New research investigates the benefits of mindfulness for college mentors

Editor’s Note: Mentor training is a key piece of many mentoring programs. Mentor-centric skills are an area that is less-studied than the ways in which mentors can relate to their mentees, foster quality relationships, and so on. This study takes some initial steps in the process of finding ways that mindfulness-based practices may be able to support mentors in establishing more collaborative, satisfying mentoring relationships. The results are promising and indicate the potential of such an approach once it has been investigated further.

Foukal, M. D., Lawrence, E. C., & Jennings, P. A. (2016). Mindfulness and mentoring satisfaction of college women mentoring youth: Implications for training. Mindfulness, 7, 1327-1338. doi: 10.1007/s12671-016-0574-0


Summary (reprinted from the Abstract)

College students who mentor at-risk youth face a variety of challenges and unexpected dilemmas. Mindful awareness practices (MAPs) offer a promising strategy for stress reduction and enhanced relationship satisfaction for college students, counseling students, parents, and teachers; yet, the potential benefits for college student mentors remain largely unexamined.

This quasi-experimental study analyzed survey data from college student mentors who received a MAP-based intervention (n = 59), and a comparison group comprised mentors who received the same mentor training and group mentoring curriculum, but without the added mindfulness component to examine the following research questions: (a) is the addition of a mindfulness component to college student mentor training associated with mentors ’ mentoring satisfaction; (b) does this help them enhance their ability to be empathic in challenging situations; and (c) does this help them shift their inclination for autonomous decision-making and prescriptive mentoring toward a more collaborative, youth-centered approach.

Relative to the comparison group, mentors who participated in mindfulness training reported significantly higher mentor satisfaction, greater increases in empathy, and greater decreases in autonomy. Results provide youth-focused programs with new knowledge regarding additional avenues for supporting college students working with youth.


Implications (reprinted from the Discussion)

Results from the current study suggest that the addition of mindfulness training may have helped this population of mentors feel more satisfied with their mentoring, empathic to differing views, and collaborative in their decision-making…

Results from the present study suggest that specific aspects of mentor satisfaction for college students, such as looking forward to group and spending time with the mentee, feeling good about one’s role, feeling like a leader, and perceiving the mentee as looking forward to time together, were significantly associated with participation in MAPs. At the same time, other aspects of mentor satisfaction for college students, specifically those items related to group dynamics, did not appear to change with the addition of the MAP component. …

[C]ollege students’ participation in mentor training with the MAP component was associated with a shift in their decision-making style. College student mentors who received mindfulness training responded to autonomy items in a pattern that suggested a shift away from autonomous decision-making and toward a more horizontal, collaborative process….

Identifying the specific scheduling, developmental, and academic challenges with which college student mentors find MAPs most useful will provide mentoring programs with valuable knowledge about which aspects of mindfulness training to emphasize for this population of mentors.


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