Key Findings

counsellors competences

Background and aims

Nearly all adult guidance practitioners in the Netherlands have experience in education and/or reintegration practices. However, there are no formal criteria for guidance practitioners and thus a great divergence in quality between various service points. These differences are evident in the Dutch GOAL pilot organisations, which deploy people in a variety of job roles to conduct the Literacy Screeners. No specific targets have been formulated in the Dutch GOAL pilot with respect to counsellor competences, because the intervention consists of a brief screening and referral.

Counselling activities

The programme staff members have other main tasks in the Netherlands and have integrated the GOAL intervention (conducting the Literacy Screener, discussing the findings and referral to a language course) therein.  They consider that the brief intervention can be embedded well in their regular activities.

Defining competences

The main competences programme staff members need to have to administer the Literacy Screener and to discuss the outcome are primarily in the area of social skills and (motivational) speaking techniques. Discussing the outcome of the Literacy Screener can be seen as the most difficult part of the Dutch GOAL intervention, because low literacy is a sensitive subject that is often accompanied by shame and avoidance. Empathy, creating trust and conducting the interview on the basis of alternatives and possibilities are therefore essential.

Achieving high standards of counselling competence

The client satisfaction survey shows a (very) positive image of the performance of the counsellor.  It should be noted here that 43 per cent of the clients received assistance in completing the client satisfaction surveys, which may have influenced the answers due to social pressure.

The opinions of the participants are somewhat more divided in two areas: the extent to which the client manager knows what the client wants and the extent to which the client manager has provided useful information. This is perhaps related to the fact that, in the experience of the municipality of Emmen, many clients do not agree with the result from the Literacy Screener.  

Challenges and barriers

A possible challenge for programme staff members is to incorporate the Literacy Screener in their regular work process.  All four pilot organisations have succeeded in this, of whom three deploy unpaid workers (volunteers or trainees) to administer the Literacy Screener. This requires proper guidance in order to deliver high quality service, in particular when discussing a poor outcome on the Literacy Screener. The fact that many clients at the municipality of Emmen do not agree to the outcome of the Literacy Screener and do not wish to participate in a Language Course, does suggest that programme staff members may have trouble conducting the meeting regarding the outcome of the Literacy Screener in an appropriate manner.



"GOAL interview: a client came to discuss a program for validation of employability skills, in which she is going to participate."

"In-house discussions with other counsellors and project managers on an unexpected issue with a student. We tried to solve the issue together. We had to contact another school."


“Presentation for unemployed people about possibilities to get involved into the Goal project and get free of charge orientation and guidance.”

“Orientation and guidance of adult people. 2 clients are consulted: they are unemployed and have plans for learning a new profession in order to find a job.“


“The prison population and educational needs of the detainees are far from homogeneous.”

 “Usually, there are 6 to 8 detainees at a time, each with an individual program. I guide them. The guidance can be focused on basic education, vocational education or specific courses detainees are taking at that time”


"Working with clients gives me energy and brings me joy, because between individual sessions I can see progress, changes, new beliefs, enrolment in education programmes and I can build good relationships with my clients."


"The feeling that I do a lot of good for my clients is priceless."

Czech Republic
Czech Republic

“At the start of every session, counsellors try to gather information about the client, his or her position within the family and wider friendship circles, and his or her health. They also explore the client’s feelings, ideas and motivation.”

“Based on the client’s answers, the counsellor selects ways to proceed in order to meet the client’s needs and goals.”


"All information, agreements made and steps taken during sessions are written down in the registration system"

“Even the names of persons clients have been talking about are registered in order to remember the whole communication line and, more importantly, to avoid them having to say things twice. It creates a sense of trust with our clients.”


from clients, counsellors and stakeholders


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