Integrating cognitive-behavioral strategies into youth mentoring: Findings from a rigorous new evaluation

Evaluation of Reach & Rise® Program Enhancements to Cognitive Behavioral Mentoring – Technical Report

As the authors note, youth face numerous challenges in school, home, and the broader community, such as poverty, peer rejection, and violence. These challenges are are linked to various mental and emotional issues. Mentoring has been identified as a protective factor that can offer cognitive, social, and emotional benefits to youth, helping prevent problem behaviors. Research has shown that mentoring can improve relationships with peers and parents and enhance school performance.

In this study, the researchers rigorously evaluated the implementation and impact of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) enhancements to the YMCA’s Reach & Rise® program (R&R). This included:

  • pre-match training modules for mentors on CBT techniques
  • strategies for augmenting the youth’s growth plan
  • mentor-support CBT-focused “check-in” tools
  • a CBT parent education and support component.

Mentors exposed to this enhanced training and support were expected to be more likely to engage in encouraged behaviors, promoting more positive relationships with their mentees, leading to stronger positive outcomes for youth. The study aimed to evaluate the impacts of this mentoring model on mentoring relationship quality and youth outcomes, the effects of the CBT-related enhancements, and the implementation of the program and its enhancements, including their costs.

Overall, the Reach & Rise® program had statistically significant or marginally significant impacts on parent reports of arrest, self-reports of delinquency and substance use, hope for the future, and school and family connectedness. Contrary to expectations, however, there were no statistically significant differences in outcomes for youth attending programs with CBT enhancements compared to those attending programs using the standard R&R model.

The findings did, however, suggest that with additional support and intensity, the CBT approaches may have led to stronger outcomes. In particular, mentors who received more program supports for their use of CBT strategies had mentees who reported more frequent use of these approaches, leading to stronger relationships and more positive outcomes. Likewise, caregivers who received program supports for their use of CBT strategies were more likely to implement those strategies with their children, leading to more positive youth outcomes.