Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Mentoring-Psychological aspects, Creative ability, Informal mentor, Third space, Creative growth, Generativity, Protege, Theoretical


This theoretical thesis endeavors to explore the unconscious benefits accrued by the mentor in informal mentoring relationships. It focuses on a significant gap in the theoretical and empirical literature by identifying and describing the potential benefit for the mentor beyond Erikson's (1950) notion of generativity within his framework of psychosocial development. This thesis employs both Drive Theory and Object Relations Theories in order to conceptualize a more dynamic understanding of why the mentor might invest energy and time as a participant in an informal mentoring relationship. Both Drive and Object Relations Theories are used to explore the hypothesized three-part relationship trajectory. The study identifies the potential for the most robust creative growth in the second stage of the mentoring relationship. I posit that it is within this stage that the mentor has the potential to gain deeper self-knowledge and selfexpression as a result of the creative play that characterizes this portion of the trajectory. This theoretical framework is then applied to a case study of correspondences between a student and his teacher over the course of 30 years in the memoir The Calculus of Friendship by Steve Strogatz. This analysis is premised on a belief that adult development is a dynamic process and is often intersubjective in nature. It recognizes the importance of understanding complexity within the Third Space of relationships as an essential part of understanding the deeper and unconscious meaning behind adult relationships. Echoing Winnicott's notion of the caregiver/infant dyad and coupled with Freud's conceptualization of unconscious drive, the thesis suggests that in order to understand the proven empirical benefits of mentoring for the protégé, both individuals within the dyad—together with the Third Space they co-create—must be understood in a more nuanced manner than that which is currently articulated within the literature. Moreover, this thesis endeavors to honor a core ethical principle of the profession of social work: to value human relationships.




iii, 129 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 121-129)