I had always heard and therefore assumed that role-plays were a drag for participants. But I had never really asked, so the other day I decided to. Sure enough, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of giving this facilitation monster the heave-ho. Now, I want to kick myself because I forgot to ask “why?” in regards to participants’ distaste for such an enjoyable and dynamic part of the training process. Instead of kicking, I’d rather take the nonviolent path and simply write about some of the ways that everyone can benefit from role-playing.
Start off by stating the purpose and benefits of the role-play. Participants want to know what’s in it for them. Some positive aspects include: being able to see a situation from a care receiver’s point of view, debriefing the positive aspects of the role-play interventions so they can be repeated in real-life situations, and finally, allowing those participants who want it the chance to exercise their theatrical muscles. Of course, there are many other benefits. Readers?
Be sure to set limits with your role-players. Something you might want to consider is having a cue word to stop the role-play if the Certified Instructor sees more harm than good playing out during the role-play. I’ll actually go a step further and announce to the group that the role-players have the authority to stop the role-play at any time and discontinue their participation. This gives participants a way out.
While role-plays could include physical restraint, doing so does introduce an element of risk. Try to keep role-plays focused on verbal intervention. This direction from you will keep role-players at ease, will minimize risk, and will emphasize the goal of choosing the least restrictive form of intervention.
Request that the observers limit their comments to the positive aspects of the interventions they witness. Observers sometimes have a tendency to point out what went wrong. This ends up penalizing the very people who volunteered to be the role-players, and can breed unproductive interactions between coworkers after the fact. Try to have the group focus on what went well.
If things really don’t go well during the role-play and you sense that some of the role-players wish that they had a second chance, give it to them! There is no rule that says a role-play can’t be done over again. Additionally, instead of asking the observers, ask the role-players who took the part of staff if they would do anything differently if the role-play had been an actual event. They will welcome the opportunity to critique themselves.
Keep in mind that the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training course, as well as the advanced courses, has situational role-plays sprinkled throughout as well as formally in Unit IX of our flagship program. It’s something that you as a Certified Instructor facilitate all the time. Embrace this fun activity with enthusiasm and a positive attitude, and it will rub off on your participants quicker than you can say “Integrated Experience.”