Describing what mentoring is in relation to counselling can sometimes be a little tricky as both forms of therapeutic support can be so different yet so similar depending on the practitioner.
Whilst mentoring can be seen as more solution focussed and goal orientated, counselling is seen as the gentler more emotional led ‘twin’ yet I experience the two as a naturally positive symbiotic relationship.
Looking at the Core Conditions of counselling ( the conditions a therapeutic relationship requires to take place) here;
- Empathy-for the therapist to understand the clients thoughts and feelings as they experience them or to try and ‘walk in their shoes’.
- Congruence-for the therapist to be genuine, real, warm and honest.
- Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR)-for the therapist to not criticise or judge and to be able to hold the therapy ‘space’ unconditionally.
- Psychological Contact-for the client to be ‘present’ and to allow the therapist to make ‘contact’. For the client to be honest to the best of their ability and disclose enough to allow the therapist to try and support.
- Acceptance-for the client to give the therapist and therapy a chance.
- Incongruence-the client needs to have an issue to bring to therapy in order for therapy to take place.
…we can see that these would be the same conditions needed to be present in any mentoring relationship too. In fact I would go as far as to say that the first 5 of these core conditions would benefit any relationship, friendship, business partnership or human interaction don’t you think? Now looking at the 8 core conditions (or ‘rules’) of mentoring;
Rule 1: Lead by Following: Mentoring should be led by the client. Mentors need to let the client know it is her or his job to drive the partnership.
Rule 2: Chart a Course. Good mentoring starts with an exploration of where the client wants to end up. These goals become the foundation of the partnership.
Rule 3: Create a Safe Place. Trust is the key to mentoring. Mentors need to focus on developing trust with a client so that the true benefits of mentoring can be realised.
Rule 4: Good Questions Beat Good Advice. The best mentors challenge us to think. A mentor who only dispenses advice misses opportunities to expand a client’s thinking.
Rule 5: Balance Empathy and Action. Part of being a trusted advisor is giving the client a place to vent frustrations, but not allowing them to consume the client. Good mentors find the balance between showing empathy and encouraging the client to take action.
Rule 6: Foster Accountability. One of the hidden powers of mentoring is the accountability that it creates for the client to take action. Mentors can create a subtle accountability that encourages action while still offering support.
Rule 7: Fill the Toolkit. Many potential mentors do not step up to the role because they fear that they have to have all the answers. Great mentors know when to reach out and help a client find the answers by tapping into other resources that can help.
Rule 8: Honour the Journey. Mentoring has a natural life cycle, and there will come a time in most partnerships when the mentor needs to step back and play a less active role with the client. Good mentors recognise this transition as a sign of a client’s growth and use it as a time of reflection, celebration, and transition.
These conditions or ‘rules’ can also be present in a counselling relationship. Counselling doesn’t have to involve goal work as per rule 2 but a counsellor and client may have an agreement as to the nature of the work they are carrying out together. They may have an end point they are working towards (although counselling can be more subtle than mentoring or coaching in that respect).
Ultimately I feel that counselling, mentoring, coaching or any supportive relationship benefits from a foundation of all of the above conditions or ‘rules’. Whether you consider yourself a counsellor, a coach, a mentor or….a good friend, partner or business colleague the above core conditions can support the basis for a strong, honest and realistic equal human to human relationship.
So I don’t mind whether someone considers me a counsellor, therapist or mentor I hope with all my heart that as long as I live and work and learn by the core conditions that I’m doing the best I can for the people who choose to interact with me professionally OR personally.
I would really welcome your thoughts on this…..x