An article written for the 2012 winter edition of Fidelity – the quarterly magazine for the National Council of Psychotherapists
Conflict Resolution Intervention Strategies for Educational Support
“To Hold Without Holding”
By Russ Henderson M.N.C.P. P.G.Dip (Psych)
“If all I have in my tool box is a hammer, then all of my world is a nail”.
CRISES training workshops in the safer management of challenging behaviour and violence and aggression inside of the educational environment seek to offer guidance, support, advice and intervention for teaching staff and associated professionals whilst working with “distressed” Children and Young People.
CRISES offers a practical and ethical guide to supporting a Child when overwhelming emotions block healthy self regulation, staff are taught a sequenced approach of complimentary interventions to assist in navigating the Young Person back to a “baseline set of feelings and behaviours”, including a short therapeutic de-brief before reintegrating that Child back into their teaching set.
CRISES was devised as a highly specific and alternative approach to a mainstream strategy of managing Young Person’s more severe challenging behaviours with control and restraint, pathologising, medicating and more often than not, ultimately exclusion. Thus the somewhat paradoxical theme of the workshops, entitled “To Hold Without Holding” seeks to hold the Child in a wholistic current of information and energy with the focus firmly based upon simply seeing the Young Person not the label, and consistently managing that Child’s psychological, emotional, mental, and physical states through the lens that each Child is much more than what we see.
This particular vision opens a plethora of our own healing and creative energy, increasing our empathy, and consolidating the relationship we have with our Young Persons, and as much psychological research clearly demonstrates, the therapeutic relationship is the heart of the healing process, not the modality of intervention utilised.
CRISES seeks to offer “bespoke” packages of intervention, to schools, colleges, and any learning environment, with each workshop designed to offer a sequence of information specific to the needs of the training purchaser. The workshops have at their core an ethos of empathic and wholistic non aversive ideology, which can fluidly weld into the curriculum of where the work is being delivered.
All behaviour is communication and all conflict in the world is ultimately a deficit in communication (Fraser Duncan), the task of working with highly volatile and severely distressed Children and Young People is comparable with dancing in a minefield, you know you will meet an explosion at any time, the exact point of delivery is usually vague at best. For Children and Young Persons who staff have no alternative than to temporarily remove them from the classroom in order to protect the Child, their peers and teaching staff, a physical intervention / s is usually the means to that end. Section 550A of the 1996 education act empowers staff to physically intervene when this occurs.
Traumatised Children who have suffered abuse, especially those who have witnessed and or experienced sexual abuse / domestic violence are likely to experience the physical intervention as kinetic energy which carries an electro chemical charge or dissonance similar to their own abuse narrative, subsequently reinforcing the neural connection to the trauma/s, and crystallising the somatic record of the Child’s pain, whilst serving to strengthen and add energy to the Young Persons disconnection to this world. It seems logical that certain behaviours become addictive, repetitious, toxic, and regrettable.
For Children who have survived sexual abuse, it is extremely likely that physical interventions, will ignite a flooding of somatised energy of the abuse chronology including those that resemble any aspects of violations that may have included pleasure, a clear and firm understanding of the dangers of going “hands on” with a Young Person and the conveyance of “psycho sexual signatures” is most imperative.
It is reasonable to offer an alternative suggestion that Children who carry abuse signatures of an overwhelming magnitude, that their intermittent internal outpouring of grief when met with a physical force that has an attempt to hold them until they are calm, may be naive, and that Young Persons who are held until they present calm could actually have yet again had their spirit broken, however it is true to say that Children who "act out violently" leave members of staff little alternative than to physically intervene, and temporarily lend their physical support whilst the Child has lost control, and to incrementally reintroduce the Childs autonomy as they begin to take back control of their behaviour.
CRISES add huge emphasis upon the understanding of trauma and attachment as an adjunct to working with high voltage distress and trauma re-enactment. Incident de-brief has a specific focus of re-aligning the energy of disharmony, vigilant perseverance and adherence to this concept of energy intervention seems to assist the Child in finding newer and safer ways to harmonic self regulation.
Our key to finding and working with the energy of confrontation is based upon 3 key principles TIMING – DISTANCE – HARMONY (Vivian Nash).
The physical intervention system is used obviously when all other interventions have been exhausted, however the triggering of a Childs trauma signatures can be rapid and beyond the scope of the optic nerve.
CRISES gives information upon body language, such as facial tone, eye movement information processing, tone of voice, physical proximity, human energy bio fields, chakra or local fields of influence and dominance before and during an incident, neuroception (Stephen Porges) and the bodies threat assessment software, the dangers of premature and or unnecessary physical interventions due to amplified states of fight flight programmes, the galvanic skin response to threat, and how the bodies moisture conveys a multitude of electromagnetic and chemical information which is decoded throughout the human matrix (James Oschman), this information if perceived as threat is dealt with spontaneously and with little or no cognitive functioning.
