Mentoring programs understand that effectively training their mentors before they enter into a mentoring relationship is vital to producing positive outcomes for both the mentee and their mentoring relationship. Pre-match mentor training helps to establish higher quality and more enduring matches.  However, mentoring programs might be overlooking an important opportunity to prevent possible relationship problems in that most do not require their mentees to be trained prior to meeting their mentors. Neglecting to provide pre-match mentee training may result in relationship problems that have been reported by some mentors, including communication challenges, unexpected and premature relationship termination, boundary violations, and misuses of power.

In order to better understand the effect that pre-match mentee training would have, Drs. Rebecca Stelter and Janis Kupersmidt developed a Web-based, pre-match training program for mentees and conducted a small study of its efficacy. During the program development phase of the project, mentees and their caregivers were invited to participate in focus groups.  Mentees participating in the focus groups reported that they were often confused about their role in the mentoring relationship, the benefits of mentoring, and what roles mentors would play in a mentoring relationship. Some examples of concerns expressed by the mentees included, “What if your mentor wants to do something that you don’t want to do?” or “What kinds of things am I going to do with my mentor?” or “I don’t really tell most people everything about myself and what I am thinking. Do I have to tell my mentor those things?”

These responses illustrate the types of complex questions and concerns that many youth have before being matched with a mentor.  Programs that offer standardized training to youth before they are matched with a mentor can help to alleviate mentees’ concerns by directly addressing the questions posed by prospective mentees.  By not addressing or responding to these issues before entering a mentoring relationship, mentees could easily enter their mentoring relationship with discomfort and confusion, that can lead to difficulties for all parties involved, rather than with ease, enthusiasm, and clarity.

Based on a thorough review of the scientific and practice literatures, consultation with many practitioners, and results of focus groups with mentees and their parents, Drs. Stelter and Kupersmidt developed the online, pre-match mentee training course. The training includes topics such as defining the roles of mentors, boundaries in mentoring relationships, and the core commitments of mentees.  The training also helps to demystify and prepare youth for their first meeting with their mentors.

The evaluation study of the effectiveness of the mentee training program revealed that mentees reported more positive motivations for having a mentor, had more realistic expectations for their mentoring relationships, and felt more empowered as a mentee.  More empowered, prepared, and enthusiastic mentees are likely to have better outcomes and addressing this hypothesis will be a direction for future research on mentee training.


For more information on this study, contact Rebecca Stelter at the address below.

Rebecca Stelter PhD., iRT Research Scientist II