Q&A with the trainer: Behaviours that challenge

Mar 2024

Written by Billy Black Glenys Bristow

One of our most frequent requests at the CETC is for more training on how to respond to the behaviours of young people in out-of-home care that caregivers can find unusual, extreme, and challenging to manage.  

CETC Therapeutic Residential Care Specialist Dr Glenys Bristow has continued to answer these frequent requests through her virtual workshop, Shut off, sad, hurt, and angry: behaviours that challenge. This workshop is regularly run for residential workers and other therapeutic care providers seeking to enrich their trauma-informed approach to caring for young people who communicate through their behaviour. 

With yet another workshop just around the corner, I asked Glenys about her passion for this topic and her key advice for understanding and responding to behaviours that challenge. 

 

Good morning, Glenys! Let’s begin with asking, what does the term “behaviours that challenge” mean to you?
Behaviours that challenge are trauma-based behaviours. They are those strategies that a child or young person has relied on to survive and will use over and over in their daily lives, even when the abuse or violence is no longer present. A fundamental question to be posed in response to behaviours that challenge is: WHO is challenged by the behaviours. 

And who is that? Who is challenged by behaviours that challenge? 
The main reason this question is here is to highlight that all of us are challenged by different behaviours and recognising this is incredibly important. We all have different ‘triggers’ and it is important to understand these as part of a team as young people who have learnt to survive have also learnt to identify triggers in adults around them Whilst this isn’t personal it can certainly make building a trusting relationship more difficult. 

What inspired you to commit so much focus on the topic of behaviours that challenge? 
I love residential care! It’s a lifelong passion! Too many people have given up on these kids and they have been excluded from all other systems. Their behaviours are often seen as being caused by residential care, when in fact all other systems have let them down, or they wouldn’t be in Therapeutic Residential Care (TRC). They have demonstrated pain-based behaviours long before they were referred to us. It’s good to remember we can be a beacon of hope for kids growing more safely to adulthood. These behaviours are coping behaviours that challenge all of us differently. I have heaps of stories and share them in the training. 

What are the key takeaways you hope participants will walk away with? 

  • That there is always, always a reason for a behaviour! It’s never “what have you done?”, but “what has happened to you?” 
  • Remember, you may not see the results of your hard work whilst the young people are with you. Think of it as “banking” – they will store away the things you have loved about them and said to them, and in the years to come, they will make sense. They bank our wisdom and withdraw it when required. 
  • Never give up! 

How can residential workers apply the insights from your training and practice guide on behaviours that challenge to their work?
The training is designed to work through the content applying it to a young person or group of young people you are currently working with. After many years as a residential worker, I know I understand the culture, the amazing work they do, and the seemingly insurmountable challenges faced.  

What resources would you recommend to workers to explore the topic further?  
My 5 favourite resources that are covered in page markers and scribbles are: 

Why are they my favourite books? Because they are useful to working in residential care, you can apply them, and they are written by people who get it! They also show the long history of residential work trauma-informed practice which was first written in the 60s by people in our field.  

Is there a question you wish people would ask about behaviours that challenge? How would you answer it? 
Why do they challenge us so strongly? They need to know we are skilled, courageous, and strong enough to keep them safe.   

If you are interested in registering for the upcoming virtual workshop Shut off, sad, hurt, and angry: Behaviours that challenge on 13 March. You can click here to find out more and reserve your spot. 

For more information and resources, download our free practice tool to exploring the meaning of young people’s behaviour and supporting change, and check out our practice guide to understanding and responding to behaviours that challenge. 

