6 Intervention Strategies for Dealing With Hostile, Intoxicated People

January 22, 2015
A teacher and student having a conversation

“Addiction to alcohol or drugs is a constant inner battle,” says Judith Schubert, president of CPI. “[A]nd the fight often reaches unintended victims.”
When you’re a professional working with people who are recovering from addictions, the unexpected probably doesn’t surprise you anymore: Reckless choices, irrational thinking, and blowing things out of proportion are just a few of the behavior struggles that can manifest—often to the detriment of others, too.
In this Campus Safety Magazine article, Schubert details the importance of remaining professional even—or especially—in moments of chaos. Keeping your cool will help you build the therapeutic rapport necessary to bring someone down, or de-escalate them, from irrational behavior and potentially dangerous outbursts.
Here are six strategies to use when intervening with an intoxicated person who exhibits unpredictable behaviors such as anger and hostility. Keep in mind that these strategies should be practiced through training:

  • Separate the escalating person from others. Removing the audience eliminates the need to prove or save face. An audience can also instigate and stir up other emotions.
  • Don’t assume that you are safe because you know the person. Irrational thought processes give way to unpredictable behavior.
  • When intervening with an unpredictable client, make sure you leave any potential escape routes open. This is where balancing responsibilities of care with responsibilities for personal safety is paramount.
  • Use a team approach. Having a team available to intervene increases safety and helps us maintain our professionalism.
  • Avoid physical intervention if possible. Physical restraint presents risks to both the client and staff. Continue verbal interventions and create safe distances to minimize risks. Physical intervention should be viewed as an emergency response and last resort to be used only if the risk of allowing the individual’s behavior to continue outweighs the potential risk of restraint.
  • Follow organizational procedures to contact law enforcement or security when a person becomes dangerous to self or others.

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