Preventive Counselling Assistance in Slovenia


Using knowledge acquired from the Professional Centre for Children and Adolescents with Emotional and Behavioural Problems and Disorders project in the institution’s legislation and regular activities: From Pre-Placement Treatment to Preventive Counselling Assistance.

What were the main aims of the initiative?

The programme was created in response to observations of the needs of parents who have problems with their children’s upbringing and education and find it difficult to manage them. Children and adolescents manifest these problems through behaviour and emotions, but they have not yet escalated to the point where placement in an institution is necessary. Placement in an educational institution seems to become less and less appealing to both parents and their children until the problems become completely unmanageable in the home environment. The child can therefore become less and less successful at school, be in ever-increasing conflicts with parents and authorities and, last but not least, fall into bad society, drugs and criminal acts. The goal of the programme was to achieve a change in the thinking and behaviour of family members (parents and children) through counselling, with fewer activities and without placement in an institution. The counselling will ultimately lead to a reduction in the child’s or adolescent’s emotional and behavioural problems and disorders.

Location, Setting, Scope, Key Events etc.

The ‘Pre-Placement Treatments’ programme was implemented by the Logatec Institute of Education in 2017–2019 as part of the European Social Fund (ESF) project ‘Professional Centre for Children and Adolescents with Emotional and Behavioural Problems and Disorders’. The institute implemented the programme for young people and their families from all over Slovenia. On completion of the project, the programme became part of the regular range of tasks of the institution’s counselling service and was eventually renamed ‘Preventive Counselling Assistance’.

Issues Addressed
What issues/challenges does the example address?

The programme affects the family and thus the country’s social and educational policy.

The ‘Pre-Placement Treatment’ programme was primarily aimed at children and adolescents with emotional and behavioural disorders and their families:

  • children/adolescents who face various problems growing up and exhibit emotional and behavioural disorders, e.g. disregard for parents, various forms of chemical and non-chemical addictions, excessive suggestibility, committing crimes and misdemeanours, manipulativeness, dropping out of school, problems in relation to authorities, aggressive behaviour, inappropriate expression of needs, inappropriate forms of communication, self-injurious behaviour, etc.;
  • parents/guardians and children/adolescents who are facing problems in mutual relationships;
  • parents/guardians who need guidance and help in unifying educational styles and managing children/adolescents;
  • young people who believe that they have problems in their relationship with their parents/guardians or teachers which they do not know how to solve themselves.

The target group is therefore primarily children/adolescents with emotional and behavioural problems and their parents/guardians. If necessary, other persons important to the child could be included in the programme.

The goal of the programme is to achieve a change in the thinking and behaviour of family members (parents and the involved child) through counselling, with fewer activities and without placement in an institution. The counselling will consequently lead to a reduction in the child’s or adolescent’s emotional and behavioural problems and disorders.

How was the initiative implemented?

The consulting programme was implemented to meet needs that professionals have been aware of for a long time. In the past, parents and representatives from the Centre for Social Work have turned to the institution for help. The counselling provided at that time was effective in most cases, and the treatment of the young person was relatively short-term compared to long-term placement.

If adolescents and parents receive an appropriate explanation, direction and reflection of what is happening in the family at the right time, it significantly reduces the probability that the problems will require institutionalisation and/or court proceedings. For young people on the verge of behaviour that could lead to more serious actions, this treatment, carried out in an educational institution, can provide enough pressure and be sobering enough for them to really participate in the treatment or to start regulating their behaviour if they have decided to stay in their home environment. Of course, this applies to cases in which delinquent or addictive behaviour has not yet reached a critical stage and has not yet become too entrenched.

The institution assessed that it would make sense to offer this type of help at the national level to teenagers and their parents who find themselves in difficulties. In Slovenia, access to counselling is limited by long waiting times and infrequent treatments, while adolescents and their parents need help and counselling immediately. The advantage of this programme is therefore in the specialisation of the professionals who carry out the treatment, who have many years of educational and consulting practice and experience working in an educational institution. During work in this area, professionals also learnt about the legislative regulation of the treatment of juvenile offenders and their causal connections and consequences. With this knowledge, parents and young people also trust them more, as they understand the actual situation in Slovenia.


How was the initiative/policy implemented?

The knowledge gained within the project proved to be sufficiently effective and recognised as an adequate way to fill gaps in the process of dealing with children and adolescents with emotional and behavioural problems or disorders and their families. Preventive activities ensure earlier detection and provide help and support to children, as well as continuity of professional assistance. Thus, these contents also found their place in the legislation.