The CRISES physical intervention system comprises 3 simple walking escorts which are designed to safely and simply support a Young Person out of the environment where the distress has occurred to a designated place of neutrality where the Child is gently encouraged to breathe and calm whilst being reassured by the member / s of staff.
Physical interventions can be tailored to suit the specific needs of the individual Young Person provided they do not compromise the “golden rules” of intervening safely; this is a short and highly specific inventory of do’s and don’ts which seek to robustly remind staff the importance of relationships and to maintain firm footing inside of safer health and safety and the Child protection / safeguarding arena. Physical Intervention training is not mandatory and optional.
It is prudent to bring to mind that teaching staff have a “surrogate parental responsibility” whilst taking care of the Young Person during the designated school hours, where to meet hostile behaviours which allow permission for the Young Person to practise violence and aggression and not physically intervene when the threshold has been breached could be seen as dangerous as a premature physical intervention.
CRISES is most suitable and generally has been designed for Children and Young Persons who are entering the domain of short term exclusions or those who have specific learning differences such as autistic spectrum condition, ADHD, profound and multiple learning differences etc.
CRISES has also been engineered for work with Young Persons who have been diagnosed with emerging personality pathology. For the Children and Young People who may be described as “neuro typical” and present with behaviours which are likely born out of attachment disruption / trauma, who have started to meet the criteria of short term and a possible final exclusion, assisting staff to create an energy contract with their Young Person.
Energy contracting is where the work becomes highly creative; person centred, and is where the “Essence” of the Child becomes evoked. Trauma can be seen as the severing of essence, a disconnection to our universal self, the omission of essence as a “bio feed” to our local self denies us the capacity to thrive and achieve our potential.
Teaching staff have a very high chance of assisting the Child back to a here and now reality and blocking access to dissociative shifts in time and space where the re-enactment episodes originate and become ignited. CRISES is aware teachers are wary of going into the territory of the therapist, therefore the introduction of energy psychology interventions seeks to take the anxiety away from the word therapeutic.
The energy contract is an agreement between the child and teaching staff that explains to the Young Person a different approach will be used to block the shift in escalation of behavioural problems. In the event of behaviour that is deemed disruptive the Young Person will be invited to leave the classroom and escorted to a neutral place where a variant of acupressure techniques such as WHEE (Whole Health – Easily & Effectively - Daniel Benor), Emotional Freedom Techniques - Gary Craig), TAT (Tapas Acupressure Technique – Tapas Fleming), etc. will be used to help alter the frequency of disharmony from dissonance to resonance. Cognitive interventions such as emotional awareness coupled with location on body maps as to where the held energy (William Redpath) of disturbance sits in the body, colouring the areas of intensity, applying subjective units of distress (0 -10) to the feelings of unease, the importance of staying hydrated, helping and supporting the distressed Child into a warm and gentle awareness once a baseline behaviour has been reached, the Young Person is praised and given a small piece of fruit and energy drink to raise the sugar levels, possibly warm milk, before taking the Child back into class.
Information and exercises upon the nature of water and how we are predominantly of an aqueous construction, how emotions effect the vibration and shape of water (Masero Emoto) can assist in understanding how cause and effect are interlinked. One thing I have found with distressed Children that helping them to build a “body barometer” in their tummy area assists in keeping an eye on the incoming tide of anxiety and the emergence of adrenalin charged reactions. 0-4 on the body barometer is an indication of social engagement, 4 – 7 is a trajectory onto fight and flight territory. Once 4 – 10 feelings arise they ask for assistance or if they are competent in their new energy techniques they remove themselves.
Feedback from the Children’s Parents / Carers has been very positive as they are strongly encouraged to use their new tools at home as well, Parental / Carer input and collaboration with teaching staff is vital in consolidating more effective ways of managing stress.
This new routine will of course be resisted, staff’s perseverance to this new regime tested, decline into script is easier and much more predictable than autonomy, also from the perspective of the Child safer, as the absence of the abuse stimulus is far more threatening than the predictable nature of being hurt.
After a short period of time, vigilant adherence to the energy contract is likely to allow an emergence of a contrast of now and then, the teaching staff have clear proof that the inner world of the Young Person’s internal climate has been altered as the body maps will indicate a fading of intensity, incident sheets will have reduced, rather than having to be escorted out of class, the Young Person is likely to remove themselves to a quiet place independently, use the calming techniques and return. This behaviour has a clear biological indicator that something dramatic has changed.
Energy psychology interventions work, they are systemic involving all of our self at varying levels, presenting symptoms do not return, are wholly non aversive with very little abreaction potential, and the most beautiful thing of all is that in contradiction to a lot of talking therapies, the energy work does not require the Child to talk about what has happened to them in any detail whatsoever.
“The anticipated seldom occurs, but the unexpected does” Shakespeare
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