New study explores the reciprocal benefits of therapeutic mentoring

Deane, K. L., Bullen, P., Williamson‐Dean, R., & Wilder, K. (2023). The benefits of participating in a culturally translated youth mentoring program and service‐learning experience for Aotearoa New Zealand mentors. Journal of Community Psychology. 

Summarized by Saniya Soni

About this Study

While a large portion of youth mentoring research focuses mainly on the outcomes for mentees, attention to mentor experiences is crucial, especially when the mentors are young adults who are shaping their professional identities. Service-learning, a popular strategy in higher education, offers practical experience to learners, enhancing conceptual knowledge while benefiting the community. One such service-learning model is Campus Connections Aotearoa, a culturally translated version of a US-based service-learning experience and therapeutic youth mentoring program implemented in New Zealand. This study investigated attitude and skill development outcomes for university student mentors participating in this program. Data was collected via a mixed-method, pre-post evaluation survey involving 62 ethnically diverse mentors. 

Key Findings:

  • Mentors experienced significant positive changes in various outcome measures, including mentoring self-efficacy, attunement to others, sociability and leadership, and problem-solving and perspective-taking. Effect sizes ranged from large (mentoring self-efficacy) to small to moderate (attunement, sociability and leadership, problem-solving and perspective-taking).
  • Mentors reported benefits related to professional practice (56%) and personal growth (23%), with some acknowledging benefits in both areas (15%).
  • The primary theme identified in the mentor reports was that Campus Connections Aotearoa promoted relational competence, self-regulation, and reflective practice skills. Mentors reported improved relationship-building skills and attuned communication through mindful self-regulation and cue reading.
  • Another theme that emerged was the gain of deeper self-awareness and increased confidence to work effectively with youth due to the service-learning experience. Mentors highlighted their growing self-awareness, attitudinal shifts, and the practical application of classroom learning.
  • Some mentors also noted the knowledge obtained through the service-learning experience contributed to their increased confidence and competence in supporting young people in formal roles. A few mentioned changes in attitude or perspective, such as a greater understanding of their impact on society or increased open-mindedness, while a small group of students highlighted a stronger sense of belonging to the Campus Connections community.

Implications for Mentoring 

These findings underscore the need for evidence-based mentoring programs to incorporate service-learning principles and consider the unique cultural context in which they are implemented. By designing mentoring experiences that align with evidence-based practices, focusing on mentor competencies and self-efficacy, and addressing cultural differences, mentoring programs can maximize their impact on both mentors and mentees. Additionally, tailoring programs to meet the specific needs and values of the local community fosters greater relevance and effectiveness. Ultimately, understanding the long-term impact of mentoring and strategies for mentor retention contributes to building successful and sustainable mentoring initiatives.

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