Who worked on and sustained the initiative/policy (key partnerships)?

The institution carried out the activity as part of the Professional Centre for the Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Emotional and Behavioural Problems and Disorders project, which was co-financed by the Republic of Slovenia (Ministry of Education, Science and Sport) and the European Union, as part of the European Social Fund’s Operational Programme for the Implementation of Cohesion Policy 2014-2020. It is a partner in a consortium of six Slovenian educational institutes and youth centres in the western Slovenian region (Youth Center Jarše, Educational Institute Višnja Gora, Educational Institute Fran Milčinski, Smlednik, Youth Center Malči Beličeve and Educational Institute Kranj).

When did the initiative/change/policy development take place 

2017–2019 – project

21 August 2019 – submitted a proposal for ZOOMTVI admission

Until 15 September 2019 – it was possible to submit comments, opinions, suggestions

17 December 2020 – the Act on the Intervention for Children and Youth with Emotional and Behavioural Disorders in Education (ZOOMTVI) was adopted

13 January 2021 – the Act on the Intervention for Children and Youth with Emotional and Behavioural Disorders in Education entered into force

17 March 2022 – Adopted educational programme for raising and educating children with emotional and behavioural problems and disorders at the Institute of Education of the Republic of Slovenia

Key Outcomes & Impact
What where the key outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?

Key findings:

  • Everyone involved in counselling started to deal with their problems, to understand them better and to face them actively.
  • Families included in the programme had the opportunity to talk about problems in a professional and rational way.
  • When counselling was not sufficient, the transition to an institutionalised form of assistance (placement in an institution) was less stressful for both the child and the family. There was no resistance to being placed in the institution.
  • When designing the way of working with children/adolescents and families, the options are more flexible, adapted to the individual case and, as such, more effective.


  • How to frame the way of working
  • How to present the work externally
  • How to distinguish between what is successful and what is unsuccessful and when it makes sense to implement placement in an institution
  • How to ensure quality and a consulting service that is as efficient as possible
  • How to find the sources of problems and respond to them with quality.

Lessons learned:

  • Working in pairs or in a team, in addition to bringing much greater expertise and insight into the child’s situation, also means time rationalisation: in a shorter time, better quality movements occur in the child and faster identification of the actual problem.
  • Compared to other counselling centres, the institution responds quickly, the waiting time is very short and flexible, and it also carries out home visits in agreement with the parents, school visits, social work centre teams, psychological diagnostics, etc.
Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?

An evaluation process took place at the same time as the project implementation. The evaluation was carried out by Dr Alenka Kobolt, Ph.D., Nataša Zrim Martinjak (Faculty of Pedagogy in Ljubljana, Department of Social Pedagogy) and Dr Antonija Žižak (University of Zagreb Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Science, ERF Department of Behaviour Disorders).

Future Developments / Sustainability
Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?

The ‘Pre-Placement Intervention’ is now included in the institute’s regular activity. Since this designation somehow referred too much to placement in an institution, it was renamed ‘Preventive Counselling Assistance’. This name emphasises prevention and the establishment of conditions which encourage the activation of the power of individuals and families so that children/adolescents remain in their home environment and, with (external) help, overcome the problems and challenges they face.

Activities include working with children and their families, as well as co-operating with schools, social work centres and other institutions. Prior to or at the introductory meeting with the social worker and two psychologists, they obtain key information as to why families want to join the programme. At this initial meeting they articulate the challenge, set the objectives for treatments, make a plan for assessing progress, and sign the necessary consents. The institution continues to work in case-specific teams to ensure objectivity and plurality of perspectives, leading to a greater range of possible interventions. The different personal and professional backgrounds allow staff to gain insight into different dimensions and perspectives of the problem. Considering that different people require different approaches, they can adapt to what is important and valuable both for families and for the staff. The sessions are mostly held at the institution, but they also visit families in their home environment. If necessary, staff attend meetings at schools, social work centres, or co‑operate with other institutions.

In its work, the institution has observed a large increase in the co-occurrence of disorders in children and adolescents, which manifests itself with associated aggressive behaviour, various forms of addiction, neurological and developmental and anxiety disorders, etc. In its work, the institution always recognises the need for multidisciplinary co-operation and believes that, in the future, multidisciplinary work and interdepartmental co-ordination will also be necessary at the state level (health, social care, education).

At the national level, guidelines/protocols for operating mobile teams are now being developed.