What is Positive Behavior Support?

Positive Behavior Support

Positive behavior support is an approach to supporting people’s behavior in typical home, school, work, and community environments that combines the principles of applied behavior analysis, implementation science, and best practices from other human service fields. It is characterized by a commitment to collaboration; basing interventions on a thorough understanding of the person and environmental influences affecting behavior; proactive, educative, and functional strategies; making decisions on the basis of objective information; and focusing not just on behavior change, but also improvements in quality of life.

Click on each of the 5 PBS features below to learn more.

Collaborative Team Process

Collaboration in positive behavior support means engaging individuals who are the focus of intervention and all relevant stakeholders. These people, often referred to as support teams, are involved in setting and prioritizing goals, assessments, plan design, implementation, evaluation of results, problem-solving, and celebrating successes.

Data Based Decision Making

Positive behavior support relies on objective data for decision making. Data are collected on the behaviors of concern (e.g., skills to increase, behaviors to decrease), as well as broader lifestyle or systems change.  Because data are collected in complex community settings by typical caregivers or direct line professionals, they are tailored to be feasible and meaningful in those circumstances.

Assessments of Contexts and Functions

In order to develop effective, individualized support plans, thorough and objective assessments are needed. In positive behavior support, this means gathering information through record reviews, interviews, and observations to identify patterns.  These patterns include what people get or avoid through their behavior (i.e., functions such as attention, items or avoiding demands) and situations in which those patterns occur (i.e., contexts to include when and where, who is present, what they are doing).  Assessments also capture aspects of the broader physical and social ecology that might be contributing to behavior.

Lifestyles and Systems Change

Positive behavior support emphasizes that while improvement in particular behaviors is essential, our more important goal is to improve people’s quality of life and contribute to systems change so that supports are sustainable. Practitioners focus on improving self-advocacy, social relationships, community participation, productivity, and health and safety.  They also evaluate how systems are designed and managed to ensure the consistent and effective use of positive behavior support.

Multicomponent Plans

Positive behavior support plans include multiple components that are linked directly to the patterns identified in the assessment. They include 1) proactive strategies to prompt positive behavior and prevent problem behavior, 2) teaching of replacement behaviors and other skills that will help people be successful in their settings, and 3) interventions that focus on reinforcing positive rather than problem behavior, reducing the need for more intrusive approaches.  Plans are designed to fit typical settings and routines and training and support is provided to those who support people in their homes, schools, and communities.

From the University of Glasgow's Institute of Health and Wellbeing a video about positive behavior support and "how do we do it".  This video provides practical and easy to understand basic information about positive behavior support.Thank you to the University of Glasgow for sharing this important resource with HCPBS!

Multi-Tiered System of Support for PBS in the Community

Expand each section to learn about the fundamental framework for using PBS supporting all people.

Individual Interventions

Person-centered, assessment-based, individualized positive behavior support plans involving proactive, teaching and management strategies and ongoing monitoring of data. 


Targeted Group Interventions

Social and environmental supports for people or groups who require more assistance including, for example residential programs, supported employment, families of people with behavioral challenges.


System-wide Interventions

Preventative, proactive approaches for all people (e.g. supporting choices, community participation, independence, predictability, and ensuring adequacy of supports).


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