusion drawn from designing the Mind Map based on an e-mentoring (in the field of psychotherapy) central theme is the complexity and multiplicity of issues. While there are many that inter-relate and/or link with each other, the brain storming process involved served to spawn more ideas than originally thought, such that each of the original sub-themes could have actually become its own central theme in the design of a more detailed Mind Map.

The original concept of designing the mind map was an exciting prospect – the central theme had been one I was projecting about as related to future needs. Thus, when the central theme was confirmed for the mind map it was believed that a unique opportunity presented itself to explore the central theme in a creative way allowing for free thinking, thinking outside the box, without any traditional or conventional boundaries. In many ways, although the mind map is unstructured in the creative process, it is still a structured development process as one drills down to more detailed concepts, issues and layers of a subject. While Landsberger[26] states that one should revise the mind map by erasing or editing, that seems to be contrary to the concept of mind mapping in the first place as a process which fosters creativity. Thus, upon reflection, without modifications, the current Mind Map feels cluttered. If one were to draw the mind map over again, the use of a sixth colour would be incorporated strictly to show links. Additionally, in the linkage process a variety of line types would be used to designate different linkages, for example a solid line to represent a direct relationship and a dotted or broken line to represent an indirect relationship.

In many ways, staying focused was difficult. In the brain storming process, especially when one is not to make personal judgements, it is easy to get carried away. Thus, it appeared there was a fine line between free thinking and conforming. When getting near the edge of a page for example, the natural inclination was to think the branch was completely explored rather than rounding the corner or moving towards a free white space.

Finally, the decision to hand-draw rather than use a computer program to create the map was a difficult one. The computer program was more likely to utilise its own intelligent system to draw the finished map, assure legibility and coherence. A hand-drawn mind map, on the other hand, was more likely to represent the structure in a creative manner rather than one obtained through linear thinking, as would be required for input into digital form.

The most useful concept discovered in the creation of the mind map was ability to see links between concepts that might otherwise be left undiscovered. For example, when reviewing issues within psychotherapy of transference and countertransference; these were the same issues uncovered within the mentoring process, especially with the mixed feelings and power relationship structures of female mentors and mentees[27].

Another useful concept in the design and creation of the mind map was the discovery of how complex the issue of e-mentoring in the psychotherapy student environment. One tends to isolate conceptual topics and think of the central theme as very narrow when researching a topic. The mind-map process enabled a more creative perspective to draw out what one might consider ancillary themes only to discover they are major themes that interrelate and integrate with one another.

In conclusion, this essay has explored design and development concepts of a mind map with the central theme e-mentoring in the psychotherapeutic and counselling environment. The design process was explored along with procedural strengths and weaknesses. In summation, the process of designing the mind map was believed a positive endeavour allowing for greater exploration. The result provided a grander view of the central topic and the ability to seek relationships between sub-topics or themes that might otherwise remain unnoticed. The ability to quickly see the entire picture painted via the diagram “at a glance” allowing the viewer to see all makes the mind map an excellent and effective learning tool.


Gannon, Joyce. Modern Mentoring. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)2006. [Online]. Retrieved from: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-155116925.html [Accessed 29 June 2008].

Gawrylewski, Andrea. Taking Mentorship Online. The Scientist, 21, 83 – 85)2007.

Heinrich, Kathleen T. Doctoral Advisement Relationships between Women: On Friendship and Betrayal. Journal of Higher Education, 66, 447 – 469)1995.

Kane, Daniel. Long Distance Mentoring Over Email. US Fed News Service)2007.

Kotkov, Benjamin. The Perils of Supervision & Teaching in the Psychotherapy Setting. Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, 8)2005. [Online]. Retrieved from: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1:134955706 [Accessed 29 June 2008].

Landsberger, Joe. Concept- or Mind-Mapping. Study Guides and Strategies)2008. [Online]. Retrieved from: http://www.studygs.net/mapping [Accessed 29 June 2008].

Mahoney, Michael J. Essential Themes in the Training of Psychotherapists. Constructivism in the Human Sciences, 17, 43 – 59)1998.

Mind Maps. Mind Tools, Ltd.)2008[Online]. Retrieved from: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newISS.01.htm [Accessed 29 June 2008].

Mulhauser, Greg. Evaluating Therapeutic Effectiveness in Counselling and Psychotherapy. [Online]. Retrieved from: http://counsellingresource.com/types/effectiveness.html [Accessed 29 June 2008].

Russell, Peter. How to Mind Map. The Spirit of Now)1997. [Online]. Retrieved from: http://peterrussell.com/MindMaps/HowTo.php [Accessed 29 June 2008].

Appendix A: Mind Map


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