Mentoring overview

Mentoring builds positive relationships between people.

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring builds positive relationships between people; often between a more experienced or knowledgeable person (a mentor) and a less experienced or less knowledgeable person (the mentee).

The mentee’s needs form the basis of the mentoring relationship. These relationships are a key tool to help prevent or delay the use of drugs and alcohol in adolescence and young adulthood.

There are different types of mentoring programs: one-on-one, group peer and team and delivery can be either face-to-face or e-mentoring. Along with structured programs, mentoring may also occur in less obvious ways. This includes the development of positive, supportive relationships and structured, goal oriented activities in sporting clubs, youth groups, volunteer associations and community agencies.

mentoring dance

Which target audience should mentoring programs focus on?

Mentoring programs have been shown to be effective with young people aged 12–30 years. Mentorship is appropriate for young people who have a high risk of involvement in illicit drug use[1].

How does mentoring help to prevent alcohol and drug-related issues?

Mentoring can help to facilitate a more open dialogue between adults and young people around the use of drugs and alcohol.

Creating an environment where adults can provide guidance, while also gaining insight into the personal and social experience specific to the young people within their communities.

Engaging with young people in a meaningful way through mentoring, creates the opportunity to develop more appropriate and informed alcohol and other drug programs to target this age group.

Mentoring creates the opportunity for young people within the community to engage in workshops and activities. Providing a range of inclusive activities such as art, music, dance, sport, and employment training can also help individuals and communities overcome racial, cultural, social and economic barriers that may lead to substance use. Mentoring programs may also be used as a tool to address the availability of drugs and alcohol in the broader community.

It is important for young people to have quality relationships with friends and adults outside of the family or the home. Being connected to a responsible and caring adult has been shown to reduce the risk of drug use among young people[2]. Mentoring can help both the mentee and their mentor to learn and grow.

Mentoring programs can provide young people with friendship, support and healthy role modelling. This helps to build young people’s confidence and self-worth, motivation to pursue goals, ability to socialise with others at school and in the community, and skills to navigate challenging transitions in life such as moving from school to work. Mentoring programs help young people to make positive changes to their lives, including dealing better with stress and anxiety and having fun without alcohol[3].

How effective are Mentoring programs?

Mentoring programs can make a real and positive difference to the lives of young people and their community.

Mentoring programs based on trusting, positive relationships between young people and adults can prevent or delay the use of alcohol and other drugs. Mentoring may not appear to be ‘directly’ addressing problems with alcohol and other drugs, but it strengthens many social, emotional, cultural and educational factors that help young people remain healthier overall. Mentoring can also benefit local communities more broadly through positive family, education and employment outcomes[4,5].

Structured mentoring programs deliver real outcomes; from raising self-esteem, encouraging healthier behaviours and improving school attendance, to enabling better informed career choices and a more secure place in education or the workforce[6].

A number of mentoring programs have been shown to work. Mentoring programs are more effective if young people are actively involving in the design of the program.