What is Positive Behaviour Support



Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) is about working in partnership with people, treating them with dignity and respect and enabling them have a better life.


All behaviours have a meaning. Positive Behaviour Support aims to understand what behaviours that challenge tell us, so that the person’s needs can be met in better ways. The way the person is supported often has to change to achieve this and this needs to be regularly reviewed by all the people involved. Positive Behaviour Support is an approach that puts the person at the centre to make systems work for the person.


What is Challenging Behaviour?

All behaviour happens for a reason and challenging behaviour is no different. Challenging behaviour makes life more difficult for the person doing it and those around them. Challenging behaviour takes many forms; it might involve someone hurting themselves, hurting other people, being aggressive or anything else that has a serious impact on an individual’s day-to-day life.


Often this is dealt with by using temporary solutions - short term fixes - that don't actually address why the behaviour is happening, they may make the behaviour worse and they can have a significant impact on quality of life.


What is Positive Behaviour Support?

Some people prefer to call it Positive Behavioural Support to remind us of the important fact that it comes from the scientific understanding of behaviour. You may hear people call it Positive Behaviour Support and it is usually called PBS for short.


Although challenging behaviours can be difficult and distressing for all, they are often the most effective way an individual currently has to get their needs met. PBS aims to find the meaning behind a person's behaviour and then help them to find other ways to achieve what they want.


PBS is a framework for working out why challenging behaviour gets a person's needs met, and then finding better ways for this to happen. PBS uses the techniques of Applied Behavioural Analysis guided by a strong values base and delivered in person-centred ways; that means around the individual and their unique needs.


Why is the Challenging Behaviour Happening? 

In working out why there is challenging behaviour, PBS specialists involve the person, their carers, their family and the staff who support them. Working together, they use scientific ways of collecting information to understand what the purpose of the behaviour is. As part of this, they will check whether the person had health problems that were causing them pain or discomfort. Once they know the ‘why’, they use the information and data to design a Positive Behaviour Support plan.


A PBS plan will be different for each person and will be based on what we think the behaviour means. It means that everybody knows the best way to work together to support the person. The main part of the plan will include some strategies for avoiding things that distress the person as well as plans to teach them better and less harmful ways of getting their needs met. It usually involves teaching someone new skills so they can do more things for themselves or some better ways to communicate.


It may have plans to teach them coping strategies so they can learn to cope better in the future with situations that are difficult for them. It will also have some ideas to support the person if they do start to become upset. These are things that help to make them feel better at the time.


The plan will also have clear guidance so everybody knows what to do if things become unsafe for the person, or others around them. These strategies will only be used if absolutely necessary to keep everybody safe at that time. A PBS plan will also have ideas to improve the person's everyday life and feelings of well being.


Information will be collected over a set period of time to see if the plan is working. Hopefully, the quality of life for the person will be improving, if it isn't, the specialist will try and find out why.


Why should we use PBS?

It's estimated that less than 20% of those who would benefit from this type of support are actually receiving it. Many believe PBS is the most ethical form of support for people displaying challenging behaviours. It has a growing evidence base that it works.

There are ten key components of PBS, divided into values, theory and process (how it actually works).

  1. It’s about improving the quality of life of the person and of those around them.

  2. It works by developing and building skills and not by punishing people or behaviour.

  3. Practitioners work in partnership with the person and those people who are important to them.

  4. All behaviour is for a reason and challenging behaviour is no different.

  5. PBS primarily uses Applied Behavioural Analysis to describe, predict and change behaviour.

  6. Other complementary evidence-based approaches may be included in PBS plans, such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and other psychological therapies, where these support changes in behaviour.

  7. PBS uses decisions based on facts and research, not opinions or hear-say.

  8. A formal assessment is made to create a clear, structured plan of action – what practitioners do is directly informed by what they know about the individual.

  9. A PBS plan should tell people what to do to proactively prevent the challenging behaviour from happening and manage it well re actively if it does.

  10. Above all it should make sure people are actively supported over the long term to maintain their quality of life.

PBS has been shown to help people with a wide range of needs and to cover a wide range of behaviours. It is an evidence based approach. By using PBS we believe we’ve found a better way for the individual, for families, for carers and for those who provide services.

PBS is a respectful and ethical approach and supports people’s dignity.


We support people to bring about positive change through a range of therapeutic supports. Our practitioners work with you to improve your outlook, relationships and quality of life. We do this by working with you and your support team and providing guidance, support and assistance with a range of services, including; communication, behaviour support, counselling and training. Find out more here.

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