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| Student Corner |

Mentoring: It's Not Just for Kids Anymore

by Caryn M. Coons, M.A., LPC, DAPA

One would be hard-pressed to find a counselor who does not recognize the significance of social influence on human behavior.  Those who counsel children guide parents in the process of influencing them to be responsible members of society.  Adolescent  clients know no greater influence than their peers.  Adult clients work to reconcile the influence of their parents with the lessons of their own life experiences. As seniors, no small measure of
success is attributed to their perception of how well they have influenced their children.  Clearly, our job as social beings is to influence and be influenced by others.

The tasks of development that transform us from dependents to autonomy are oriented around the process of individuation.  However, anyone who believes that becoming an adult means not depending on others is misinformed.  As adults we do not cease to need others, but we do change in the ways we need them.  Take students, for example.  The purpose of education is to move them toward competence, proficiency.  They are grouped with others who also seek these achievements  and surrounded by those who will help them achieve it.
Being a student is a crucial step in the process of moving from a place of connectedness and support into a place of competition and potential isolation--the professional world.  Those with a 'heads up' recognition of what is to come, recognize the value of those around them.  In like-minded peers and generative others, they identify a resource that is critical to their success.

Professional mentors are supportive.  The mentor knows where the student is and where they want to go.  They are like-minded and has savvy regarding the field of endeavor.  Mentors  give honest feedback and challenge students on the path they have chosen.  Mentor will not necessarily be best friends with the students, nor does he/she have to like everything about the student.  It is possible to have more than one mentor and more than one realm in which
mentoring is occurring.

The process of mentoring includes:  staying informed regarding personal and professional issues; consulting on clinical cases; working on research or writing projects; or, attending professional conferences and trainings.  A group of professional peers who meet regularly can act as mentors by functioning as consultants.

Students, look around at the unique opportunity before you.  Anchor yourself in the resource of others and identify those to whom you would hold yourself accountable in the future.  It is too easy to get wrapped up in the demands of daily life and lose yourself in the world as well as your sense of place in it.  Increase the likelihood of your success by recruiting the support of others.  Remember that we are created social beings who are responsible for the edification and encouragement of others.  Finally, don't forget to be a mentor to someone else.  It is about preserving our sense of relatedness and assuring our longevity as professionals in a very taxing field.

Comments regarding this article can be directed to the author at


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