Sunday, 28 August 2011

To NVCI or not to NVCI...

Tools for defusing anxiety and frustration...
I caught a Facebook conversation recently between two friends about the Crisis Prevention Institute’s Non-Violent Crisis Intervention training, or NVCI training (which, for those of you who don’t know, is training in de-escalating potentially…I’m going to say violent, because it can get to that point, with the understanding that I’m reluctant to because I don’t want to contribute to the idea that certain groups are inherently violent because of a diagnosis...situations in a way that’s safe for everyone.)

DISCLAIMER: I’m not involved with the Crisis Prevention Institute in any way, besides having taken NVCI training in the past. I don’t speak for them. The opinions in this blog post (and the next one) are my own.

There.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way. :)

Philosophically Against NVCI training

The school at which I received my training to work with people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities wouldn’t do NVCI training with us. They may have changed their stance on it now that more and more agencies require it. But when I was a student, we were free to pursue the certification outside of school, but it wasn’t a training that they’d offer in-class due to the section on “holds” (physical restraint). Their philosophy was that they were against physical restraint in all circumstances, so they wouldn’t offer the training as part of the curriculum.  One of the friends involved in the Facebook discussion that I mentioned earlier was lamenting that teachers now have to have NVCI training and hoped that she’d never have to use a “hold” on a child. While I do understand both lines of thinking, I don’t know if they’re realistic for support workers today.

Being Pragmatic - Use the Tools

First, I would hope that any agency or government institution (a school or a hospital, for example) that does NVCI training with staff hopes too that the holds won’t ever be necessary. If staff has to use a hold on a client, then the most important parts of NVCI training, the parts that make up the bulk of the training, have failed, and a situation has gotten much more out of hand than it needed to be. Most of NVCI training is about learning to defuse anxiety in a person or a situation the moment it    manifests. Trainers teach  course participants  verbal and nonverbal  tools to de-escalate  situations where it looks  like a person has the  potential to behave in a  violent manner, before  the behaviour itself  begins. These strategies  are the most important  part of the course, and  I’ve used them even off of  the job site, just to  reduce another person’s  anxiety or frustration – a  lot of it is common sense  about working with people, not just people whose anxiety might move their behaviour to a level that becomes a concern.

However, when I’ve taken the NVCI training, it’s been in positions where I’ve been required to work with people who, for a variety of reasons, *are* prone to anxiety and frustration and who sometimes behave unpredictably. Sometimes it’s been a pattern that anxiety or frustration mounts because they have difficulty communicating and making their wishes known, or letting people know that something’s wrong.  Sometimes it’s been because of medical or hormonal problems. Sometimes it’s been because of mental conditions. And while I’ve been lucky enough this far in my career not to have been the object of violence, I know that it does happen.

Using What Keeps Everyone Safe, Given Certain Realities

My school and I disagreed vehemently on this, but I saw (still see) no reason why workers in the developmental services field should be required to absorb violence from people that they support. It may be on the worker that he or she didn’t catch a situation soon enough or do a good enough job of defusing it, but I’m not going to begrudge *anyone* instruction on how to safely (for both parties) deflect an assault because he or she is still learning good verbal/nonverbal conflict de-escalation skills.

The key there being *safety*. NVCI violence deflection skills, if they absolutely must be used (assuming they are used properly) keep both people safe. And for something like this, agencies should strive to make the safe way to deal with violence, for both people, the instinctive way of dealing with it.

More on this in the next post.

For more information on CPI and NVCI:

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