Embracing Growth With CPI's Crisis Development Model

December 27, 2021
Woman at flipchart explaining Crisis Development Model

When thinking of the term “crisis,” what initially comes to mind? Many of us would say: emergency, disaster, calamity, etc. But what if we looked at a crisis as an opportunity?

In this blog we’ll dive into CPI’s Crisis Development ModelSM, a series of recognizable behaviour levels that occur in an escalating crisis, and the approaches staff can take at each of those levels to prevent or de-escalate the situation. Rather than seeing a crisis as an emergency, the Crisis Development ModelSM helps first approach the situation as an opportunity—allowing your reactions to be more mindful and foster a positive outcome.
Let’s explore the four levels of the Crisis Development ModelSM and the appropriate actions to take when responding to them involving both individuals in your care and fellow staff members.


At this level in a crisis, individuals are exhibiting a change in their behaviour. Your role here is to provide support using an empathetic tone.

Defensive behaviour

If anxiety is not diffused, defensive behaviour typically follows. Individuals at this level may begin pacing nervously as their heightened anxiety makes them feel like they’re being challenged. When defensive behaviour occurs, providing clear direction helps the individual feel safe and regain composure.

Risk behaviour

When an individual is demonstrating actions that have the potential to harm themselves or others, they are at the “risk behaviour” level of the Crisis Development ModelSM. Here, your role is to practice safety interventions in order to maximize safety and minimize harm.

CPI’s Top 10 De-escalation Tips

Based on strategies taught in CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training, these tips will help you respond to difficult behaviour in the safest, most effective way possible.


Tension Reduction

Tension reduction is the final level of the Crisis Development ModelSM. This reaction is the body’s depletion of physical and emotional energy. At this level, we have an opportunity to reconnect with the individual in crisis, providing Therapeutic Rapport. This stage also creates a debriefing opportunity for the individual involved as well as staff.

When we look at a crisis through the lens of opportunity, we allow ourselves to become better advocates for the Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM of those in our care.

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