Adolescent Research Review

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 57–66 | Cite as

Mentor Self-Disclosure in Youth Mentoring Relationships: A Review of the Literature About Adults Disclosing to Non-Familial Adolescents in Intervention Settings

  • Hilary Dutton
Narrative Review


Youth mentoring is a popular intervention that pairs caring adults and vulnerable young people to promote positive outcomes and youth thriving. Evidence of the modest effects of mentoring has spurred interest in identifying how mentoring relationships can be enhanced. Like mentoring, psychotherapy is an intervention where adults form interpersonal relationships with non-familial adolescents. Theory and research from the psychotherapy domain indicates that therapist self-disclosure is communication tool that may be particularly beneficial for use with adolescents. The scant research regarding self-disclosure in youth mentoring contexts either precedes contemporary mentoring research, or is a peripheral part of research focused on other relationship factors. To bridge a gap between the two interventions, this review details the available literature about self-disclosure in youth mentoring relationships, then draws on research about therapist self-disclosure that may provide insight into the purpose and effect of mentor self-disclosure to adolescent mentees. A discussion of the critical differences between the roles of mentor and therapist, and some associated risks is also provided. This review highlights mentor self-disclosure as a powerful tool for developing high quality relationships, setting the foundation for future research and mentor training for safe and effective practice.


Youth mentoring Self-disclosure Mentors Mentoring relationships 



The author thanks Dr Kelsey Deane and Dr Pat Bullen for their feedback during the early stages of developing this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author reports no conflict of interest.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education and Social WorkUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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