• Relevant skills and knowledge
These needs are usually minimized or ignored in educational or human services settings.  As a result, individuals may become:

  • Relationship resistant
  • Chronic rule-breakers
  • Helpless and insecure
  • Depressed and isolated

Supporting a person with difficult behaviors requires us to get to know the person as a complicated human being influenced by a complex personal history.  While it is tempting to look for a quick fix, which usually means attacking the person and his or her behavior, suppressing behavior without understanding  something about the life he or she is living is disrespectful and counterproductive.  Difficult behaviors are a reflection of unmet needs.  They are  "meaning-full."  Our challenge is to find out what the person needs so that
we can be more supportive.

Our best efforts to support someone who engages in difficult behaviors will fall to pieces if the people who are asked to provide the support are not supported.  Whether you are a friend, a parent, or a paid caregiver, there is a relationship between your needs and the needs of the person you are supporting.   In my experience, a person's supporters often need:

  • Support from friends, family members and colleagues
  • A sense of safety and well-being
  • Power
  • Interesting and difficult routines
  • A sense of value and self-worth
  • Relevant skills and knowledge

These needs are usually ignored by educational and human services organizations.   People inside and outside of these organizations often feel that their needs are being ignored by an insensitive and uncaring bureaucracy.  As a result, they often resort to their own difficult behaviors.  An individual may become:

  • Resistant to new ideas and support
  • Cynical and rebellious
  • Overly controlling and punishing
  • Depressed and isolated

While it is tempting to blame caregivers for failing to "deal" with a person's difficult behaviors, I believe that the vast majority of people working in human services are interested in helping not hurting.  But helping is difficult when your own needs are being ignored.  It is a central contention of my practice that many human services workers are under-supported; some must contend each and every day with fear-