(An extended version of this article originally appeared on the CPI US website.)

Do you see the same stressful situations playing out again and again?

If you've wondered why you're not seeing progress or change, it could be that you're missing one important step. This article looks at how to use debriefing techniques to develop consistency among your staff and strengthen your prevention efforts.

The CPI Crisis Development Model

As you know, the fourth behaviour level is Tension Reduction. This is defined as “a decrease in physical and emotional energy,” and it usually follows a crisis.

The corresponding response to Tension Reduction is Therapeutic Rapport.

While it’s likely you use Therapeutic Rapport with your service users, patients, or students, do you also use it with staff? Re-establishing Therapeutic Rapport with staff will help:
  • Create team consistency
  • Process events
  • Reduce tension
  • Problem solve
  • Prevent recurrences
The CPI COPING Model℠ can help.


Like all CPI models, the COPING Model℠ is a systematic framework for prevention. It's defined as “a model that staff members can use to guide them through the process of establishing Therapeutic Rapport with an individual after a crisis incident. The COPING Model℠ can also be used to structure a staff debriefing.”

1. Control. Structure your internal environment for change. Not only do you need to have that culture shift taking place, you need to sustain a culture that maintains the changes you're making.

2. Orient. This is the action for change. Orient each other to what you're going to do next time. As you progress with this, you'll start to see attitude changes, because you're creating that consistency. You'll start to see staff members being more on the same page during a response. Always be sure to review your goals, because that's how staff are going to know what you're all working together to accomplish.

3. Patterns. Record and track the accomplishments and progress that staff make. As you achieve benchmarks, be sure to celebrate your progress. Also provide staff with opportunities to practice. Help them get used to recognising early warning signs when they're getting off track, and where their Precipitating Factors start to come into play.

4. Investigate. Take a look at your communication system.
  • How are staff members communicating with each other?
  • How is that communication happening—in a moment of crisis, after a moment of crisis, and before a moment of crisis?
  • Is it helping that the communication is taking place?
It's also vital to ensure that your staff are getting training opportunities. We talk a lot in the MAPA® programme about training not being a one-and-done deal—that practice, rehearsals, and drills need to continue in order for staff to maintain their skills in a safe and effective way. This goes back to consistency: training and refreshers help staff respond appropriately and know exactly what they need to do when they step into a situation.

And with your communication, there must be a feedback loop. Make sure staff are seeing and hearing how things are going. Make sure they're seeing and hearing how those changes are taking place.

5. Negotiate. Negotiate that debriefing is an ongoing process. No matter how hard we try, nothing is ever perfect. Everything is an ongoing process. Negotiate this ongoing process, and continue to visit it consistently.

6. Give. Provide support. Everyone wants to have a good day at work. Especially when you face difficulties, especially when you deal with problems that sometimes seem unsolvable, at the end of the day (and throughout!), we all want to feel safe, successful, and good. 

To help with this, ensure that:
  • The team owns the vision of where they want to be.
  • You consistently provide support for your plan.
  • You're clear about what the support is going to be and what it's going to look like. 
As you're making changes and seeing improvements—and seeing more consistent responses through that debriefing process—make sure to give staff affirmation of their success. Positive rewards will help them see and recognize that those changes took place.


There are many reasons why organisations don't debrief. Time is a huge factor. You may feel like you don't have time to sit down and discuss an incident. Some organisations will look at an incident and think, “It was only a verbal incident, so there's no reason to debrief.” And from some organisations, what we hear is that no one requires staff to debrief.

If you don't require it, you don't make the time, and you debrief only the most serious incidents, you'll have a hard time helping staff use those consistent responses. It will be much more difficult to ensure that your policies and procedures are being followed. It will also be very difficult for you to know whether a response was consistent with your training, your philosophy, and the behaviours that you're dealing with.

Unless you take the time to debrief every time, to look at the incidents, to look at how staff responded and what you can do differently, nothing will change. You'll keep seeing the same problems over and over. Don't expect change to take place unless you make it happen.

Steps to success

  • To achieve that consistency, help and support staff.
  • Recognise the need for improvement.
  • Commit to change.
  • Help staff understand the importance of creating a consistent environment.
  • Work through obstacles.
  • Make time.
Determine when and where debriefing will take place, and make it part of a policy. Ensure that documentation is a part of your process too.

Be sure to lead change from the top down. It's tough for change to stick from the bottom up. It can happen, but you need upper management, because when they understand the importance of debriefing, they can help make sure that it's a requirement—and that the time is available.

Be prepared for small steps backward and unanticipated barriers, but work through them and keep moving forward. With debriefing techniques, you can create consistency—and prevent situations from occurring over and over.