Counselling Self Estimate Inventory (COSE)

The Counselling Self Estimate Inventory (COSE) is a 37-item self-report questionnaire designed to measure a clinician’s self-efficacy. It is appropriate for use with psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, trainees in these disciplines, and other mental health clinicians engaged in therapy with clients.

The COSE measures five areas of counselling self-efficacy:

  1. performance of micro skills
  2. developing an awareness of the process
  3. working with challenging clients
  4. developing cultural competence
  5. awareness of self-values

The COSE can be used to help clinicians engage in reflective practice or in the context of supervision to start a discussion around professional confidence and areas to focus on for skills development. Although the COSE is not a direct measure of counselling skills, it does measure self-perception and confidence in the ability to provide counselling.

In the context of supervision and/or training it can be helpful to administer the scale longitudinally, for example 6 months apart, to assess any change in confidence over time.

Clinician self-efficacy is an avenue through which counselling skills are learned as it enhances the ability to persevere when challenged and allows greater incorporation of critical feedback (Barnes, 2004). Based on this orientation, clinicians with higher levels of self-efficacy may put greater effort into skill development, as they have confidence in their ability to be successful. Counselling self-efficacy is essential to actual skill development (Stoltenberg, McNeill, & Delworth, 1998). Research has shown that practice and feedback on practice have an impact on self-efficacy, such that positive experiences enhance counsellor self-efficacy, which leads to greater problem solving (Daniels & Larson, 2001). Without development of self-efficacy and confidence, clinicians can struggle with basic skill development.

Psychometric Properties

The COSE has become one of the most widely used, psychometrically sound instruments measuring counsellor’s feelings of counselling skills (Larson & Daniels, 1998). It has been used in many empirical studies and a variety of countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Malaysia, Canada, Germany, Philippines, South Africa, Japan, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the USA.

Construct validity has been demonstrated through factor analyses, which resulted in the current five-factor model (Larson & Daniels, 1998). The COSE has sound psychometric properties, with a Cronbach’s alpha of .92 – .93 (Larson et al., 1992; Meyer, 2015) and test–retest reliability of .83 over a 3-week period (Larson et al., 1992).

Li et al. (2018) provided normative data from a sample of masters level counselling students, with the following means and standard deviations.

  • Total Score – Mean 4.46 SD 0.68
  • Micro-skills – Mean 4.69 SD 0.71
  • Counselling Process – Mean 4.25 SD 0.80
  • Dealing With Difficult Client Behaviours – Mean 4.15 SD 0.94
  • Cultural Competence – Mean 4.76 SD 0.83
  • Awareness of Values – Mean 4.53 SD 0.83

Scoring and Interpretation

A total average score is calculated to reflect one’s general counselling self-efficacy with a higher score representing a higher degree of confidence in one’s counselling skills. Possible average scores range from 1 to 6 and are calculated by summing responses divided by the number of items in the scale.

Percentiles are also presented for the total score and each subscale, calculated in comparison to a sample of masters level counselling students (Li et al., 2018). Interpretation of scores using percentiles can be helpful to contextualise results in comparison to typical patterns of responding. A percentile of 50 represents an average response in comparison to counselling trainees. There is no normative data available for experienced professionals.

Subscale average scores are calculated to determine self-efficacy in the five counselling skills areas:

  1. Micro-skills (Items 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 32, 34). The counsellor’s confidence that they can effectively perform counselling skills such as active listening, conceptualising client problems, and appropriately ending sessions.
  2. Counselling Process (Items 6, 9, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 31, 33). The counsellor’s confidence in their perception of therapeutic alliance, their own communication, their interpretation of client responses, and their assessment of important client issues.
  3. Dealing With Difficult Client Behaviours (Items 15, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28). The counsellor’s confidence in dealing with clients who lack motivation, in dealing with crisis situations, or in dealing with noncommittal or indecisive clients.
  4. Cultural Competence (Items 29, 30, 36, 37). The counsellor’s confidence in their ability to help clients from various cultural backgrounds.
  5. Awareness of Values (Items 2, 7, 13, 35). The counsellor’s awareness of their own values and biases and their confidence that they won’t let these interfere with the counselling process.

High total COSE scores have been shown to have a strong positive correlation with self-esteem, competence in problem solving effectiveness, more positive expectations of client outcome, and execution of counselling micro skills.

Particularly high scores (above 5) in the context of training or supervision may be indicative of overconfidence, defensiveness, nervousness about unfavourable supervisor evaluation or concern that the scale is being used as a measure of professional competence. It is therefore important to interpret results in light of the trust established between assessor and respondent and the context in which it was administered.

Moderate scores (between 3 and 5) are associated with therapists who are likely to be open to critical feedback (from clients or supervisor). These scores are indicative of a clinician who has healthy confidence and is likely to persevere when challenged.

Low scores may be indicative of someone who has struggled with their skill development or who has pervasive difficulties with confidence. People who score very low (2 or less) many experience constructive feedback (from supervisor or client) as demoralising. The COSE negatively correlates with state and trait anxiety (Larson et al., 1992).

Easton et al. (2008) examined the relationship between counsellor self-efficacy, emotional intelligence and judgment. Results demonstrated that all five COSE subscales were related to awareness and identification of emotions, use of emotion in problem solving, and use of emotion in adaptation.

When interpreting COSE results it may be helpful to also administer the Professional Self Doubt Scale, which measures a related construct.

Nineteen of the items (2, 6, 7, 9, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 31, 33, 35, 36, & 37) are reverse coded.


Larson, L. M., & Suzuki, L. A. (1992). Development and Validation of the Counseling Self-Estimate Inventory. Journal of Counseling Psychology; Washington, 39(1), 105–105.


Barnes, K. L. (2004). Applying self-efficacy theory to counselor training and supervision: A comparison of two approaches. Counselor Education and Supervision, 44, 56–69.

Daniels, J. A., & Larson, L. M. (2001). The impact of performance feedback on counseling self-efficacy and counselor anxiety. Counselor Education and Supervision, 41, 120–130.

Easton, C., Martin, W. E., & Wilson, S. (2008). Counselor prepa-ration. Emotional intelligence and implications for counseling self-efficacy: Phase II. Counselor Education and Supervision, 47, 218–232.

Larson, L. M., & Daniels, J. A. (1998). Review of the counseling self-efficacy literature. The Counseling Psychologist, 26, 179–218.

Li, C., Lu, J., Bernstein, B., & Bang, N. M. (2018). Counseling Self-Efficacy of International Counseling Students in the U.S.: the Impact of Foreign Language Anxiety and Acculturation. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling; The Hague, 40(3), 267–278.

Meyer, J. M. (2015). counselling Self-Efficacy: On-Campus and Distance Education Students. Rehabilitation counselling Bulletin, 58(3), 165–172.