I Found 3 Rewarding Ways to Make People’s Lives Better

February 4, 2015
Two pairs of hands clasped together.

I recently realized that I am privileged to be one of the few people in the world who has been fortunate enough to experience the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training program as a participant, a Certified Instructor, and a Global Professional Instructor. This is an honor that I take great pride in and one that provides me with a unique insight into how valuable the training program can be.

Through the eyes of a participant: How CPI helped me as a youth counselor

I first viewed the program in 2008 through the eyes of a new youth counselor in a residential treatment center. I was eager to help children and share the wisdom that I thought I had, but I was not even close to being ready for what I had gotten myself into.

Like many of the more than ten million people who have been through CPI training, I remember my experience as a participant clearly. I had worked on two of the residential units for a few weeks already, and based on some of the behaviors I saw, I was eager to learn about this wonderful thing called the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® program. The Instructor was fantastic, and I remember being drawn to the concepts immediately because they built on and gave structure to many responses that I was already engaging in.

I learned how and when to use the right intervention.

I knew how to be supportive and directive, but I learned how to use each approach more effectively, and, more importantly, when to use each approach.

I understood that it was important to establish communication after a crisis, but the program taught me how to do so in a much more effective manner.

I learned what causes acting-out behavior.

One thing that really stands out in my memory is an exercise that I use in my own trainings to this day. The Instructor shook up a bottle of soda while discussing how Precipitating Factors can cause behaviors that we can’t control, and what might happen if we opened the bottle without considering these factors. From that point on, I was constantly aware of the long list of Precipitating Factors the young children in our care faced, and I was determined to use what I was learning to help them overcome those obstacles.

I built relationships.

I recall leaving the final day of the program and going back to work on the unit a much more confident, competent, and comfortable staff member. During my tenure as a youth counselor, I consistently used the strategies from the program to become a gatekeeper for the Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ of the children in our care, my coworkers, and myself. Living that philosophy helped me focus on relationship building, and those relationships were often my most valuable asset in intervening safely and effectively in some volatile situations. They were also without a doubt the most rewarding part of my job and what allowed me to have a meaningful impact in the lives of the kids we cared for.

Most, if not all, of the concepts of the program can be building blocks towards strengthening relationships. Think about your own personal life. Do you tend to have healthier relationships with people who support your anxious behaviors, are considerate of your personal space, only put their hands on you to provide safety, and who interact with you using respectful nonverbal and paraverbal communication? Do you respect people who can enforce limits in a fair and dignified way, manage chaotic situations in a calm manner, and not take your behavior personally when life’s factors lead you to have to apologize for your actions?

For me, by focusing on these things on a daily basis, I was able to become one of the people who many of the kids sought out when they found themselves in crisis or on the verge of crisis. They allowed me to enter their crisis alongside them and to be an ally against negative outcomes. It wasn’t staff against the residents. It was staff and residents working together to ward off the crisis.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying every crisis ended with laughter and chocolate chip cookies. There were tears, bruises, damaged property, and the need for police intervention on several occasions. But situations did not escalate to a physical level nearly as much as they might have had I not acquired the skills and training needed to reduce risks to staff members and kids. And I left work every day knowing that I had done everything I could do to provide Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠.

Also, because training had given me an understanding of how Precipitating Factors can cause and escalate behaviors, I was able to rationally detach and debrief after an incident. This is where my relationships transformed from superficial to meaningful and impactful. Sure, playing basketball, going on outings, and playing cards helped form the outer layers of relationships, but the core was built through Therapeutic Rapport sessions. This is where the learning occurred. We learned what the other was thinking and feeling throughout the crisis, and I got a glimpse of what it was like to view the world through the lens of a resident. We learned what each of us could do to prevent a recurrence of a situation. Most importantly, we learned to trust each other, which is a luxury that many of the kids I worked with were not previously privy to. I can’t tell you how many times a crisis was prevented because of a previously created plan and mutual trust between me and the residents. 

Through the eyes of a trainer: How I helped my coworkers

As I progressed professionally and became a Residential Supervisor, I jumped at the first chance to become a Certified Instructor.

Believe it or not, unlike my first training as a participant, I do NOT remember the first training I facilitated as a Certified Instructor. I think I might have blacked out, but I got through it somehow, nerves and all. I do, however, remember many of my subsequent programs.

Over the next three years, I trained administrative staff, school employees, support staff, social workers, residential youth counselors, and more. Facilitating the trainings quickly became one of my favorite tasks. On days when I was training, I seemed to have an extra bounce in my step. I began viewing life—both personal and professional—through the lens of the program. I even often found myself standing in the CPI Supportive Stance℠ while interacting with elevators and doors.

I enjoyed facilitating the programs for a few reasons. One was because I loved to watch learning occur. Creating the “ah-ha” moments let me know that I was helping to recruit more Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ advocates. Another reason I enjoyed my role was because I had seen too many occasions where crisis intervention went wrong, and I had a responsibility to do all I could to help reduce the number of overreactions, missed opportunities, and unnecessary restraints that occurred.

