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Mentoring Relationships


While all mentoring relationships aim to improve outcomes for youth, the scope and focus of the program and relationship can vary. Instrumental mentoring and Psychosocial mentoring have been identified as two distinct types of mentoring. 

  • Instrumental Mentoring (topic-focused mentoring):  focuses on a specific problem and is targeted at helping the mentee to reach a specific goal such as improving academic performance, preparing for employment opportunities or careers, or reducing substance abuse. This type of mentoring is often focused on action and activities.

  •  Psychosocial Mentoring (open-ended mentoring):  focuses more on the process and is targeted at working with the mentee around positive youth development. This type of mentoring is often focused on conversation between the mentor and mentee.

In addition, mentoring relationships can be characterized as developmental or prescriptive. 

  • Developmental relationships: provide more flexibility and are more fluid. They are based on cues from the youth depending on their needs and interests. 

  • Prescriptive relationships: the mentor defines the goals for the relationship and have defined expectations for the youth’s role in the relationship.

Research suggests that programs focused on a developmental approach last longer and provide higher levels of satisfaction to both the mentor and the mentee.

Mentors and mentees can be paired up one-to-one or matched in groups where more than one young person is matched with one or more adults. There should not be more than four mentees per mentor in small-group mentoring situations. The average small-group mentoring situation includes three adults for a group of nine youth, or two youth for each mentor. 

The combination of one-on-one mentoring and participation in group activities provided more positive youth outcomes than youth who were not involved in mentoring relationships or only involved in group activities.

Benefits of Mentoring

Mentoring is often one component of a program that involves other elements, such life skills training and coaching. The supportive, healthy relationships formed between mentors and mentees are both immediate and long-term and contribute to a host of benefits for mentors and mentees.


Benefits for youth:

•Increased high school graduation rates

•Lower high school dropout rates

•Healthier relationships and lifestyle choices

•Better attitude about school

•Higher college enrollment rates and higher educational aspirations

•Enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence

•Improved behavior, both at home and at school

•Stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers

•Improved interpersonal skills

•Decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use

Mentor / Mentee Activities

Though mentoring relationships vary greatly, they can be a win-win situation for mentors and mentees alike. They require both parties to be actively engaged and take responsibility for making progress.

While mentoring relationships can include a wide range of activities, some examples of activities typically undertaken in mentoring relationships include the following:

•Spending time learning about each other and building a relationship

•Talking about interests, family, and other topics that support relationship building

•Sharing life experiences, including successes and challenges experienced along the way that could be helpful for mentee 

•Discussing the mentee's personal vision, goals and dreams

•Discussing the mentee’s strengths and how to enhance his or her growth

•Identifying objectives for the mentoring relationship, preferably areas of focus related to shared interests as well as the mentee’s growth

•Conducting informal networking in which the mentee has opportunities to meet others who can contribute to his or her growth or serve as an inspiration to the mentee

•Reviewing and discussing the academic records and success

  • To include involvement with extra-curricular activities 

  • Sports, Clubs, Associations 

•Reviewing and discussing letters, proposals, or other documents written by the mentee

•Discussing cultural values that impact both mentor and mentee’s everyday experiences, including specific examples of how they play out

•Discussing "unwritten rules" for success

•Discussing career interests

•Discussing role models that have been influential in their lives

•Discussing concerns and worries at school, work, or at home, and ways to address those concerns

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