Mentoring for disadvantaged young people can be divided into a start and five phases:

1. Commitment.

2. The Clarification Phase

3. The Confidence Phase

4. The Instruction Phase

5. The Maturation Phase

6. The Concluding Phase


The phases are not of identical duration. The confidence phase, the instruction phase and the maturation phase occupy most time. It is vital to stick to the sequence of the phases, because a continuous development is taking place throughout the phases.


To establish a mentor-mentee relationship, both parties must engage in cooperationto achieve one or more common objectives. If the objective is blurred or not interesting to one of the parties, they will lack involvement and motivation. Involvement and motivation are the driving force of every mentoring relationship.

“Commitment” means that the mentor and the mentee initially have to establish a connection; a bond. Both of them need to build some enthusiasm about the relationship that is about to be established. Without this, it will be difficult to get a constructive result out of the mentoring relationship.

Often the objective is evident to the mentor, but not to the mentee. For instance, the objective of the mentorship in an educational institution might be to retain a potential drop-out student in his education process. However, if the mentee does not think that he needs support to achieve this, it will be difficult to arouse motivation. In the initial phase of a mentoring relationship, you need to make the mentee “take the bait.” Generally, you have just one attempt. The dominant sentiment in mentees often seems to be “WIIFM” – What´s In It For Me?

The clarification phase

The purpose of the clarification phase is to determine the circumstances of the mentee and in which fields he needs a helping hand. What are the challenges facing the mentee? What needs attention to achieve the objective?

The pre-eminent duty of the mentor in this phase is to listen, to explore by means of questions and to observe. The mentor needs to uncover the reasons why the marginalised person is dysfunctional, for instance at school, in the work place or in his private life. A word of caution: In this phase, do not concentrate solely on what the mentee is unable to, but also observe what the mentee is good at!

The confidence phase

In this phase, the mentor and the mentee begin to know each other well. It is a crucial phase in which the parties build mutual trust and confidence. Positive contact from the beginning is a vital prerequisite for entering the instruction phase later. It is also on the basis of confidence that the mentor is considered deserving to probe in to the core of the problems behind the mentee’s barriers and challenges. It is vital that the mentor takes a genuine interest in his mentee.

When the mentee senses that you are sincerely interested and actually care about him or her, confidence blossoms. For this reason you must remember the small things that the mentee tells you, and follow up on them. It might be minor matters like asking what a planned concert actually was like – but also major matters like asking how the conference with the council representatives or the bank turned out. The essence is to observe, listen and try to understand your mentee.

Once confidence has been established, the skeletons might start to come out of the closet. This is where you, as a mentor, must be aware of your limitations. You can listen, but if professional treatment from a doctor, a psychologist, an abuse consultant or a social case worker is needed, you must refer the mentee to the relevant agency or authority– typically the one that referred the mentee to you.

The confidence phase is a very exciting period of the relationship because so much happens. It can be difficult to determine when your mutual confidence has been established. One positive sign is when the mentee starts taking an interest in you and your life.

The instruction phase

This phase can also be termed the correction phase or teaching phase. It is intended to make the mentee conscious of what needs to be done in order to achieve the objective. It is during this phase that you can really be frank and direct the attention of your mentee to any harmful behaviour or to competences that need to be developed. Keep your focus on what it takes to attain to the objective. It might also turn out that the objective is too ambitious or unachievable. In this case you will have to fragment it into intermediate objectives that are attainable within a short term.

Typically, in this phase the mentor asks questions, listens, challenges viewpoints, corrects, directs, supports, reflects, tests and provides feedback containing praise as well as criticism.

It is during the instruction phase that the mentor starts working in earnest. If you have been too superficial during the clarification phase and the confidence phase, you might be able to teach the mentee something, but this will rarely be enough to change anything fundamentally because you will not have exposed the root causes of the problems.

Once confidence has been built, the mentee can handle a lot, and the mentor can really get close and personal. The mentee senses that the mentor likes him or her. And in his or her mind there is no reason to believe that the mentor would suddenly say something or make demands that are not well-intentioned. It could be a discussion of personal hygiene, anti-social behaviour, language etc. The mentee is sure to perceive it as genuine concern, even though the mentor is very direct and insistent.

The maturation phase

The maturation phase is the climax of any mentoring process. Following an instruction period in which responsibility is gradually transferred, the mentee must now fully assume responsibility for himself. Some use the term “self-government” to describe the ability and need to mature and develop into a free, independent, responsible and socially minded individual who is able to realise his objectives through learning, development and growth.

Consequently, the mentor must relinquish more and more control and allow the mentee to assume responsibility for himself during the maturation phase. It is to no avail if the mentoring process is coming to a conclusion and the mentor still has to call the mentee every morning to get him out of bed. The mentee has to learn how to assume personal responsibility and draw on others in his personal network for support and help.

It is not uncommon that the mentee suffers a relapse during this phase. Some are scared by their success because the feeling is unfamiliar to them. They feel more secure when they receive help and are confirmed in their self-perception as vulnerable persons. All of a sudden they have to discard the role of victim. This is a significant change of identity and can seem frightening. It takes continual praise and encouragement to conquer this fear.

The concluding phase

Regardless of when a mentoring process is ends, it is a decisive phase. Many marginalised people have seen people disappear out of their lives without having opportunity to say goodbye properly.

The mentor must therefore not postpone the farewell to the final meeting with the mentee. The mentor should bring up the topic little by little as the process nears its conclusion. It is often beneficial to a mentee to have a chance to talk about how he or she feels at the prospect of terminating the relationship. The mentor might open by expressing his or her own feelings regarding the termination of the relationship and then allow the mentee to do the same. It is important to create an opportunity to say goodbye in a healthy and respectful manner.


Article written by Tom Pedersen

Email: [email protected]

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