Monday, December 2, 2013

"Fifty Ways to Leave Your Mentor (or Mentee)"

Michael J. Karcher, Ph.D.
by Michael J. Karcher, Ed.D., Ph.D., University of Texas at San Antonio

Banff Center for the Arts, Alberta, Canada

From a presentation at the National Mentoring Symposium,  2013

Getting a feeling for losing a friend

“I guess I just miss my friend” Shawshank Redemption. “Sometimes it makes me sad, Andy being gone…and when they fly away…the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they are gone. I guess I just miss my friend.”


Quotes below are from “Termination and closure in mentoring relationships,” by Renee Spencer and Antoinette Basualdo-Delmonico. In D.L. DuBois, & M.J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of Youth Mentoring. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. www/ 20% discount code N121019

Most matches end prematurely: “Many agencies do in fact hope that the relationships established through their programs will grow into ties that are more natural and sustained over time without the support of the agency. Unfortunately, research suggests otherwise, with fewer than half of relationships established through formal mentoring programs lasting to their initial time commitment.” (p. 469)

Achieving, Completing, Succeeding, and Celebrating! “Keller calls this phase in youth mentoring “decline and dissolution” and draws a distinction between these two types of endings. Decline is the more passive drifting apart over time that accompanies reductions in the importance and level of closeness in the relationship, whereas dissolution is a more intentional or active termination of the relationship that may be marked by a clear event.” (Spencer & Basualdo-Delmonico, p. 470)

“How a relations ends is key to how mentors and especially youth think about and value their experiences together” (Taylor & Bressler, 2002, p. 70, in Spencer & Basualdo-Delmonico, p. 470).

No double-dash: “Dashed expectations may be of special significance to the many youth served by mentoring programs who have experienced significant disruptions in their primary caregiving relationships, where due to parental separation, incarceration, or transfer to foster care. (p. 470)

Maintaining gains: “When handled well, it is believed that the termination process can solidify gains made, resolve issues that have arisen in the …relationship itself, and prepare the [youth] for maintaining healthy functioning without the support of [mentor]…Poor endings, in contrast, hold the potential to undo some of these gains when the process of ending the relationship stirs up and does not adequately address issues and conflicts previously raised in…unresolved issues associated with loss and separation the [youth] may have carried into [the mentoring relationship].” (p. 470)

Questions unanswered, doubts arises, sadness lingers Lion King & Rascal Flats:

“What hurts the most, what being so close, and having so much to say, and seeing you walk away, and never knowing what could have been. And not seeing that loving you is what I was trying to do.”

Preparing for Success and Completion

In the CAMP program we begin with the end in mind (and practice saying goodbye using the 3-2-1 activities to prepare matches for closure. (Karcher, 2012,

Each Meeting

3-2-1 Touching Base Activity (start of CAMP meeting)

   3.   Each person shares three things that happened in the past week (or month) that were good.

   2.   Each person shares two things that happened in the week (or month) that were bad things.
   1.   Each person shares one thing he/she plans to do to make more good things happen in his life or hopes for.

3-2-1 Activity Reflection (at the end of CAMP meeting)

   3.   Each shares three things that went well today.

   2.   Each shares two things that did not go well.

   1.   Each shares one that he or she hopes will be different next time (brainstorm solutions).

Done Quarterly

 3-2-1 Relationship Reflections

   3.   Each person comes up with three things they really like about the other person, three special times they had together so far this year; or three things they really enjoyed doing together.

  2.    Each person shares two things about the other person (or two times together) that made it hard to stay connected in their friendship.
  1.   Each identifies one thing she/he will do differently in this relationship for the rest of the year.

 End of Year

The two closure rituals (“Termination ritual” or “Thrown under the bus activity”)

  1. Explain the reason for the ending
  2. Discuss what worked and what didn’t
  3. Highlight what each found special about the other
  4. Share how each other feels—both sadness and thankfulness for their year together
  5. Hopes for each other about how each will take lessons learned to their next relationship

(Cite: Karcher, M.J. (2012). The Cross-age Mentoring Program (CAMP) for Children with Adolescent Mentors (four book set). San Antonia, TX: Developmental Press. Some activities available at and described in program materials at

Karcher is an expert in peer mentoring.  A following blog post will feature some PowerPoint slides about more of his research. 
To read more about Karcher’s research: 

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