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Intensive support teams: Profile and need for support of team members

Background and aims

Working in intensive support of people with disabilities and challenging behaviours is often stressful to the team members. Stress and strain can lead to a decrease in the quality of care, and clients can suffer as a result. Only competent, motivated, satisfied, and healthy intensive support team members can ensure that clients with challenging behaviours and cognitive impairments have an adequate and structured living environment in which education and further development can take place and in which quality of life can develop.

This research project has the following aims:

  • Develop a profile for team members working in intensive support that can serve as a basis for optimal recruiting methods, initial training, and performance review processes and for education and continuing education options (also at the tertiary level).
  • Develop a concept of team members’ need for support in intensive support work, so that they can deliver high-quality work over a longer time period to the benefit of the clients and so that their job satisfaction and health is assured.


The study focuses on the following research questions:

  • What opportunities and difficulties do intensive support team members perceive in their everyday working life?
  • Under what conditions does an educational relationship work well, even if the clients show challenging behaviours?
  • How do intensive support team members deal with stressful situations, and what do they need in order to be healthy and motivated over the long term in their intensive care job?
  • What expectations do intensive support team members face, and what effective supports are available to them?
  • What institutional framework conditions do intensive support team members and the clients face, and what effect does this have on the quality of the the educational work?


For this project we chose a qualitative/quantitative research design. The project has four phases focusing on different content topics and methodological approaches:

Phase 1: Quantitative data collection via online survey of intensive support team members and director.

Phase 2: Evaluation of the quantitative data. The perspectives of intensive support team and directors will be evaluated separately. Comparison will yield initial findings for a provisional concept of the profile and need for support of intensive support team members.

Phase 3: Qualitative validation. To optimize the relation between research and practice, the provisional concept will be validated in qualitative interviews with intensive support team members and directors. The perspective of the clients using the services of the intensive support team members will also be taken into account: We will conduct interviews with people with cognitive impairment.

Phase 4: Securing the results. The findings will be adapted for the final concept.


The results show that in order to be able to deliver high-quality work, team members must possess sufficient professional competency. Professional competency refers to aspects of professional expertise, methods expertise, social competency, and self-competency. The results also show that team members stay healthy in the long term and can cope with stressful moments in their work only if they draw upon their own resources or utilize institutional support systems. The competencies and support systems mentioned above contribute significantly towards making team members capable in the highly sensitive area of intensive support, and they play a leading role in reaching the goals of the intensive support together with the clients.



Project Management

Project team


Forschung und Entwicklung
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