FotoPetriEmbregts Medium

Petri Embregts


Full Professor
ilburg University
FotoWietskevanOosrouw resized Speaker

Wietske van Oorsouw


Senior researcher
Tilburg University
FotoKimvan denBogaard1 Speaker
Kim van den Bogaard


Post-doc researcher
ilburg University

Theme and aims

Care staff and client interactions: new ways for staff training

Today, research and clinical practice recognize the positive impact of high-quality relationships between staff and people with intellectual disabilities on their well-being. The psychological need of relatedness and its relationship with well-being is considered universal and thus also counts for people with intellectual disabilities and challenging behaviours. Daily interactions between frontline staff and clients form the basis for the quality of this relation. Many different variables, such as client (challenging) behaviour and disorders, and staff knowledge, attitudes, and stress levels appear to impact interactions between frontline staff and people with intellectual disabilities. The perception of staff and people with intellectual disabilities on these interactions may be different and also impact the way in which they conceive and subsequently act on each other. For example, a staff member with insufficient knowledge about the development of challenging behaviours and fear for the occurrence of these behaviours, will keep clients with challenging behaviours ´at a distance´ if he/she feels uncomfortable and might even doubt if building a positive relationship is possible. As such, client and support staff variables might be a barrier in building positive relationships and are, therefore, an important starting point for staff training. In our precourse we will focus on new ways of staff training by improving staff awareness of their own perspective, the perspective of the client and subsequent action and quality of staff-client relationships.


1. The present precourse starts with an introduction about the history of staff-training research and the need for finding new elements to improve staff training in the field of intellectual disabilities to build positive relationships. Also we introduce the collaboration from our academic collaborative center (Tranzo, Tilburg University) with health care and educational organizations and our methods to implement new ways of staff training in existing programs and daily practices. 

2. In the second part we will demonstrate and exercise with instruments to improve our insight in personal characteristics that might influence interactions and relationships. Most of the instruments we use, are developed at our academic collaborative center and among others focus on staff emotional reactions and staff psychological resources. 

3. In the third part, we will demonstrate that both frontline staff and client characteristics will influence interactions and relationships. We use interviews and video clips of individuals with intellectual disabilities and challenging behaviours. We practice with recording the behaviour and characteristics of the client and relate these results with our own reactions, attributions and personal styles. 

4. Summary and discussion

In this pre course we will give the state of the art knowledge regarding coaching of frontline staff supporting people with intellectual disabilities and challenging behaviours. We will extensively demonstrate and exercise with materials from research and clinical practice. Because of the complex nature of the interactions between clients with challenging behaviours and frontline staff we schedule time for discussion and reflection on own experiences. 


Bogaard, K.J.H.M. van, Nijman, H.L.I., Palmstierna, T., & Embregts, P. (submitted for publication). Characteristics of aggressive behaviour in people with mild to borderline intellectual disability and co-occurring psychopathology. 

Hermsen, M., Embregts, P. J. C. M., Hendriks, A. H. C., & Frielink, N. (2014). The human degree of care. Professional loving care for people with a mild intellectual disability: An explorative study. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 58(3), 221-232.

Oorsouw, W.M.W.J. van, Embregts, P.J.C.M., Bosman A.M.T., & Jahoda, A. (2014). Writing about stress: the impact of a stress management program on staff accounts of dealing with stress. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 27(3), 236-246.

Willems, A. P. A. M., Embregts, P. J. C. M., Hendriks, A. H. C., & Bosman, A. M. T. (2016). Towards a framework in interaction training for staff working with clients with intellectual disabilities and challenging behavior. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 60, 134-148.

Zijlmans, L. J. M., Embregts, P. J. C. M., Gerits, L., Bosman, A. M. T. & Derksen, J. (2015). The effectiveness of staff training focused on increasing emotional intelligence and improving interaction between support staff and clients. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 59(7), 599-612.