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Protecting Caregiver Well-Being: Strategies for Positive Behaviour Support Practitioners 

By Alyssa Willis-Fink

Positive behaviour support (PBS) practitioners play a crucial role in assisting caregivers who support individuals with high-risk behaviours of concern. While the focus is often on implementing effective interventions for the individual, it’s equally important to prioritise the well-being of caregivers themselves. Constantly managing challenging behaviours can be emotionally and physically draining, leading to burnout and decreased effectiveness in providing care.

In this blog post, we’ll explore strategies PBS practitioners can employ to help caregivers protect their well-being while supporting participants with high-risk behaviours. 

1. Knowing why

Empower caregivers with knowledge and skills through comprehensive training programs. This looks like providing education to understand the function of challenging behaviours. When we can understand why a person is doing what they are1, we can often be more empathetic and remain calm when escalations occur, allowing for strategies to be utilised more effectively.

2. Develop individualised support plan

Work collaboratively with caregivers to develop personalised support plans and response strategies for participants with high-risk behaviours. Involve caregivers in the assessment process and encourage open communication to ensure their concerns and preferences are taken into account. The strategies included in the plan should feel achievable to the caregiver and support team. By tailoring support plans to meet the specific needs of both the participant and supports, PBS practitioners can help alleviate stress and promote a sense of control. 

3. Establish clear boundaries

Help caregivers establish clear boundaries to maintain their well-being. Encourage them to set realistic expectations for themselves and the participant, and to communicate these boundaries effectively. Assure caregivers that it’s okay to prioritise their own needs and seek support when necessary. By establishing boundaries, caregivers can prevent feelings of overwhelm and maintain a healthy balance in their lives.

4. Provide ongoing support and supervision

Offer continuous support and supervision to caregivers as they implement support plans. Regular check-ins, supervision sessions, and debriefings can provide opportunities for caregivers to express concerns, seek guidance, and receive feedback. Create a supportive environment where caregivers feel valued and appreciated for their efforts in supporting participants with high-risk behaviours. 

5. Encourage self-care practices

Stress the importance of self-care practices to caregivers and provide practical strategies for incorporating self-care into their daily routines. Encourage activities such as exercise, mindfulness, hobbies, and social connections that promote physical and emotional well-being. Remind caregivers that self-care is not selfish but essential for maintaining resilience and effectiveness in their caregiving roles. Having a self-care safety plan for the caregiver to implement when they are becoming heightened by escalation can help to promote the well-being of all parties. This safety plan will include easily accessible strategies to regulate the caregiver before they respond to the challenge. 

6. Promote positive relationships and support networks

Facilitate opportunities for caregivers to connect and share experiences, challenges, and successes. Peer support groups, online forums, and networking events can provide valuable emotional support and validation. Encourage caregivers to build positive relationships with other professionals involved in the care of the participant, fostering collaboration and a sense of community.

7. Address caregiver stress and burnout

Be vigilant for signs of caregiver stress and burnout, such as fatigue, irritability, and withdrawal. PBS practitioners can assess for caregiver burnout with tools such as parental burnout assessment and can advocate for the correct support. This may include advocating for access to respite services or additional funding for support workers, as well as encouraging caregivers to seek counselling or individualised support for well-being. It is important to remember, the burden associated with caring for a participant with high support needs is often in excess of what would typically be expected of a caregiver of a person of a similar age. Encourage caregivers to recognise their limits and seek assistance when needed. Here in Victoria, additional support might include Carers Gateway, Parent line and The Orange Door. 


In conclusion, positive behaviour support practitioners play a crucial role in helping caregivers protect their well-being while supporting participants with high-risk behaviours. By using the strategies discussed here, PBS practitioners can empower caregivers to thrive in their caregiving roles while maintaining their well-being. Together, we can create a supportive and sustainable environment where both caregivers and participants can flourish. 


Marder, A., & Cox, D. J. (2020). Evidence-Based Strategies for Positive Behaviour Support: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Positive Behaviour Interventions, 22(3), 167-179.

Dunlap, G., & Fox, L. (2018). Positive Behaviour Support: Foundations, Systems, and Quality of Life (3rd ed.). Guilford Press.

Turnbull, A. P., et al. (2021). Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today’s Schools (9th ed.). Pearson.





About the author

Alyssa is the Positive Behaviour Support Clinical Specialist at KEO Care. Her behaviour journey started working in behavioural intervention in the peadiatric autism space before moving into teen co-morbid disability and mental health, parenting support and eventually adult and older adults in the PBS space. Alyssa now works in the community NDIS space, supporting people of all ages and abilities with a goal of improving quality of life for the participants she works with and their support teams while reducing and removing restrictive practices.