Mentoring and the Art of Validation

When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it is our job to share our calm, not join their chaos”  -L.R. Knost

As Seedling mentors, our goal is to be a trusted friend, boost our mentee’s positive self-esteem and safeguard their opportunity to thrive!   We believe that with time, commitment, and a lot of heart, this goal is possible to achieve.   We must remember it is the small steps we take each time we meet that reinforce our bond with our mentee.  For example, Seedling continuously champions the importance of mentors being present and mindful when meeting with their mentee, and we praise the positive effects of actively listening.  An additional step mentors should practice, and worth every effort, is validating your mentee’s feelings.

To validate is to recognize another person’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable.  DrAdele Lafrance, clinical psychologist and co-creator of Emotion Focused Family Therapy, explains that for someone who has experienced trauma, (which is, really, everyone) validating feelings helps regulate emotions and enhances their ability to be in control.  “The skill of validation is critical.  It calms the brain and makes the other person more open and flexible to comfort, reassurance, problem solving and redirection.”

Steps to Emotion Coaching


Dr. Lafrance asserts that “the first skill of emotion coaching is to validate. You can do so by transforming “BUT” to “BECAUSE.” For example, your mentee shares they feel sad about missing out on fun after-school events since COVID. Rather than responding “I can understand why you might feel sad but things will eventually get back to normal,” imagine why it would make sense for them to feel sad and then convey your understanding using the word “because” “I can understand why you might feel sad because you know you’re going to miss out on the fun.”

Validating your mentee’s emotional experience – even if you don’t personally agree – will have a calming effect. In fact, Dr. Lafrance states “validation is most effective when it involves at least three “becauses.”

“I can understand why you might feel sad

  • because you know you’re going to miss out on the fun;
  • because you were really looking forward to this;
  • because you don’t know when you’ll have another opportunity”.


Offer emotional support by responding thoughtfully to your mentee’s emotions.  Help them communicate what they need.

Problem Solve

Only after you’ve validated and offered emotional support do you then support your mentee practically.  Together, identify the issue, list possible solutions, select the best option.

A very special thanks to Kelly Coulter, LPC, for presenting this valuable information at our Seedling Mentor October Training.  To view her PP slides, click here. As always please reach out to your Mentor Director for questions and support.

This Brief Model of Emotion Coaching, is from the website,

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