1.4.2 The Mentor
Description: This character might also be described as an advisor or guide. Whilst mentoring or advising is the main focus of some jobs, it also forms one aspect of many jobs in this field. The role of the mentor is to present choices and provide advice based on a more extensive life experience.
Issues: This is a very powerful position and it can sometimes be difficult to resist being seen as ‘all knowing’. However, there are times when the experience of the young person is beyond the capability of the advisor or mentor to deal with. In these situations mentors must step aside and refer on to a more specialist advisor who is better qualified to deal with the issue.
The adult guide will sometimes see their role as protecting young people from the dangers of the adult world. This can lead to young people being simply told what they should do ‘for their own good’. A more developmental approach to guidance aims to leave decision making in the hands of the young person, whilst continuing to provide support. However, it is important to remember that all forms of guidance seeks to influence young people, and these interventions are a form of control over the decisions that young people make.
There can be real tensions for a worker when their judgement about what is best for a young person is in conflict with the policy of their organisation or agency. For example, the policy may state that young people can get certain kinds of support only if they agree to take a certain course, sign up to a certain belief, or stop using drugs immediately and completely. The worker may feel that such conditions are unrealistic or inappropriate. There are situations where the aims of guiding or empowering young people can be undermined by requirements for measuring predetermined outcomes.