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De-escalating Back to Course Index

You want to avoid physical intervention for several reasons. First, there are the obvious legal implications of physically restraining someone. Also, physical intervention can be dangerous to the individual and staff. But equally important, you don’t want to use a hands-on approach until it is absolutely necessary because you run the risk of escalating a situation which might have been defused through verbal means.

Physical intervention should never be utilized as a punitive measure. Unfortunately, pain compliance techniques are still a part of the restraint technique repertoire in some agencies and institutions. Besides the ethical questions, pain compliance produces negative feelings between the individual and staff. When a person loses total control, he often does not remember what happened during his outburst. If the first sensation he experiences when regaining control is pain, he will remember that pain. This will lead to difficulty in managing the individual’s behavior during future interactions.

Staff must remember that losing control of one’s behavior is an unpleasant and frightening experience. It is sometimes difficult to keep this in perspective when the aggression or violence is directed toward you. However, most physical acting out in human service environments is not premeditated violence, but simply an explosion of pent-up energy. The staff are simply the object of the explosion because they happen to be present at the time.