Nearly half of all mentoring relationships terminate prematurely, owing to a variety of factors (moves, graduations, mentors or youth losing interest, parent sabotage). This is unfortunately, particularly given research on the potentially damaging effects of early termination. The Research literature on therapeutic terminations offers some insights into effective strategies for minimizing difficulties.

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Don’t assume that transferring to a new mentor solves the problem

Although transferring mentees to new mentors is common practice in many programs, the process can be more psychologically complex than it appears. Mentors cannot simply be replaced with another before adequate closure on the first relationship has been reached. The caseworker should attempt to understand and address the reasons for the first termination so as to minimize the likelihood of repeating a dysfunctional pattern. This can be tricky, as we found in a recent study: youth who are rematched do not fare as well as others. See article on rematching.

Discuss hurt feelings.

Mentors should be prepared to address feelings of hurt, even when they are not immediately apparent, and to share their own feelings of loss. Case managers can help mentors anticipate negative reactions and rehearse strategies for handling them. In some instances it may be advisable for the mentor to meet with the protégé infrequently for a period of time after the official termination or to transfer the protégé to a new mentor.