Most countries had a range of pre-existing tools to draw on when developing the counselling instruments that would work best with clients in their target groups. Very few challenges were reported by the teams in any of the stages that occurred when optimising the tools: successful mapping exercises were carried out; the relevant tools were adapted and applied in the field; and counsellors were able to acquire the skills they needed to use the tools to the best effect.
Where teams did encounter challenges, these were primarily related to the complexities of working with the vulnerable and hard-to-reach cohorts targeted by GOAL. Working successfully with immigrants for example, may require programme staff to have access to quality translation services. Collecting data from clients with low levels of education can be a complex process. Although the process of collecting monitoring data, and other data, from clients, was generally successful, and indeed was ultimately felt to have enhanced rather than detracted from the work of the counsellor, there were some barriers to integrating work on the GOAL project with the existing processes in some organisations. A clear example of this is the challenges the team from the Netherlands experienced in getting organisations to commit to using the Literacy Screener.
Overall the six programme teams were successful in their aims of developing and using tools to improve the quality of guidance. Seven themes emerge from the national findings on this process:
- Not every tool is right for every counsellor with every client: effective use of tools involves the selection of the right tool for the individual client-counsellor relationship.
- The process of collecting monitoring data on clients can serve as an effective tool for structuring and developing counselling sessions.
- No strong need to develop counselling tools from scratch emerges: it is feasible to develop effective tools for the target group from existing resources.
- Selecting which existing tools are best suited to the target group starts with a mapping exercise which at its most rigorous will involve close evaluation by experienced counselling staff.
- The range of tools included in the mapping exercise, and the range of expertise involved in their development, is broadened and enhanced where collaborative working practices such as method groups are employed, with consultation across a number of policy and geographic areas.
- The use of social media can be a powerful tool, enabling more frequent, informal contact between the counsellor and client, with the aim of keeping the client active in the counselling process.
- The definition of counselling tools should include tools such as manuals and flowcharts that support the work of the counsellor.
What emerges strongly from the national findings is that: a) counsellors require a toolkit of resources to support counselling, and this toolkit needs to contain instruments that support every stage of the counselling journey; b) from this toolkit, what clients need is a bespoke service with the tools that best serve their individual needs selected by a counsellor whose competences mean they have the knowledge, expertise, and sensitivity to choose and to use the tools. For the target group it is especially important that: a) the range of tools include those that are able to uncover the psychological factors that underpin the client’s situation; b) that the tools enable the client to be an active participant in the guidance process.