Therapist, Mentor and Spiritual Damage © Martyn Carruthers 2003
People will remember your relationship skills,
your honesty, candor and integrity … or your lack of it.
Short-term Coaching & Long-term Mentorship
We apply systemic psychology to goals or projects depending on a person’s desires and needs. Short-term coaching can define and plan specific goals, while long-term mentorship helps people build lives with meaning and integrity.
Short-term coaching and long-term mentorship overlap. Both coaching and mentorship helps people develop. Both coaches and mentors are approachable and available. Both coaching and mentorship can be applied to most fields of human abilities and excellence.
Coaching is not mentoring although a coach might also be a mentor and either may be a role model. Building and maintaining these relationships require different personal qualities and relationship skills. Longer, deeper relationships increase bonding, but risk entanglement and mentor damage.
|You assist people to clarify and achieve specific goals within specified times. You are expert in resolving emotional problems that block success.||You guide people to fulfill some part of their lives. You are expert in the mentored topic or you are expert in helping people develop skills, attitudes and relationships.||You are a useful model for behaviors or skills which someone wants to emulate or replicate.|
While most of us are specialists in helping people manage relationship problems and emotional problems, we may also act as advisers, role models, advocates, guides, listeners, provocateurs, visionaries and facilitators.
Coaching, Mentorship & Role Models
Those who want to improve or develop often seek people who offer appropriate guidance and/or support. Coaching is often described as helping people clarify their goals and develop strategies toward achieving those goals.
Mentorship can be described as the influence, guidance or direction exerted by a trusted and experienced guide. A mentor may refer to an experienced leader or manager who helps less experienced people develop their capabilities.
You may be chosen as a role-model for skills and behavior. Role models may be living or dead, or even imaginary. If you are chosen as a role model – your actions may be copied and replicated. Even your refusal to cooperate may be modeled and replicated.
What is a Mentor Relationship?
The original Mentor was described by an ancient Greek writer as Odysseus’ trusted counselor. Mentor was responsible for Odysseus’ estate and his son’s education.
At your best, you will inspire people to create visions that provide sense or purpose in life. A mentor role will challenge your maturity, expertise and relationship skills. Effective mentors encourage a profound affirmation of life. Ineffective mentors can seriously hurt or damage people – even with good intentions.
“Mentors are advisors, people with experience willing to share their knowledge; supporters, people who give emotional and moral encouragement; tutors, people who give specific feedback on one’s performance; masters, in the sense of employers to whom one is apprenticed; sponsors, sources of information about and aid in obtaining opportunities; models of identity, of the kind of person one should be …” Morris Zelditch
Effective mentors build mutual respect, trust, clarity and empathy. They share your experience, wisdom and expertise. They are good listeners, observers and problem-solvers. They try to understand and respect a person’s goals and interests. They create space in which people can develop.
Different people require different attention, information and encouragement. People may not know what questions to ask, what information they need, or what options are possible. As a mentor, you may answer questions and challenge people to develop critical thinking, self-discipline and good habits.
Are you a good listener? Can you hear what a person says without interpreting or judging? Do you pay attention to hidden agendas shown by body language? When you think you have understood a point, do you check whether you have understood correctly? Convey empathy and understanding.
Arrange regular meetings and try to anticipate problems. Assume that people who need help may not ask for assistance. Even people who are progressing well need occasional serious conversations.
Discuss ethical issues and integrity to help people prepare for ethical questions that arise. Discuss potential conflicts of interest and help people understand misconduct: What would you do if asked to do something immoral or illegal? What would you do if your friend, colleague or boss acts unethically?
If you mentor people from a different cultural background to your own, try to understand each person as a unique individual. Mentoring people from other cultures can help you broaden your horizon. If you can welcome ethnic, sexual and cultural diversity, you strongly and positively affect their development.
If you are puzzled or irritated by a person, check yourself for irritating habits, transferences, cultural biases or ethnocentrism.
Family Issues, Disability & Intimacy
Sometimes people need extra support, such as when having a baby, raising children alone, caring for a parent, suffering marital problems, or juggling a two-career partnership. You might refer people to a systemic coach, or other professionals. Help people find assistance for mental or physical disabilities.
If you mentor people to whom you feel attracted, avoid any appearance of romantic interest. Inappropriate intimacy may result in unpleasant consequences. Avoid misunderstandings with common sense and clear communication.
Mentor & Therapy Damage
Not all people want to be mentors, and many people who proclaim themselves as mentors lack even the most basic mentorship skills. Inappropriate mentorship can seriously hurt those people being mentored. Mentor damage is common.
People damaged by inappropriate mentors may avoid further mentorship – by anybody. They have been hurt and they may assume that further mentorship will produce further hurt. The consequences of mentor damage are similar to spiritual abuse – and can be remedied during systemic coaching.
Mentor relationships tend to be deep and long-term. If a person needs short-term relationship coaching, success planning, rapid skill acquisition or accelerated learning – arrange systemic coaching, which is unlikely to result in emotional bonding and subsequent painful separation.
People in mentor relationships may experience unexpected problems and emotions as the relationships evolve. Mentorship follows four general phases: 1. initiation, 2. cultivation, 3. independence & 4. redefinition (Kram 1985)
|1||6-12 months||A new mentor relationship becomes important to both mentor and mentored. Both create expectations and perhaps transferences and entanglements. (The most common mentorship entanglement seems to be parent-child).|
|2||2 – 5 years||Both mentor and mentored test their expectations from the first phase. Both can explore the value of their relationship and clarify boundaries.|
|3||6 – 24 months||As the need for mentorship fades, one or both may experience confusion and loss. Another mentor can be a resource or a liability during this time.|
|4||Later||One or both recognize that a mentor relationship is no longer appropriate. They may become friendly peers, resentful competitors or ignore each other.|
A mentor relationship can begin with creating trust and connection through careful questions and active listening. Without this foundation, the likelihood of a meaningful mentor relationship is low. Instead, a guru-devotee relationship may begin, at high cost to both people.
Inappropriate bonding can lead to distress. If a mentor relates to people as substitutes for friends, children or partners, or if a mentor is perceived as a substitute parent or older sibling, separation may be painful. When such transferences spontaneously resolve, one or both may experience negative emotions and avoid the other.
Being a mentor may include building relationships, providing information, facilitating and challenging, and perhaps being a role model while inspiring people to create and achieve worthwhile goals. An appropriate mentor can inspire you to develop your personal and professional sklils.
Do you want to resolve emotional and relationship issues?