Positive Behaviour Support | Marathon Health
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Health and wellbeing Our people Posted: 27 April 2023

Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), a new form of therapy in Australia, aims to reduce the likelihood of challenging behaviours in people – but for Josh McPhee, Team Lead for Southern Positive Behaviour Support, it is so much more than that.

“PBS is all about trial and error. It’s understanding that every person’s needs are different, so as a practitioner, we must be problem solvers. We trial, test, and implement strategies so participants can be the best version of themselves,” Josh says.

PBS work includes research, NDIS outcome reports, behaviour support plans and much more. Josh joined Marathon Health three years ago as the first PBS practitioner and with a broad and exciting workload, he set out wanting to make an impact.

“I like that I can use my science background to think on my toes and take on new challenges. I like that I can work on my passion areas – youth and disability.”

Shifting the focus to leadership, we asked Josh “what do you look for in a PBS practitioner?”. He smiles widely at this question.

“Kindness. We can teach report writing but we can’t teach kindness – that must come naturally. I look for someone who is a problem solver, collaborative, a strong communicator and practices our ICARE values in all areas of their work.”

With kindness in mind, we spoke with the PBS team, who really brought home what Josh explained – that kindness is the core of their work and personalities.

Jaye spends a lot of his time on outreach to places like Tamworth and Walgett. He is particularly passionate about working with young men who have been through the justice system, have experienced severe trauma and struggle with substance abuse.

“I like being thrown completely in the deep end with a complex client, and it’s my job to problem solve and figure out what this person needs.”

“Sometimes the young men I work with don’t trust people like me, so I go in as just a bloke to maintain these relationships – it may seem like an unorthodox approach, but I want to build trust with them.”

Jaye mentions one client who has a diagnosis of schizophrenia with paranoid delusions along with high risk, high complex behaviours.

“You must be resilient and understand that this person has been refused help in the past because of their complexities. A career milestone of mine was understanding this person’s needs, and training their support providers. That young person hasn’t presented a negative behaviour in some time,” Jaye said.

Sharnee is most proud of being an advocate for clients.

“People with disability have as many rights as you and me, so I like to break down barriers to ensure they get to live the life they choose.”

Sharnee explains that life changes for anyone can be difficult especially if they experience challenging behaviours. Sharnee is currently working with someone that is on the autism spectrum, lives with an intellectual disability, and who is going through a significant life change – and she wants to set this person up for success.

“Transitioning this person from high school to adulthood is difficult. We have implemented social skills building, so they can work or volunteer. We also provided resources to carers so they can understand an outburst.

This person’s cup of tolerance sometimes fills up and tips over – and that’s ok. It’s my job to help everyone understand that change in environment and routine is hard, so I put things in place to help people manage this change.”

Kaeden embodies all five of our ICARE values. With a background in psychology and teaching children English in China, Kaeden likes to work face-to-face with their clients for behavioural observations.

“I like to create a space where everyone feels safe with me. I have even had clients break down in tears when I’ve visited, and it’s nice to know that they feel comfortable expressing those emotions with me,” Kaeden said.

One older client that has felt these emotions with Kaeden acquired a brain injury which has seen them develop behaviours they can’t control.

“This person has poor impulse control, so I am teaching them to set boundaries and learn what is acceptable – it’s important to remember that they aren’t their behaviours,” Kaeden said.

Nandita is big on family, grows her own Indian vegetables and has propagated a plant for every member of the PBS team. As a PBS practitioner, Nandita says that she loves to empower participants to achieve their goals.

“My team are the best people I have ever worked with, and my participants thank me regularly for the service we provide. I love learning and applying the skills I’ve learnt to challenging behaviours so I can help improve someone’s quality of life,” Nandita said with a smile.

Emma is a professional basketball player in her spare time. She just finished a season with the Bendigo Spirit, and has travelled around Australia and the world playing the sport she loves.

She brings that passion and competitiveness from the court to her work. We spoke about her natural career progression from support coordinator, seven years ago, to PBS practitioner and what she loves about her role.

“PBS is all about helping someone have better interactions with their environment through modification, and I like helping people understand what behaviour means and how supports can help participants thrive,” Emma said.

These modifications can look like: implementing behaviour support; plans; incorporating sensory items and involving other supports like speech pathology and occupational therapy.

“As a PBS practitioner, our job is to educate people ‘why’ a participant may be acting a certain way and put strategies in place to make everyone’s lives a little easier,” Emma said.

Rachel, a bubbly mum of three has spent 10 years living in England, Germany and Cypress. Her worldly knowledge and prior career in early childhood has allowed her to thrive in her PBS role.

“A lot of my past experiences were transferrable to PBS, but this role you get to work personally with the clients. When you receive big smiles and they are excited to see you, you know you made the right career move,” Rachel said.

As we round out the calls, we bring that word back to the forefront of our minds – kindness. Speaking to the PBS team we understand now why Josh looks for that trait in his candidates. Each person we spoke to has passion for their role, shows empathy for their clients and are kind.

The PBS team are made up of people from all walks of life with various skills and interests, meaning they want to grow as professionals and their clients are at the centre of everything they do.

Page last updated: 15 November 2023

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