You may be interested in: Behaviours that challenge Child & youth development Trauma-informed care

An emerging paradigm - Welcome to our new therapeutic care blog
An emerging paradigm - Welcome to our new therapeutic care blog
Over the past two decades, the term therapeutic care has emerged as a new paradigm used to integrate constructs that had traditionally been considered separate – therapeutic processes and the...
Read more
Creating positive social climates and home-like environments in therapeutic care - Practice guide
Creating positive social climates and home-like environments in therapeutic care - Practice guide
This guide has been developed to support the implementation of Essential Element: Physical Environments from the Ten Essential Elements of Therapeutic Care. It explores how to create therapeutic care contexts...
Read more
What is effective therapeutic care? Research brief
What is effective therapeutic care? Research brief
This research briefing is an introduction to therapeutic care as a preferred response for children and young people who have experienced complex trauma and are unable to live at home....
Read more
The evidence base for therapeutic group  care:  A systematic scoping review - Research brief
The evidence base for therapeutic group care: A systematic scoping review - Research brief
The NSW Government has undertaken major reforms over the past two years aimed at improving outcomes for children and young people in out-of-home care. Following a review by Verso Consulting...
Read more
The role of emotions in therapeutic care
The role of emotions in therapeutic care
The role of emotions within human service work may at first glance appear to be intuitively obvious and incontestable. Indeed, Howe (2008) described the day of a human service worker...
Read more
The needs of LGBTIQ young people in out-of-home care - Research brief
The needs of LGBTIQ young people in out-of-home care - Research brief
Young people who are same sex attracted, trans or gender diverse – a population who will be referred to in this document as LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and...
Read more
Safety from the outside to the inside
Safety from the outside to the inside
At the recent Therapeutic Specialist’s forum, there was lots of discussion about the concept of physical and relational safety in Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC). We all agreed that it is...
Read more
Making sense of complex and challenging behaviours
Making sense of complex and challenging behaviours
An inability to understand trauma-based behaviours often sees young people 'labelled' in ways that can create a 'spiral of negativity'. A trauma-informed approach orients us to be curious about what...
Read more
Understanding and supporting young people who self-harm in residential care
Understanding and supporting young people who self-harm in residential care
Some of the young people we care for in the ITC programs deal with emotional distress and pain by hurting themselves physically. Young people hurting themselves is distressing to them...
Read more
The role of praise in working with young people
The role of praise in working with young people
We can see each of our daily interactions with each of the young people we care for as bids for connection.  By choosing to turn toward, to turn away, or...
Read more
The healing power of friendship
The healing power of friendship
Can the friendships and connections that can develop in Intensive Residential Care be nurtured and grown rather than feared? I would like you to take a moment to think back...
Read more
Preventing self-harm among young people in out-of-home care - Research brief
Preventing self-harm among young people in out-of-home care - Research brief
Many young people in out-of-home care are at an elevated risk of self-harm and suicidality. The reasons range from early exposure to abuse, disconnection from family, instability of their living...
Read more
The 10 essential elements of Intensive Therapeutic Care NSW - Practice guide
The 10 essential elements of Intensive Therapeutic Care NSW - Practice guide
This guide has been developed to describe the 10 Essential Elements that form the basis for Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) service provision in NSW. The 10 Essential Elements have been...
Read more
Vicarious trauma and secondary stress in therapeutic residential care - Research brief
Vicarious trauma and secondary stress in therapeutic residential care - Research brief
It is generally accepted that child welfare professionals are at high risk of experiencing vicarious trauma: the manifestation of traumatic symptoms resulting from working with individuals who, themselves, have encountered...
Read more
Exploring the meaning that lies beneath young people’s behaviour and supporting change - Practice tool
Exploring the meaning that lies beneath young people’s behaviour and supporting change - Practice tool
This resource has been developed to support professionals to unpack and plan how to respond to identified behaviours that are concerning, challenging and disruptive for young people in their search...
Read more
What works? Promising practices to support young people who self-harm
What works? Promising practices to support young people who self-harm
Why do young people in out of home care self-harm? What are the best predictors of suicide and self-harm? What really works when supporting young people who self-harm in out-of-home...
Read more
Q&A with Cate Keady from the Elver Program
Q&A with Cate Keady from the Elver Program
