Unit 2 – Basic Clearing

Basic Clearing is an assessment tool to obtain a holistic overview of a person’s life situation and to see where and to what extent there is a need for support in relation to a specific goal.

Basic Clearing can be a starting point for the counselling approach of EJO4Youth or it can also be used to learn more about the achievement of personal aims. People can visualise very clearly in which areas of life they feel safe and in which they do not, in relation to their goal.

With this intervention, people can also work out initial ideas for possible solutions, or if there are indications of topics for further needs or interests to clarify. This might be supported through the other interventions of the EJO4Youth approach, detailed in the upcoming units.


Learners know how to:

  • explain the benefits and name the goal of working with “Basic Clearing”
  • describe the methodology and to work efficiently with the “Basic Clearing” concept
  • work independently with their clients on goal clarification
  • use the material to guide their clients through this important first step of the counselling process


Learners are able to:

  • act independently to help their clients define their individual goals by encouraging them to choose symbols for the relevant aspects
  • support the client in developing an action plan
  • conduct the counselling interview independently, to be able to determine together with the client the level of counselling required after the “Basic Clearing”


Learners have the competence to:

  • independently prepare and structure the “Basic Clearing Process” in order to guide clients through this process professionally using the material
  • actively initiate sessions with other practitioners/colleagues to practice the method, to exchange experiences and to inform each other about results.

Basic Clearing

For Basic Clearing you need various materials, as listed below. For the session, the practitioner and client work with different areas of their life, as well as a “What else?” section to cover any issues which might not be part of the other categories. 

With these areas on one workpad, the practitioner and client work together to establish a visualisation of the client’s life and current situation and thus, how the client might improve or change it. 

The materials


The work pad is structured like an atom, with a goal at the center and relevant aspects of the person’s live surrounding it. These relevant aspects of life can be adapted to the client’s situation.

It is also possible to write the goal and the aspects of life on round papers. In the counselling session on the following picture, the client experienced the flexibility with the moving areas of life as very pleasant, as she could also make changes in the arrangement. The new arrangement was very helpful in developing the solution ideas.


For the Basic Clearing method, you will need a set of symbols. We recommend a set of approximately 200 symbols to allow the client to choose more freely and find a good representing symbol for their interpretation. You can refer to the list of possible symbols you received in Unit 1.

3 different sticks

3 different sticks with the meaning of “solid ground”, “thick ice”, and “thin ice”.

  • Solid ground (wooden stick): Feeling stable and safe.
  • Thick ice (white stick): Feeling somewhat stable and safe but some areas are unsure.
  • Thin ice (transparent stick): Very unsure of the area.

Relevant aspects are:

  • Living
  • Support
  • Health
  • Education and training
  • Work/ volunteer experience
  • What else?

As a rule, we determine six relevant aspects with the client. Please always use the aspect ‘what else?’ as this is often used to refer to special and important things or things not covered in the 6 aspects.

Some aspects need to be explained: for example “living” stands for:

  • How satisfied are you with your housing situation?
  • How reliable and predictable is it?

The area of “Support” refers to support from family, friends, the support system or other people in your private or professional life.

Process of counselling with the Basic Clearing

  1. Presentation
  2. Factual questions
  3. Perception
  4. Interpretation
  5. Action Plan and agreement


The EJO4Youth practitioner explains the intervention to the client:

  • the idea of the counselling interventions
  • the materials to be used
  • the counselling steps

This allows for the client to feel more comfortable and in control of what is happening, as they also know what the steps of the session are.

Goal setting

The client discloses his aim to the practitioner. This should be something they want to realise about themselves or a goal they want to achieve.

Once set, the client chooses one or more symbols for their aim and they put the chosen symbols in the centre of the workpad. In some cases, the practitioner and the client may need to clarify or reformulate this goal if it is too unclear, unachievable, or not appropriate.

The goal should be a clear sentence, and should not be a long explanation of what they want to achieve.

Choosing symbols for each aspect

After setting the goal, the client is asked to choose symbols for each aspect represented in the workpad. 

As the client works through the sheet they select symbols that they feel represent each of the areas on the page relevant to their own lives.

In some cases, clients may leave some areas without a symbol, which also gives certain meaning and shows how their life is organised or what situation they are in.

In this phase the practitioner (and the group) leave the client alone to think about the symbols and their meaning for them.

Preparation – Evaluating each aspect

To evaluate each area, the client is invited by the practitioner to assess their personal situation in each aspect of life. To make this visible, the client then chooses to lay pathways between each aspect with symbols and their goal, either solid ground, thick ice or thin ice.

  • Solid ground: “I feel stable and safe here; I stand on solid ground.”
  • Thick ice: “I feel somewhat stable and safe but I feel a little wobbly. The ground is somewhat slippery.”
  • Thin ice: “I am very shaky and the ice could break any minute.”

Since in some southern countries the image of “being on thin ice” is not common and clients do not understand the symbolism, project partners, in Spain, for example, work with 3 bridges of different stability instead of thick and thin ice.

  • Iron bridge: Solid ground.
  • Wooden bridge: Somewhat stable.
  • Rope bridge: This is very shaky…

Step 1 – Presentation

Once the client laid down all their symbols, they are asked to present the work to the practitioner. They can present the symbols, how they laid them out, anything they want to share about the symbols they have put onto the workpad.

The practitioner actively listens and does not interrupt or ask questions.

If done with a group of peer supporters, the group is asked to behave like the practitioner, actively listening and not interrupting the presentation.

Step 2 – Factual questions

Once the presentation is completed, the practitioner and the support group, if there is one, can ask factual questions. These factual questions should not include any interpretations but are clarifying general questions.

For example:

“What did you say about this symbol?” or

“I did not hear this clearly, could you please repeat it?”

Statements like

“I think this was more important to you because your voice got louder when presenting it.” or

“Did you get more nervous towards the end because you touched more symbols?” are not included in this step.

Step 3 – Perception

Once all questions are covered, the practitioner shares their perception of the client’s work and presentation.

These observations can be about

  • body language, for example, movements of the face or gestures,
  • pitch of the voice
  • actions, for example, interacting with a symbol.

This step should only include pure observations, for example,

“You touched this symbol when you explained this” and should not include interpretations, for example,

“When you explained this, you touched this symbol, which might mean it is more important to you than the others.”

Step 4 – Interpretation

After the perceptions are shared, the practitioner moves onto the interpretation.

During this step, the practitioner and the supporting group, if there is one, share their interpretations on the client’s work and presentation, as if talking to themselves.

The client’s task is just listening, not interrupting or explaining anything during this step. They can voice their agreement or disagreement with the said interpretation in the next step.

The group, together with the practitioner, is allowed to discuss their interpretation together during this stage, as long as they are talking to each other and not the client.

Step 5 – Action plan and agreement

Only afterwards, once the practitioner and supporting group is done, the client shares their agreement or disagreement, their surprise, or their realisation of something about themselves, with the others. They can also discuss points with the practitioner and supporting group if they are unsure about something or would like to discuss something further.

As a last step, the practitioner and client discuss the symbols and interpretation and should come to an agreement on the further actions to be done to achieve the goal which was set at the beginning of the session. This is done with the help of an action plan.

The action plan should set specific steps and actions and should be followed up on in the coming weeks by the client and the practitioner.

Have you completed all the content of this unit? Please take a moment to review. Done? Please proceed to Unit 3.
For any open questions, please consult the Resource tab or contact your course leader.