Competency-Based Training and Assessment of Listening Skills: A Waitlist-Controlled Study in European Telephone Emergency Services
Background: Telephone emergency services (TES) provide an essential part of suicide prevention and emotional support services across different health care settings. TES are usually provided by paraprofessional counselors, who need specific training in listening skills to meet the demands of callers. Method: This project developed a competency-based training for listening skills which was then evaluated in a randomized controlled waitlist study across four EU countries (Germany, Hungary, Italy, and the Netherlands). Each country provided one training group and one waitlist group. Across countries, a total of 71 (trained: n = 36, waiting: n = 35) counselor trainees were assessed in a standardized, simulated emergency call with an actor client either before or after training participation. Calls were audiotaped and competencies in listening skills were evaluated by external raters using a standardized rating form. Results: Trained counselors showed significantly better listening skills than participants from the waitlist condition. Conclusion: Results provide support for the efficacy of a competency-based training for listening skills in the field of TES across Europe. Furthermore, results demonstrated that a standardized competency-based assessment with an actor client is suitable to assess listening skills.