I am in the office this week taking lots of inbound phone calls from our Certified Instructors as well as the general public. It’s been nice to be off the road for a week. Living out of a suitcase might sound, oh so glamorous, but take it from me or any Professional Staff Instructor—it can be a drag at times. On the other hand, the position has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me on a professional level in my life. One of the great things about the role is working with human service professionals to help them through the maze of irate and out-of-control behavior. Sometimes the process is successful. At other times it can be challenging and even frustrating. So there are a few things I’d like to share that I have learned this past week.
First, often times there are no easy answers. No two people are exactly alike and human behavior knows no boundaries. A cookie-cutter approach to managing behavior won’t work because each individual is unique. If it were that easy, the Institute wouldn’t exist. Results will be different as well. Crisis intervention takes time and effort. It takes a team approach and it takes energy. But in the long run it will save time, effort and energy. Reality is, however, that sometimes success is elusive and we often make mistakes. We need to recognize this if we’re going to endure.
Secondly, while it is fantastic to get calls from instructors looking for assistance, it is not necessary for you to seek out the Institute’s authorization or consent to intervene in the way you think is most appropriate. We provide a training program consisting of techniques and guidelines on how to verbally and physically intervene if necessary. Yes, there are standards, policies and procedures and agreements that Certified Instructors must adhere to in order to maintain their certification with us. But things like local, state and federal legislation as well as regulations and accreditation requirements would take precedence. That’s not to say that our Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® program doesn’t align with most regulatory body mandates. It does. Basically, our program is only one piece of the puzzle.
Using our program is part of a holistic approach to managing behavior. So, not only are there no easy answers, but there is no one answer either. Again, if there were, the Institute wouldn’t exist. We often talk about looking at behavior and crisis situations through the lens of a continuum. Meaning that there is rarely, if ever, one separate episode of crisis behavior that exists all by itself and has no connection to other events. Therefore we must view our efforts to prevent and intervene in the same manner. For example, when people ask me what to do in a given situation, I often ask them about what was going on before the crisis behavior occurred and what could have led up to it. I’ll also ask about what successes they’ve had in the past with the individual and whether they could somehow duplicate that success while tailoring it for this specific situation. Taken with that perspective in mind, we can often problem solve with our staff what series of approaches we can use to prevent or de-escalate risky situations.
And finally, give yourself permission to fail. I spoke with a Certified Instructor and we had quite a lengthy consultation on an individual he was caring for who would often go into temper tantrums and spit on staff when he became frustrated. We talked about prevention, how staff could protect themselves, successes, what leads up to the spitting, etc., etc. We also discussed limit setting. The consequence that his facility had already decided upon was that if this client continued to spit on staff he would be transferred to another facility that would not allow him nearly as much freedom as the one he was currently in. The individual chose to continue the spitting knowing full well what could happen. While staff is not happy about their lack of success, they need to congratulate themselves on the efforts they made and realize that the negative choice and consequence that the client chose was his to own. Beating yourself up over situations that don’t work out exactly how you would like is counterproductive and can certainly lead to future frustration. Let it go if things don’t work out. Remember, you can’t force people to act appropriately.
I hope this has given our readers an expanded perspective on our attempts at helping others care for the individuals they serve. Prevention and intervention efforts are not easy. But, bear in mind that the Crisis Prevention Institute will continue to support your efforts in managing situations before they spiral out of control.
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