5 Things You Need to Know About Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Training

September 8, 2016
Younger hand holding an older person hand

So here you sit at your CPI training.

How are you feeling?

Maybe you’ve been in that seat before and know what the experience is like. Maybe it’s your first time attending and you’re unsure of what to expect—perhaps even skeptical. You might have come willingly or you may have been voluntold to attend. There’s also a good chance you’re excited to hone your skills.

I’ve been all of the above.

You and I are both part of a worldwide movement of more than 10 million people who have sat in that seat over the last 30 years.

Regardless of how you felt coming into the training, you’re here now. So let’s make the most of this. What you leave with is up to you—with the guidance of your Instructors.

I’ve been in those Instructor shoes too. I know what it’s like to train a group of peers, supervisors, new hires, and others. It can be pretty intimidating, and it’s not always easy to say the least. But the rewards can be remarkable.

My first experience attending a CPI program was as a newly hired youth counselor in a residential treatment center in 2008.

In all honesty, I had no clue what CPI was. I just knew it was one of a handful of trainings I had to complete as part of my lengthy and tedious new employee orientation process.

When I became a CPI Certified Instructor in 2009, I was excited because I knew how effective the concepts of the program could be and I was eager to help enhance the behavior management skills of our employees.

Now I’m one of CPI’s Global Professional Instructors who facilitates the training program that your Instructors have completed. The Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Instructor Certification Program is a 4-day event. During the first two days we go through the entire program over the course of 14 hours, and the next two days are dedicated to Instructor certification.

Trust me when I tell you that your Instructors worked extremely hard for their certification. I’ll let them tell you the details, but they earned it for sure.

Every week your Instructors share their stories, and I can hear the compassion in their voices. They tell your stories and I can see the genuineness and dedication in their eyes. I feel how much they want to extend the philosophy of Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM to you and the people in your care, especially during times when crisis becomes chaotic and/or dangerous.

Believe me—they care about you a lot and understand that crisis intervention can be extremely challenging.

I also hear their concerns. They share potential challenges they may face as Instructors, some of which pertain to you, the participants. They ask about how to communicate with a participant who doesn’t buy in to the program. They ask about how to respond to the wide array of questions they will likely be asked. We discuss certain perceptions and prejudgments that some people enter the program with and how to help people “get it.”

They know how hard your jobs can be and how much you care about the well-being of each other and the people in your care. They want you to be safe and to develop a wide range of interventions to manage the incredibly wide range of behaviors that you may see, often from the very same people who you’re trying to protect and look out for.

Based on the many, many comments and questions I’ve heard from your Instructors, there are five things I would like you to know about the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training program. Please take these thoughts into consideration throughout the class and beyond!

1. Before we go any further, I need you to put one thought out of your mind (if it exists). This is not “the restraint class”!!! I repeat: THIS IS NOT “THE RESTRAINT CLASS”!!!

I’ll be honest—when I first came through the program, I thought this was “the restraint class.”

As a new youth counselor, I was not allowed to be on my own with kids because I didn’t have “the restraint class” as my coworkers—and, sadly, the kids—called it.

Yes, you might learn how to use safe and nonviolent physical intervention techniques as a last resort in order to protect people involved in a crisis. But it is essential that we all understand that this is the program that can help us reduce the amount of disruptive, escalated, and unsafe behaviors we encounter to begin with. This is the program that can help us reduce restraint use.

If you went into CPR training and only focused on the chest compressions, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and use of the AED device, you would likely miss out on valuable information about how to assess the situation, recognize and differentiate between various medical emergencies, and make a decision to match your response to your assessment and recognition.

Intervening in a behavioral crisis is not much different. We need to recognize behaviors early and make decisions based on what we believe to be the most appropriate intervention we have in our toolbox. So let’s view this as a chance to add to those toolboxes.

Oh and one more thing before I hop off my soapbox. Occasionally some Instructors mention how certain staff members refer to the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® program as “soft.”

Personally I’m OK with that label as long as we all understand that “soft” doesn’t mean we have to be pushovers and never enforce limits or consequences. It just means that CPI’s physical interventions do not use pain compliance and that we will only practice nonviolent physical interventions that are reasonable and proportionate to the risk of the situations we face.

Based on your roles, policies, and laws, some of you may possess options on the continuum of force that go beyond our nonviolent approaches—and we understand that. But I’m guessing most people hope to never find themselves in situations where they have to use some of those options in the same way they hope to never find themselves in situations where they have to use the airbag in their car.

Throughout your training, you will learn ways to reduce the likelihood of those more severe outcomes occurring. And that will in turn reduce the likelihood of you having to use more restrictive interventions or a higher level of force.

2. The tools gained in this program can be effective at work, at home, in the community, and in just about any situation that involves human behavior.

I’m going to be blunt here. The program works!

I know this from personal experience, from the hundreds of testimonials I’ve heard, and from the extensive data that has been collected over the last 30 years. Feel free to ask your Instructor for more detailed information or check out TechValidate for some great data on the impact that organizations in CPI’s family are seeing.

At the start of every 4-day program I facilitate, I ask the class to list behaviors of successful de-escalators, and consistently between 90 and 100% of the answers are aligned with the approaches we discuss in the program.

Please try to avoid viewing this class as someone telling you how to behave, but rather see it as an exploration of how behavior impacts behavior. Consider this experience a journey into understanding how and why crisis situations tend to play out the way they do—which is largely influenced by the decisions we make and the behaviors we engage in.

You will be introduced to a few models during your training. These models are designed to help us deconstruct the chaos of a crisis and simplify our decision-making process, which will help us make decisions that will de-escalate rather than escalate behavior.

To maximize the effectiveness of the program, each of us must use the structure of the models to frame our own experiences—in regards to both behaviors we encounter and approaches we take.

This will help us recognize those early signs of a crisis and learn how to choose from a menu of intervention options based on where someone’s behavior fits in the models. While I was working in residential treatment, these models became the “voice in my head” and helped make me more effective during crisis interventions.

3. This class is yours. Own the experience.

This program is for you and about you!

You are the one who’s dedicated to impacting the lives of the people and communities you serve. You are the one who sometimes becomes the target of aggressive and/or violent behaviors when you’re just there to help. And you are the one who has to make the split-second decisions that arise during a crisis. Make the program about you by sharing your experiences, examples, strategies, and questions.

Teacher standing in front of a white board

As Instructors, it helps when our participants are vocal. This relates to class participation, but more importantly to matters regarding the care of our participants. Many of us carry our own trauma, injuries, limitations, and fears. Please inform your Instructor of these matters so they can accommodate you as needed. It will be up to you to decide how many details you want to share with the group. I’ve seen firsthand how a supportive group of people can help one person overcome fears related to past experiences.

A vocal group of participants can also help create an atmosphere in which people feel comfortable sharing ideas and strategies for some hard-to-manage situations. We can also use this class as an opportunity to find ways to work more effectively as teams and to add consistency to the approaches we use.

Also, if you don’t understand something, respectfully ask for clarification. There may be times when someone else in the class or another Instructor can frame something in a way that makes more sense to you. It happens all the time.

4. This is the beginning—not the end of the process.

When you leave the program, you can choose to apply the content to your everyday work environment or you can choose to forget the experience as fast as you can.

It’s up to you.

But I urge you to begin viewing the behaviors you encounter through the lens of the program.

Let the models of the program became the “voice in your head” during interventions.

Connect the terms and concepts of the program to each other and to the people you work with.

Seek to understand how and why crisis situations are developing, and be intentional and strategic with your own behaviors.

Remember, crisis intervention is a skill and it takes practice, planning, and polishing to truly use any skill to its greatest capacity.

You may find it helpful to keep your workbook. Review it. Add to it. Understand it. This will also help create consistency in the language we use with each other and in documentation.

There’s also some helpful information in the back of the workbook that may not have been covered in class.

And you can use the workbook to continuously identify ways to intervene in crisis situations. If you’re working with someone who’s displaying challenging behaviors, apply the content of the program to that person. Put the person’s name on top of the models of the program and see how the models relate to that specific individual. Learn which interventions are more successful than others and how your decisions are impacting the person’s behavior.

If you learned physical intervention techniques to use as a last-resort tool that may be necessary to maintain safety, it’s beneficial to practice with coworkers to make sure you know how to apply the principles to various situations based on your own work settings, abilities, limitations, client behaviors, team dynamics, and organizational policies. Having confidence and competence in these skills in addition to your verbal intervention skills can lead to more confidence and competence during crisis situations.

5. CPI is with your Instructors every step of the way—and we’re here for you too.

We at CPI pride ourselves on the world-class level of service we provide to our Instructors.

They can (and do) reach out to us with all kinds of questions and concerns that come up throughout the training and implementation process. In many cases, they can be the link between the resources of CPI and the organizations and people they serve through consultations. We are always happy to work with organizations and CPI Certified Instructors to help them find the safest and most effective ways to manage behaviors.

But we have not neglected you, the participant. Once you’ve successfully completed the program and earned your Blue Card™, you will officially become a member of the CPI family. Feel free to register your Blue Card™. This will allow you to become a CPI Site Member and track your training events.

On behalf of all of us at CPI, I’d like to extend the utmost appreciation to you for the extraordinary work you do every day and for always working to provide the highest possible level of service to the people who need it most. We know that some of you do jobs that only a select group of professionals could do (or would do), and your actions have the ability to change, and in some cases save, lives.

Thank you for being you!



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