New study proposes a model of attunement for mentoring relationships

Gilkerson, L., & Pryce, J. (2020). The mentoring FAN: A conceptual model of attunement for youth development settings. Journal of Social Work Practice, 0(0), 1–16.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Although youth mentoring has increased in popularity over the years, many mentoring relationships are still ending prematurely. 
  • Because there’s a limited amount of empirical models that support mentoring relationships, this study aims to propose their own model to promote relationship-building and introduces attunement to youth mentoring. 
    • The researchers applied the Mentoring Facilitating Attuned Interactions, FAN, framework within a mentoring agency that serves children through site-based programs.
    • The framework prioritizes reflective practice and theories of interpersonal communication to help build relational connections within the youth mentoring system.
  • The Mentoring FAN encouraged staff members to concentrate on strengthening mentor relations. 

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Although youth mentoring as a field has enjoyed significant growth over the last 20 years, a good percentage of mentor relationships end prematurely. Empirically informed models of training to support the mentoring relationship are limited. The purpose of this article is to introduce the concept of attunement in youth mentoring; describe the FAN framework for relationship-building and reflective practice in youth mentoring and apply the model to work within a mentoring agency serving youth through site-based programmes. The proposed framework prioritises reflective practice and theories of interpersonal communication to help build relational connection within the youth mentoring system. The article concludes with recommendations for more general application of the FAN to social work practice beyond youth mentoring, and its potential role in promoting social worker well-being.

Implications (Reprinted from Future directions and implications for social work)

These are a few of many examples of the impact of the Mentoring FAN on staff approach to relationship-building. To date, mentoring FAN training has been applied primarily to staff (Pryce et al., 2018). Investment in mentoring staff is empirically supported and is associated with an increased sense of commitment from mentors to continuing their relationship, and indirectly contributes to relationship satisfaction (McQuillin et al., 2015).

The next step in the development of the Mentoring FAN is to train the volunteer mentors on this tool. In an exploration of the FAN impact, mentors supported by FAN-trained staff report feeling more support from staff, and an opportunity for improved interactions with mentees (Pryce et al., 2018). Preliminary efforts to examine the impact with mentors have demonstrated the promise and challenge in using this tool (Pryce et al., 2018). College students report a greater focus on affirming their mentees and validating their feelings without trying to change them. Mentors highlight the struggle to balance the implementation of programme curriculum with a relationship focus. Research on the calculus between relationship-oriented and goal-oriented interactions suggest that while both kinds of interactions are important, collaborative interactions focused on relationship building are more strongly associated with relationship quality, particularly with younger mentees (Karcher & Nakkula, 2010). These findings further emphasise the complexity of the mentoring role and the importance of training that helps to facilitate a relational connection in the midst of adherence to programme curricula.

Because FAN training enables a different use of self, it is transformative and builds relational capacities that go beyond the work and volunteer worlds. A judge trained in the FAN remarked, ‘Six months ago, I would have been yelling from the bench … I just listened and stayed calm. The FAN has made be a better judge … really it’s made me a better dad, a better person too’. Mentoring staff also shared how they were better listeners and more patient at home. Examination of the indirect effect of FAN training on other relationships, as well as explicit FAN training for interpersonal relationships, are planned next steps.

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