Teaching Staff About the Causes of Explosive Behavior

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Where I work at Common Ground, we help clients who have mental health illnesses and/or substance abuse problems.

Last week I was training a CPI class where I used a can of soda pop as a prop to discuss Precipitating Factors. (Precipitating Factors are defined as internal and/or external causes of behavior over which staff have little or no control.)

In my trainings, as I tell a story about a client, I ask the group to shake the can and pass it to the next person when they hear a Precipitating Factor. At the end of the story, I ask, “Does anyone want to open the can of soda?”

Usually with this exercise, I get a nervous laughter response and a collective and big “NO!”

I then continue my discussion of Precipitating Factors, along with a side comment on staff fear and anxiety (another unit in the training). I make this connection in reference to a group’s reaction of passing the can throughout our discussion and in reference to my question about whether they want to pop the can open.

This past week when I was teaching, I placed the shaken can on my desk, as I have done numerous times before, and it exploded.

My class broke into nervous laughter and thought this was part of the unit discussion.

After cleaning up a considerable mess of sticky walls and floors, I incorporated this unexpected event into a very teachable moment.

The class began a group discussion on the soda-pop can incident. We talked about the Integrated Experience (how staff attitudes and behaviors affect clients’ attitudes and behaviors and vice versa). We talked more about Precipitating Factors. We talked more about staff fear. And we talked about our team response with the cleanup.

At the end of the day, the participants commented that they would never forget this class.

As CPI Instructors, we all face challenges when teaching. The challenges and limitations that impact our teaching include physical space limits, time, class size, coworkers’ interest, learning capacities, etc. As CPI Instructors, we must all adapt our teaching plans and skills to ever-changing situations.

I have always enjoyed teaching the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® program. It is such an integral part of how we interact with our clients. This particular class taught me firsthand the need for on-the-spot adaptability for teachable moments, and how the Integrated Experience is always a part of our everyday lives.

Will I continue to use the pop can as a prop? You bet, but with a certain amount of caution! And I’ll continue to impart how the important skills we learn in our classes make us better health care partners to the clients we help and serve.

Barbara-Shreve-1.pngBarbara J. Shreve is a registered nurse who has worked at the nonprofit organization, Common Ground, in Oakland County, MI since 2009. Barbara works with a dedicated and terrific group to help people move from crisis to hope. With additional training in CPI’s Trauma-Informed Care course, Barbara has been teaching her coworkers CPI techniques since 2011.

Watch a video with Barbara's colleague and fellow trainer at Common Ground, Mike Taglione.
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About the Author

“When you change how you look at a challenge, you unlock its positive potential. If you remain mindful about your ability to control your own behavior, you can make constructive choices that can promote the best possible outcome instead of the worst-case scenario.”

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