Since 2018, Cate Keady has worked within the Department of Communities and Justice to establish and manage the Intensive Support Services Elver Program - in partnership with South Western Sydney...
Read more
A story you may recognise
A story you may recognise
Peta had worked in residential care for 18 months. She took the position because she had had a difficult childhood and she felt that she had a lot to offer...
Read more
Behaviours that challenge: What has happened to you?
Behaviours that challenge: What has happened to you?
Children and young people living in Therapeutic Residential Care in Australia often present with a range of behaviours that challenge us. The complexity and difficulty in working with these challenging...
Read more
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 2
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 2
In the first part of the Blog, we explored limit and expectation setting, maintaining a state of occupancy and the planning process for a successful transition. In part two of...
Read more
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 1
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 1
This is a two-part blog and will focus on the transition of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house; however, most of the content is transferrable to other placement...
Read more
Changing your practice to being trauma informed in therapeutic residential care
Changing your practice to being trauma informed in therapeutic residential care
Whilst the following Arabian proverb takes a bit to get your head around it leads rather nicely into this blog and our brief introduction on the relevance of the conscious...
Read more
Children, young people and sleep
Children, young people and sleep
Many of those of you who know me, know that I have a big interest in sleep hygiene and the children and young people in out of home care (OOHC)....
Read more
Supporting children in out-of-home care to cope with ambiguous loss
Supporting children in out-of-home care to cope with ambiguous loss
When you think of grief and loss, what comes to your mind? You may think of the immense sorrow one may experience. For some of us, we can seek solace...
Read more
The therapeutic power of laughter
The therapeutic power of laughter
"The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter." Mark Twain We all like to laugh. It makes us feel good. Among humans, laughter begins as...
Read more
Applying polyvagal theory to relationship-based therapeutic care - Practice tool
Applying polyvagal theory to relationship-based therapeutic care - Practice tool
Relationship-based practice is at the core of effective therapeutic care. Key to understanding how to build effective relationships with young people who have experienced trauma is to understand how the...
Read more
Trauma-informed care - Research brief
Trauma-informed care - Research brief
This research briefing aims to define and clarify what trauma, complex trauma and trauma informed care are. Extensive literature has now surmised that exposure to adverse experiences such as child...
Read more
Trauma-informed relationship based recovery reflection tool
Trauma-informed relationship based recovery reflection tool
“Childhood trauma has the potential to interrupt the normal physical, physiological, emotional, mental and intellectual development, of children and can have wide-ranging, and often life-long implications for their health and...
Read more
Book review: What happened to you? Conversations on trauma, resilience and recovery by Dr Perry and Oprah Winfrey
Book review: What happened to you? Conversations on trauma, resilience and recovery by Dr Perry and Oprah Winfrey
Dr Perry and Oprah Winfrey recently released What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Recovery. The book tells the story of how adverse childhood experiences cause deep emotional...
Read more
Creating a balance between empowerment and limit setting in therapeutic care - Practice guide
Creating a balance between empowerment and limit setting in therapeutic care - Practice guide
This guide has been developed to support Therapeutic Care carers and staff to navigate the critical balance between empowering children and young people and setting limits. One of the most...
Read more
Responding to behaviours that challenge - practice guide
Responding to behaviours that challenge - practice guide
Much has been written about understanding and managing the challenging pain-based behaviours of children and young people who have experienced trauma and live in therapeutic or out of home care....
Read more
Secondary traumatic stress and staff well-being: understanding compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout in therapeutic care - Practice guide
Secondary traumatic stress and staff well-being: understanding compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout in therapeutic care - Practice guide
This guide has been developed to support organisational congruence and in the provision of trauma informed therapeutic care and the critical need for a well-supported, capable, and stable staff group...
Read more
Frequently asked questions by foster carers: Behaviours that challenge
Frequently asked questions by foster carers: Behaviours that challenge
In Australia, there are about 18 thousand children and young people in foster care. Most foster carers will be the first to tell you how rewarding it is – but...
Read more
What Was I Thinking? Handling the Amygdala Hijack
What Was I Thinking? Handling the Amygdala Hijack
