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It's not unusual for participants to be overwhelmed by the amount of information in the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training program. This is especially true if you facilitate a six-hour training.

Participants with mouths wide open, drool spilling from the corners of their mouths, and half-closed eyes is a telltale sign of overload. (Think Homer Simpson staring at a doughnut.) The models, terminology, and steps to be taken can all be a bit much for even the most information-starved among us.

The following provides a compact, easy-to-follow approach for using the information in the program. If you can add just one more bit of information to their already jam-packed brains, it could be the acronym HUFF, which stands for:

  • Have a calming effect.
  • Understand the situation.
  • Find the need.
  • Fulfill the need.

Each of the four steps is aligned with key concepts from the program, and the steps are sequential in order.

So . . . let’s say you get a code red summoning crisis response team members for assistance. Using the HUFF method, your first priority is to Have a calming effect. That includes “running to the crisis, but walking through the door” (see my previous post). It also means being hyperaware of people’s need for personal space, as well as being cognizant of your kinesic and paraverbal communication style. Let's not forget your extraordinary ability to rationally detach. This is all designed to have a positive impact on the Integrated Experience. See? Isn't this alignment stuff fun?

Next up is to Understand the situation. This involves using the Crisis Development Model℠ as well as the Verbal Escalation Continuum℠ if the Defensive Behavior Level is present. Everything will flow nicely by using these models because the models help us choose our plan of intervention. It also means crunching your numbers and deciding how many staff you need for your response team. CPI recommends two to five staff per disruptive individual as an ideal. If you are the team leader, don't forget to assess, plan, direct, and communicate.

Find the need is next on the menu. I've always felt that crisis behavior is needy behavior. In other words, people who are upset communicate their emotions through behavior because behavior IS communication and, therefore, they are communicating their needs. I realize that it is not always clear to staff what those needs may be. The concept of Precipitating Factors comes into play at this juncture. Something as simple as asking the agitated person what’s making them upset can help achieve the goal of finding the need. I fully accept that this is not easy, especially if you’re working with populations with autism or mental health issues. Nevertheless, it is essential to the de-escalation process.

Naturally, once you find the need, you'll want to Fulfill the need as best you can. This still involves the Crisis Development Model℠ and the Verbal Escalation Continuum℠ to guide your path. Quite often, once people’s needs are met, they begin to calm down. Finish off with Therapeutic Rapport once the person reaches a state of Tension Reduction. Of course, the guiding principle behind all this is the Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ of everyone involved.

I'm aware of the fact that I am simply adding yet another piece to the program and the last thing your participants probably need is yet another acronym or model. This is designed to help you enhance things, think about the program in a slightly different way, and/or introduce this at a refresher course. I hope it has had a calming effect on you as a Certified Instructor.