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Hello PsychPhys®️ community and potential PsychPhys®️ Participants! 

My name is Jacqui and I’m the Specialist Behaviour Practitioner at PsychPhys®️. With the growing number of referrals we are receiving for Behaviour Support, I thought I would take this opportunity to share my approach to behaviour support and my role at PsychPhys®️.

I have a background in social work, which is a profession I am enormously proud of.  Social workers almost always work from a strengths perspective, and I am no different! 

So what is a strengths-based approach, and how does it relate to Specialist Behaviour Support?

The underlying belief of strengths-based approaches is that all people have inherent strengths that they can draw from. 

Depending on which article or book you read, there are a number of principles that guide strengths-based approaches. The first is that every person has potential… 

…now, that sounds a bit vague, but hear me out… 

The “problem” with problem-solving approaches to Behaviour Support is that often we can become focused on everything that is wrong and all the ways an individual needs to change. 

With a strengths-based approach, we look at what each individual is good at; what their passions are; and who is in their support system. 

By rephrasing our questions and looking at what an individual is capable of, or their POTENTIAL, we are now looking at an individual in a more positive light. This is great for increasing self-esteem and confidence, as well as reducing the stigma and negative attitudes towards people with disabilities and mental health concerns.

Another key principle of strengths-based approaches is the use of labels and language. While a diagnosis of a mental illness or a disability can be really helpful in securing funding and getting the most effective help for yourself or loved one, labels can also be really stigmatising and limiting. 

It’s like saying “You’re an accountant. You can’t go fishing”. Well yes, they might be an accountant, but they also have the ability to go fishing.

An individual who has been diagnosed with Autism is not just “Autistic”, they are an individual with Autism Spectrum disorder (or ASD), and they have many other facets to them. This individual might be a great artist, be incredibly generous, or be able to remember the phone numbers of all their friends and family after only seeing them once. 

All individuals have the urge to succeed, to explore the world around them and to make themselves useful to others and their communities. 

Strengths-based approaches believe that change is inevitable, and that with authentic relationships that are based on unconditional positive regard, positive change will occur. 

What this means for Behaviour Support here at PsychPhys®️ is that when we begin supporting an individual, we don’t go in with the mindset of “fixing” them. 

“I firmly believe that no one inherently wants to behave “badly”, and that behaviours of concern serve as a form of communication.” 

Here’s an example of how we do Behaviour Support.

One of the behaviours of concern that we provide support around is physical aggression towards others. Sometimes this aggression comes out in the form of hitting, scratching or biting others  without notice.  

Using a strengths-based approach, our team supports individuals in order to understand why these behaviours occur and determine how we can support the management of these behaviours. 

Instead of asking ourselves “What can we do to fix this behaviour?”, we ask “What is this individual trying to communicate with this behaviour?”

The final characteristic of behaviour support using a strengths-based approach is that it is a life-long process that needs to start where an individual is at. What does this mean? 

It means that an individual who shows behaviours of concern is likely to have been behaving in this way for quite some time. 

Starting where the individual is at” basically means starting with what is known or familiar to the individual. I would not start working with an individual and completely change their routine straight off the bat. 

If their sleeping pattern is a problem, changing their bedtime by sending them to bed four hours before they were used to going to sleep would not be effective. Instead, we make slow incremental alterations to an individuals’ routine, potentially trialling moving their bedtime forward 30 minutes at a time. 

Behaviour support is a complex and lengthy process. It is really important to remember that change comes with trust, respect and time. 

Also remember to celebrate the small wins or positive changes in behaviour. They might seem like small changes to you, but they might be huge changes to another individual.

Written by Jacqui, PsychPhys®️ Specialist Behavioural Practitioner