Heron’s Six Categories of Intervention


In my role I am exposed to a wide range of mentoring and coaching models but I wonder how many strategies are deployed within organisations that have mentors other than “oh, if you need help go to Dave or Davina”. Dave or Davina often only supporting their mentee through instruction or advice, that is often gained through the Mentee’s prior knowledge or experience, these strategies are limiting in the fact that they do not support the mentee to develop their own support mechanisms and practice. Heron defines two categories that are broken down into separate interventions:


  • Prescriptive: Giving advice and direction.
    • Give advice and guidance
    • Inform of expected behaviour
    • Tell them what to do
  • Informative: Information for guidance and instruction
    • Give your view and experience
    • Give the background and principles
    • Help gain a better understanding
  • Confronting: Challenges attitudes and behaviours, which they may not even be aware of.
    • Challenge thinking, ask for justification or rationale
    • Mirror them, words, tone, body language
    • Tell them what you think is holding them back
    • Help them avoid making the same mistake again
    • give different options, perspectives


  • Cathartic: Support to express and overcome thoughts or emotions that have not been dealt with.
    • Help them express their feelings or fears
    • Empathize with them, but do not side
  • Catalytic: Helped to reflect, discover, and learn for themselves. Moving towards self-actualisation that supports self-directed decision making and solving problems.
    • Ask questions to encourage fresh thinking
    • Encourage the other person to generate new options and solutions
    • Prompt progression of discussion
    • Listen (80%) and summarize, and listen some more
  • Supportive: Building confidence by focusing competences, qualities, and achievements.
    • Tell the other person they are valued (their contribution, good intention or achievements)
    • Praise them
    • Show them they have your support and commitment
    • Be honest

Are you a Mentor or a Mentee? What strategies does your organisation utilise? Could you not use these with your own learners?