A higher level of care

The organization I worked for had made a strong commitment to Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training and trauma-informed care, and a change in culture was occurring. It was a vital component of success that our caregivers had the tools, skills, and insight needed to manage crisis situations in the safest and least restrictive manner.

I was thrilled to be a part of this process. I also found that the more I facilitated the program, the stronger my own intervention skills became, which allowed me to provide a higher level of care. I was well-aware of the fact that, because many of the participants I trained were under my direct supervision, it was crucial that I serve as a role model of the effectiveness of the strategies discussed in the program. In other words, I had to practice what I preached.

Bonding and troubleshooting

While I appreciated all participants, I particularly took satisfaction in training youth counselors in the residential treatment department. Much like employees in schools, prisons, or hospitals, only employees who actually work on the residential treatment units fully comprehend exactly what it’s like to work in an environment with such a unique set of challenges and rewards. When the group consisted of exclusively residential staff, we were able to problem solve at a more in-depth level, expand on aspects of physical interventions, and help each other build our repertoires of intervention skills. To ensure that these skills would be transferred to the unit I supervised, youth counselors understood that their commitment to Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ would be given strong consideration when it came to performance evaluations and professional advancement. The trainings also served as a bonding experience for employees, which improved teamwork on the unit, because let’s face it—in addition to being extremely informative, the program is a blast!

Through the eyes of a train-the-trainer: How I help people in other organizations

The program is so much of a blast, in fact, that I decided to work for the company behind the program. In late 2013, I accepted a position as a Global Professional Instructor at CPI. Instantaneously, I was accepted by the family that is CPI. If I were to make a list of the reasons why I emphatically love my job, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I could go on and on, boasting about the extraordinary wealth of knowledge, kindness, and support that exists within the walls of our headquarters, but what we do is not about us.

It can’t be about us because we’re all about the 28,000 Certified Instructors. We are all about the more than ten million participants who provide Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ for the hundreds of millions of people in their care. It is a wonderful feeling to be a part of something that is so unbelievably impactful.

That’s one thing I was somewhat afraid of when I stopped working in direct care services—I was afraid that I’d forfeit my ability to impact the children, families, and staff members who I worked with. But that’s exactly what we do every day at CPI. We impact lives. Every week I have the pleasure of working with a different group of individuals who impact lives. Many of those people are undertaking the process of becoming a Certified Instructor, which means they will then carry the ability to impact the people who serve populations who need Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ the most. I am confident that I can speak for every single employee of CPI when I say that we genuinely cherish every story of restrain reduction, higher levels of care, reduction of injuries, and all the positive results of successful training implementation.

Life on the road

When I’m facilitating my programs, participants often inquire about various aspects of my job. I get it. It’s not your typical nine-to-five.

I’m extremely fortunate that the company of my dreams bases its worldwide operations in my hometown. While I consider Milwaukee my hometown, the truth is that home is now wherever I am. Because we train either onsite at organizations or at tons of different public locations around the world, Global Professional Instructors like me travel a lot.

In 2014, I traveled to 18 states and one province (just in time for a snowstorm in Toronto). I sight-saw at the Alamo and Riverwalk in San Antonio, enjoyed some outstanding live music and barbecue on Beale Street in Memphis, researched my family history at Ellis Island in New York, hiked with an old friend in California, and traveled the bayou of Lafayette. I also read a lot of books, met some interesting people, and become a self-proclaimed expert in airport and airplane etiquette. Luckily the training program has taught me how to interact with unruly passengers, cope with delayed or canceled flights, and rationally detach from the world of airport-related Precipitating Factors. (Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the handbook about what to do when the intoxicated gentleman in front of you begins to . . . let’s say release. It’s been an adventure to say the least.)

YOU are tremendous!

While I’ve enjoyed the travel perks of my job, the aspect of my job that makes me excited to go to the airport every week is easily the participants who attend our programs. I’m not sure if everyone is aware of this, but we get some characters in our programs. And I do mean that to be a compliment. I take enjoyment in watching the groups I work with form relationships, help one another grow, and often make great strides during the course of the week. By the end of the week, we are usually one big, happy family.

Each group I work with is unique in its own way, based on experiences, region, personalities, professions, and other factors. But every single class possesses a passion for Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠. Every week I find myself in a room full of caring professionals who share their experiences, expertise, and resources with each other in order to spread the impact that each of us is able to have. 

To everyone who has ever been through one of CPI’s programs and to all of our Certified Instructors, thank you for what you do. You make our vision a reality. Knowing that you are out there every day serving as providers of Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security℠ makes my job as rewarding as any role I’ve ever held. I am constantly astonished at the levels of commitment and extraordinary lengths individuals and organizations go to in order to provide the highest levels of care to the people they serve. It is your efforts that drive us at CPI and me personally. The commitment I see internally at CPI and by organizations around the world provides me with extra motivation for, as we say at CPI, Being More and Doing More. And that’s exactly what I plan to do as I journey into my second year as a Global Professional Instructor. Stay tuned for more!

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