Experiences of staff working in services for adults with intellectual disabilities
Background: As a result of the changes in support for adults with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) and the increasing emphasis on independent living within the community, individuals commonly live in their own homes with support provided by voluntary or private services. As a result, support staff play a huge role in the lives of adults with ID and are often the mediators of interventions aimed at reducing distress or the occurrence of challenging behaviour. Issues relating to the well-being of support staff and how they manage behaviours that challenge services are central to the quality of the lives of adults with ID. Method: A systematic review was carried out regarding interventions aimed at reducing stress felt by staff supporting adults with ID, with the aim of informing the clinical practice of psychologists that work with such staff groups. An empirical study employing the qualitative methodology of grounded theory was also conducted to explore the experiences of staff working with clinical psychologists outside of their organisation in the development of support guidelines aimed at reducing challenging behaviour. Results: Findings from the Systematic Review highlighted the lack of high quality intervention studies aimed at reducing stress in staff. Some tentative support was found for interventions based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and those taking a more practical problem-solving approach. The empirical study resulted in a tentative model within which the role of expectations was highlighted as key to staff’s experiences of working with professionals. Conclusion: Further research is required in order to identify the most effective ways to reduce stress experienced by staff working with adults with ID. The constructed theoretical model suggests ways in which psychologists can understand the experience of staff and has implications for their practice.