De-Escalation Tales: True stories about how CPI training keeps people safe

This month’s episode of Unrestrained is unique in the history of the podcast. Rather than presenting a one-on-one interview with an expert in crisis or behavior management, we’re sharing examples of De-Escalation Tales, a series of informative, convenient, short stories told by CPI Certified Instructors about their real-life experiences successfully de-escalating challenging, disruptive, or dangerous behaviors in their workplaces.

Behind the scenes of Unrestrained: the origin of De-Escalation Tales

In early 2014, I was new to CPI and tasked with producing content relevant to our training. One of my first initiatives was to conduct an interview with architect Amy Schoenemann, the director of design development for PDC Midwest, a Wisconsin-based, architect-led design-build firm that specializes in senior living. Amy granted us an informative and inspiring interview about how physical environments are critical components of successful memory care programs.

My interview with Amy sparked excitement to hear more stories from the field, and soon after, CPI’s official podcast Unrestrained was born. As I developed the podcast, I had the opportunity to take the Four-Day Instructor Certification Program option of CPI’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training.

The course was a revelation for me. From the introduction of CPI’s Crisis Development Model, the behavioral model that begins the training, through the Postvention strategies at its conclusion, I knew that the content in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training was revolutionizing the way I would approach, interpret, and react to challenging behavior in the future.   

#CPITraining revolutionized the way I manage challenging behavior, and the outcomes prove it!

I remember thinking that the special education, health care, and human service professionals who took the course along with me were feeling the same sense of enlightenment. I could feel their excitement about the material as the training progressed, and I felt a rush of appreciation for how the lives of the people they taught, treated, and worked beside would be positively impacted. I was taken by their thoughtful questions and the way they related CPI concepts and techniques to the behavioral challenges that they experienced back on the job. Through their engagement, it was evident that the course material was immediately relevant no matter where you worked.


Photo: PeopleImages / iStock

I definitely think the energy and passion of Certified Instructors make Unrestrained a compelling podcast. One of my favorite elements of the podcast is how it spotlights real-life stories of de-escalation recounted by our interview subjects. I wondered how we could get at more of these real-life scenarios.

Taking a cue from the success of storytelling programs such as NPR’s StoryCorps and The Moth Radio Hour, CPI decided to launch the storytelling series De-Escalation Tales in our Yammer Certified Instructor online community. 
But everybody should hear these stories—now more than ever, it’s so important to see first-hand how CPI training can help provide safer, least-restrictive environments and optimal outcomes for individuals exhibiting challenging or crisis behavior. The only hard part was picking just five of them!


Five De-Escalation Tales  

(numbered from the series)

De-Escalation Tale #1 – Guest: Mahdee Raiees Dana, administrator with Pathfinder, Inc., an intermediate care facility in Batesville, Arkansas. Mahdee describes how he recognized a bi-polar patient’s stage on the Verbal Escalation Continuum and used an innocuous element of surprise to successfully de-escalate her suicidal ideation.

De-Escalation Tale #3 – Guest: Victoria Kim, social worker with the Special Education District of Lake County, Illinois. Victoria shares a story about how a Supportive Stance, patience, and redirection successfully de-escalated a boy on the autism spectrum who stepped off the morning bus in a state of agitation and headed into the traffic lane instead of toward the school.

De-Escalation Tale #5 – Guest: James Gulbranson, security supervisor with Minnesota’s CentraCare Health system. James shares a story that illustrates the importance of a team leader, team utilization, appropriate verbal escalation response, and use of the least restrictive physical intervention in successfully de-escalating an agitated patient brandishing his cane as a weapon.

Photo: PeopleImages / iStock

De-Escalation Tale #9 – Guest: Albertus Kral, executive director of Ontario’s Little House Residential Care Services Inc., an organization that provides a home for children who can’t live with their families.  Albertus tells the story of how he reassured a nine-year-old boy whose fearful, anxious body language told a very different story than his words. This tale shows the importance of kinesics—how body language such as gestures, stance, and movement communicate emotional states and stress levels—in successful de-escalations. As Albert says, “The words are one thing, but what are they really telling us?”

De-Escalation Tale #11 – Guest: D. C. Foster, behavioral health specialist at Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix. D. C. describes two men pacing in the psych unit and cursing angrily to unseen others, one in the dayroom and one in the patient dorm area. Unexpectedly, the two men meet in a single doorway, which D. C. describes as “an imperfect nexus leading to a perfect storm.”

Want to hear more?

(How to access the Yammer Instructor Community)

If you are a Certified Instructor: sign in to My Account on the CPI website, then click “Instructor Community.” Follow the instructions to join, and watch your Inbox or Spam to complete registration. To find a complete list of De-Escalation Tales, simply enter “#De-Escalation Tales” in the search box located at the top left in the Instructor Community.

If you are not a CPI Certified Instructor: you can enjoy the stories described above by listening to the podcast. You can also leave a comment with your email address and the other stories in the De-Escalation Tales series will be mailed to you.

Better yet, get CPI training, become a Certified Instructor, and enjoy all the helpful content in the Instructor Community as well as learning proven strategies for safely defusing anxious, hostile, or violent behavior at the earliest possible stage. CPI training can help your organization greatly reduce the risk of injury, comply with legislative and regulatory mandates and standards, improve staff confidence, minimize liability, and promote Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM.

Do you have a De-Escalation Tale to share? We want to hear it!

If you are a Certified Instructor and would like to share a story about a successful (or problematic) de-escalation, email Terry Vittone at or call 414.979.7165. We welcome your participation!