Crisis Intervention Team –Enhancing Team Effectiveness

Nearly every crisis situation happens in front of a group of people.  Of course there are the situations that individuals deal with from time to time, though most often situations that happen in the workplace have another staff member nearby, or at least within earshot.  For this reason it is imperative that responders who work together need to enhance, maintain, and improve their “team” approach whenever possible.  After spending over 20 professional years working with crisis in mental health, military combat, law enforcement and LE tactical situations, I have gained a deep understanding of a teamwork, and just how important an effective team is when dealing with crisis situations.  If you do not have a team yet, or simply want some information on how to improve or assess your current team, here are 5 steps to help with this process, also found in our online training courses:

Crisis Intervention Team – Purpose, Mindset, Focus, Action, Review

Step 1. Purpose.  Establish the main purpose of your team, and define it.  “A really bad idea, embraced by millions of people, is still a really bad idea.” – T. Blauer. If your team, no matter how small or large, doesn’t collectively understand the purpose of the team–and the overall “mission” so to speak–the team’s effectiveness, ability to rally together and form, focus, and act is nearly impossible on any high level. Every person on the team must know the overall goal.  Whether the specific goal is to simply verbally de-escalate a situation, move an individual, remove an audience, establish a perimeter, create a diversion, etc. the overall goal of safety, security, or creating a calm and therapeutic environment must be known and “owned” by each member of the crisis intervention team.

Step 2. Mindset. Responders must understand that their own mindset and fear management is critical during a crisis, especially during the first moments of the interaction.  Responders that are overly aggressive, “cocky,” or those that underestimate themselves can quickly become detrimental to the overall success of the crisis intervention team. Having a highly effective crisis intervention training skill set with practiced methods and approaches enhances responder confidence, allowing for a positive mindset to be achieved. Having a highly effective skill set comes from effective and realistic verbal and physical crisis intervention training such as the training CCG provides. Someone entrusted to pick members of the Crisis Intervention Team must evaluate each member on their mindset before, during, and after crisis encounters to ensure stability, confidence, and a return to baseline.

Step 3.  Focus.  A responder’s ability to focus and stay focused during high stress or confrontational encounters is key to being a team member.  To do this effectively, responders must participate in realistic training scenarios that encompass various stages of crisis encounters, beginning with initial low-level disparities all the way up to physically threatening and confrontational situations.  Through this process responders will gain a better understanding of the concept of reality-based training and the psychological, emotional, and physical impacts that such situations have on the body and mind.  After much repetition, exposure, and proper debriefing, a team member’s ability may be measured and improved upon so they become a valuable member of the Crisis Intervention Team (or possibly reassigned due to lack of ability).

Step 4.  Action. For any Crisis Intervention Team, its ability to actually “act” when called upon is critical.  Occasionally these teams are hindered by “politics” or too many chiefs all wanting control and the spotlight, so to speak. Undervaluing individual responder’s ability to make informed decisions and stripping team leaders of their authority when an actual situation occurs can have disastrous results.  Supervisors, administrators, and those in authority must trust that they have effective staff members who are prepared to handle situations when/if they happen.  There is no use in spending valuable training dollars if, when the time comes, the team is “frozen” due to an inability to be trusted to make safe and effective decisions to act.  Another part of Action in regards to Crisis Intervention Team development is motion. CCG physical intervention and restraint techniques require teamwork and coordinated action.  Practice, repetition, and teamwork all contribute to motion and singular action when necessary.

Step 5.  Review.  As valuable as a Crisis Intervention Team may be, the one thing that is even more valuable is collective learned experience and discussion. Any crisis situation, especially one that may have involved performance of non-violent physical intervention, should be followed by effective debrief and review of the situation.  Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How are the basic foundation of any informal debrief, and using this approach can help in learning from the situation to deter it from happening again.  Effective and thorough review can allow for responders to learn from their mistakes and correct them for the future.

In summary, all 5 steps are important in order to enhance any Crisis Intervention Team and its effectiveness.  Whether the team is made up of two persons, a small group, or even a large collection of responders, following this method can enhance and maintain a teams ability to de-escalate even the most dangerous and challenging situations.