Today’s training module for new employees is about understanding problem behaviors. One of the most important skills we can teach our employees is to consider the why of a behavior before reacting to it. What problem is this behavior solving for this child? Remember, this is the sixth in a series of ten. This training series is designed to prepare new, inexperienced staff to deliver skillful trauma-informed care. The lessons can be taught by supervisors. Each module consists of a discussion and an exercise to try to explore the topic. And each module includes a tip sheet with ideas for how to put that skill into practice immediately, using practical strategies.

Before I go on to this module, I want to remind you about my on line training course Making It Real! Implementing Trauma-Informed Care in Child Serving Agencies.

Making It Real! is For You! 

See what others have said about our training:

Pat Wilcox is an excellent trainer. She has a deep knowledge of trauma-informed care and extensive experience working with challenging survivor clients and their loved ones. She has an unusual ability to teach complex material by integrating evidence-based practice, solid trauma theory, clinical examples, and personal warmth and humor.  Dr. Laurie Pearlman, Co-Author, Risking Connection, Internationally known trauma expert

Pat Wilcox is one the nation’s most informed clinical leaders supporting positive attachment and conquering adversity.  She offers practical intuitive coaching on how to be trauma informed for clinicians, support staff, families and survivors.  Alice M Forrester, PhD CEO Clifford Beers Clinic

I have worked closely with Pat Wilcox for ten years and consider her to be my “go to” expert on Trauma-Informed Care and all things “Risking Connection”, and my organization utilizes her regularly for consultation and training.  She always provides a clinical yet sensible perspective when she trains my staff.  Staff working directly with severely traumatized individuals benefit so much from Pat’s rich experience and vast expertise. Marsha G. Esarey, MSSW, CSW Vice President of Programs Maryhurst Louisville, KY 

Pat is like a walking encyclopedia of trauma-informed care.  She is able to quickly and easily make the most difficult ideas clear and to apply trauma-informed and restorative care concepts to any situation.  Pat is an excellent teacher and trainer.  Jordanna L’Esperance-Chouinard, PsyD Licensed Clinical & School Psychologist

Please check out the course here. There is a limited time introductory special with great bonuses. When you enroll in the course you can download all the materials for lifetime access. And there is a money-back guarantee, so why not try it?

Now for the sixth module in the New Employee Training Series- Understanding Behaviors


We know that all the behaviors we call symptoms or problems are solutions for the client. The client is escaping intolerable feelings by doing a behavior that helps in the moment, even though it has long-term negative consequences.

Give examples, and ask for examples from participant, of things we do that help in the moment and have long term negative consequences. Example: smoking, over eating, shopping. Emphasize the point that they really do help, otherwise they would be easy to give up.

Understanding the meaning and function of the symptoms gives you many more options for intervention.

Here are some basic questions to use as guidelines when trying to respond to problem behaviors in a child or youth:

  • What has happened to him?
  • What has he learned about other people?
  • What biological changes has he experienced?
  • What skills has he learned to survive?
  • What skills does he need to learn?

To understand a behavior:

  • Relate to experiences in the child’s past
  • Look for patterns
  • Look for what problem the child is solving
  • Look for what actually happens as a result of the behavior
  • Consider fear and confusion
  • Consider feeling overwhelmed
  • Consider feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability

Exercise to try:

Choose a current client with a current problem behavior. List client’s first name and the behavior you are focusing on.

List at least 5 ways this behavior helps this client solve a problem.

How do we wish this client would solve this problem?

What would this client have to know, believe, feel in order to solve the problem a better way?

What are three things we could do to teach this client new skills and give them different experiences with other people?

For Tips on Understanding Behaviors, Click here:

Click Here to Increase your Understanding of Behaviors

Let me know your reactions to these modules at and be sure to check out Making It Real!

Share this on: