Team Intervention Strategies: How to Help Yourself and Others Stay Safe
Over the holidays I got to thinking about why we seek to be around other people.
Assuming the holidays are a happy time for us, we join together to eat, share stories, play games, and carry on traditions.
For some of us, we are even compelled to spend time with those we have nothing in common with, don’t get along with, or even don’t like.
If we have this drive to be around others in what is traditionally one of the safest and most joyful times in our lives, it might be reasonable to think that our need to surround ourselves with others would greatly increase as the level of safety and joy decrease.
This is why a supportive approach can help an escalating person, who might feel angry or unsafe, calm down. And it’s why team intervention can help us as staff when we’re trying to prevent a crisis.
As a human services provider, you might work in an environment with a fluctuating energy level and a fluctuating level of safety. My own experience working in an inpatient mental health hospital called for constant awareness and vigilance of where I was, who was present, and many other quickly changing variables.
So here’s what I know about team intervention.
In most cases it’s no fun responding without team support.
Many of us have either heard or lived horror stories about compromising, risky situations.
Yes, many of us have been there where we’ve thought, “I can handle this by myself.” Challenging our own thresholds to be able to handle more difficult or a wider variety of crises is wonderful.
However, if we begin to put ourselves on an island and lose sight of the legal, social, physiological, and even psychological risks for everyone involved, we aren’t doing anyone any favors.
Have you ever felt pressured to physically manage someone all by your lonesome or to even try to rationally de-escalate a client who seems to be focusing his or her emotions on you?
Odds are, unless you got lucky or used magic, it didn’t go as well as it might have if there was some sort of team support present.
Personally, I’ve been lucky to work at organizations that took a proactive approach to developing a range of team interventions, and a proactive approach to developing strong, continuous, and adaptive communication within those teams.
Using team intervention strategies can have a positive impact on the Integrated Experience.
The Integrated Experience is, of course, the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® concept that our behaviors and attitudes as staff impact the behaviors and attitudes of those in our care and vice versa.
There are several ways that teams can have a positive effect on this in a potential or developing crisis.
Staff members can gain insight into their own strengths and limitations when they’re working within a team. When they witness others intervene, they might pick up additional tools, styles, or insight to practice or use later.
Furthermore, additional staff members can serve as resources not only for intervention options, but also for communication pathways with the individual. It’s highly unlikely that each of us has open communication with every client we work with. Using the natural connections between other staff and our clients can help us gain further insight into our clients. And sometimes we need to take this a little further within the Postvention process and share tips for communicating with individual clients.
Clients too tend to feel supported by having a team intervene.
While there should be continuous assessment of how the individual or group is responding to the team intervention, a team can give clients a greater variety of options and can help them observe a greater variety of coping skills.
Tips for a successful team response:
- Know your clients and/or the resources you can use to learn more.
- Know your policies and procedures.
- Be flexible in how team intervention can occur and how your team can be summoned.
- Know that team support can be helpful at any level of behavior.
- Identify team leaders, and maybe train new leaders.
- Give praise and support to team members.
- Challenge your teammates in a supportive way to try different interventions.
- Know that some staff respond better in groups, some better in 1:1 situations, and some require even more management creativity.
- Ask team members what works for them and what doesn’t.
- Ask individual clients what works for them and what doesn’t.
- Point out and document positive patterns—not just challenges.
- Don’t become too comfortable with current interventions or practices. Look to learn and adapt.
- Acknowledge that in most cases, it’s OK if things don’t go to perfection.
Questions to answer with your team:
- Was the intervention safe, effective, and acceptable? What can we do better next time? How can we prevent a next time?
- Are our policies still serving the function they were originally intended for? How can we advocate for change?
- How are we designating team leaders?
- Does everyone have a voice in the prevention, intervention, and Postvention process?
- Are we supporting our team members? Do we need team building? If so, what kind?
- Are we too comfortable in how we intervene?
- Are our tools and resources outdated?
- How can we learn more about our clients?
- Do we have philosophical head-butting going on within our team or interventions?
- Are there misperceptions about how or why we use verbal or physical interventions?
- Have I asked CPI for guidance or used the benefits of Instructor Certification?
By proactively planning team interventions, we may not only gain insight into ourselves and our clients, but also mitigate current and future risk.
As a team, there should be a united stance to protect our clients and each other in a way that fits within our organization’s policies and each team member’s values. When you discuss personal and professional expectations before crises can develop, you can avoid head-butting about ideas.
Safety takes a front seat when you’re planning interventions. Because of this focus on safety, individual concerns can sometimes take a back seat—concerns such as communication effectiveness, time, resources, client, staff, and organizational goals, policies, and best-practices. But by creating an open and supportive atmosphere for discussion before and sometimes after a crisis, most of these factors can become balanced with safety.