Remember that time when you put the child you care for back to bed for the fourth time? Your thoughts suggested a level of desperation and wishful thinking, hoping that...
Read more
12 ways foster and kinship carers can promote compassion and self-compassion in children and young people
12 ways foster and kinship carers can promote compassion and self-compassion in children and young people
What are Compassion and Self-Compassion?Compassion is the ability to feel and connect with the suffering of another human being, self-compassion is the ability to feel and connect with one’s own...
Read more
Fight, flight, freeze, and fibbing: Lying as a trauma-based behaviour
Fight, flight, freeze, and fibbing: Lying as a trauma-based behaviour
In almost every session I have run for foster and kinship carers, someone tells a story about a child or young person in their care who regularly lies. I can feel...
Read more
Why sleep is so important for children with trauma
Why sleep is so important for children with trauma
Many of you who know me know that I have a big interest in sleep hygiene and the children and young people in out-of-home care (OOHC). To this end, I...
Read more
New years' resolutions and other goals for teens in care
New years' resolutions and other goals for teens in care
When I was a teen in care, I found the (well-intentioned) focus on my progress from case workers and other adults exhausting. If I tried hard, I made “progress”, but...
Read more
Living with the Fast and the Furious
Living with the Fast and the Furious
You have opened your homes and your hearts to children who are unable to live with their parents. You want to help them access a better life. To feel safe,...
Read more
Trauma-sensitive family time is about connection and repair
Trauma-sensitive family time is about connection and repair
Relationships with family come with good times and challenges for everyone, but for children and young people in care, this birthright of family connection can often be deprioritised for the...
Read more
Trauma-informed care connects to children’s needs; trauma-informed carer training should connect to carers’ needs
Trauma-informed care connects to children’s needs; trauma-informed carer training should connect to carers’ needs
The CETC is thrilled to announce our new online course “Caring for Children and Young People with Trauma” is now live and free for all South Australian kinship and foster...
Read more
Can we provide trauma-informed care for children without changing our beliefs about their behaviour?
Can we provide trauma-informed care for children without changing our beliefs about their behaviour?
This blog article was written by Noel Macnamara, Executive Manager - Research and Policy and Deputy Director, Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care, CETC. There is a growing tendency to...
Read more
How are restrictive practices interpreted in therapeutic residential care?
How are restrictive practices interpreted in therapeutic residential care?
This blog article was written by Glenys Bristow,  Senior Specialist, Therapeutic Residential Care, CETC. Restrictive practice in therapeutic care The Royal Commision into Violence, Abuse and Exploitation of People with...
Read more
The role fear plays in the lives of children and young people in out-of-home care
The role fear plays in the lives of children and young people in out-of-home care
Fear is a fundamental human emotion triggered by a perceived threat. It serves as a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond to danger with a fight, flight,...
Read more
Untangling the challenges of FASD and trauma
Untangling the challenges of FASD and trauma
In honour of FASD Awareness Month this September, the CETC brought together esteemed thought leaders Dr Julia Shekleton, Prue Walker, and Noel Macnamara to delve into the complex intersection between...
Read more
The most difficult thing about residential care work
The most difficult thing about residential care work
The most difficult aspect of working in residential care is not managing the behavioural challenges of the children and young people, the demanding shifts, or the lack of resources. Rather,...
Read more
The effective and efficient approach to preventing placement breakdowns
The effective and efficient approach to preventing placement breakdowns
For children with complex trauma, the out-of-home care sector is more often reactive rather than proactive or preventative. Not many programs exist to provide significant early intervention support, as opposed...
Read more
Q&A with the trainer: Trauma-informed supervision
Q&A with the trainer: Trauma-informed supervision
Over the recent decades, we have seen leaps in research and practice promoting the importance of taking a holistic trauma-informed approach to caring for children and young people with trauma....
Read more
Consent conversations with young people in out-of-home care
Consent conversations with young people in out-of-home care
Having meaningful conversations with children and young people in out-of-home care about consent, while critically important, can be tricky. These consent conversations need to keep both young people and carers...
Read more
And the recommendations are… systemic reform towards providing therapeutic care, again
And the recommendations are… systemic reform towards providing therapeutic care, again
The Australian Institute of Family Studies recently released a report titled Improving the Safety and Wellbeing of Vulnerable Children: A Consolidation of Systemic Recommendations and Evidence. This report aims to...
Read more