Inventory of Counselling Competence in Social Work

An Inventory of Counselling Competence (IBK), developed at BFH, enables social workers to self-assess their counselling skills in five areas and rate themselves alongside other professionals.


  • Lead school School of Social Work
  • Institute Institute for Organisation and Social Service Management
    Institute for Counselling, Mediation, Supervision
  • Duration 01.01.2017 - 31.12.2019
  • Project management Simon Steger
  • Head of project Simon Steger
  • Project staff David Lätsch
  • Keywords Counselling, Competence, Measuring instrument


Counselling people who find themselves in challenging circumstances is one of the key tasks of social work. In the German-speaking countries, however, there are few tools to empirically record counselling skills. Yet these are needed in order to explore how the counselling strengths and weaknesses of social workers relate to the impact of their professional actions, to determine or establish the need for further training and to see how social workers’ counselling skills relate to their job satisfaction and professional commitment.


An online self-assessment tool has been developed to evaluate counselling skills – a tool for self-reflective quality development.


The tool is based on the Practice Skills Inventory (PSI), which has been adapted and refined for the German-speaking context. The inventory is based on the self-assessments of a random sample of 490 social workers who provide professional counselling in a range of fields. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were carried out.


The Inventory of Counselling Competence (IBK) developed at BFH divides counselling skills into five areas:

  1. Emotional support in order to establish a trusting and empathetic working relationship with clients.
  2. Clarification support in order to assist clients on the basis of a subjective interpretation of their situation, their values and objectives.
  3. Solution support in order to help clients transform a problematic current situation into a desirable target situation.
  4. Coping support, assisting clients in a difficult situation in their lives as they strive for emotional balance.
  5. Networking in order to coordinate the network of those involved and communicate the relevant information to the clients.

The Inventory provides social workers with a tool that allows them to assess their own counselling skills in next to no time. Professionals can determine how competent they feel carrying out various counselling activities in their professional capacity. At the end, they have the opportunity to compare themselves with the participants in the study. The tool is used in continuing education and is also available to social services and counselling centres.