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Why Focus?

In MI, focusing is essential as it helps both the mentor and mentee identify and clarify the direction of change. This process involves several key aspects:

Focusing helps in narrowing down the conversation to the most critical areas where change is desired, making the meetings more efficient and goal-oriented.

Focusing also aids in addressing ambivalence, which is a common barrier to change. By concentrating on specific goals and values, clients can more easily recognize the discrepancies between their current behaviors and their desired outcomes.

Focusing provides our conversations with a sense of direction.

If you imagine MI on a journey, where your mentee selects different directions, depending on their destination

It is important that you keep in mind that focusing is a specific, collaborative, and ongoing process.


Specific goals or desired outcomes should be set to provide a sense of direction for the process.


Both the mentor and the mentee need to decide on the direction of the process.


The direction may shift and change over time as your mentee grows.

This may require going back into the lane that is focusing.

While this process is a collaborative one, it is your responsibility as a mentor to ensure that a direction for focusing is established. This can be a somewhat difficult task if you’re having trouble finding an appropriate direction. As such, it can be important to look at the three most common sources of focus.


Some mentoring programs have a specific focus or desired outcome. This may include a developmental focus, a focus on building mental health skills, or even learning career development skills. If you’re part of a program that has a specific and intentional plan for mentees, be sure to make sure your focus includes that outcome.


Usually, the focus of your relationship will come directly from your mentee (if not the program). These will be the goals or challenges that they would like to work on with you. Are they struggling with school? Are they having a hard time making friends?

However, as mentioned earlier, be careful not to attach to the first problem that your mentee raises, as it may not be the their main challenge or goal.


As the mentor, you can also be a source of focus due to its collaborative nature. As humans we all have our blind spots, and as a mentor you are there to notice the problems that the mentee may not even realize they have. This can be accomplished by connecting dots in their stories and then helping them identify areas for change based on those connections.

This does not mean that just because you have discovered an area for change that your mentee will agree. Again, this is a collaborative process.


After you discuss potential areas to focus on in your relationship with your mentee, collaboratively work together to figure out what you will work on first and adjust as needed.