Single Person Restraint Technique Vs. Two Person (Pro’s and Con’s)

We often hear facilities ask us, “Do you teach a single-person restraint technique?” Our answer is, “No.”  The next question is, “Why not?” As this is a question that plagues many employees’ minds, we wanted to take a moment to discuss the reasons for, and against a single-person restraint technique when considering crisis intervention training.


1.  Can use when you are working by yourself

2.  Do not have to depend on other staff member’s ability to assist you

3.  If there are more than one individual that needs restraining, less staff are required to intervene per aggressor.


1.  Facilities often make the mistake of trying to do more with less.  Most employees would love an administration that would be willing to hire more staff to help out and go over the mandated ratio/staffing numbers when possible.  In reality, a higher the ratio of staff-to-clients most often results in higher levels of staff morale, a higher level of therapeutic intervention, and a decrease in the amount of crisis situations.  For staff members to seek out a restraint system that can be done by a single staff member, they may be giving up a tool to use in improving their case for better staffing ratios.

Additionally, when you are by yourself alone and making physical contact with another individual, the end result (without video or other persons present) is your word against theirs. Depending on what environment you work in, and with whom, there is a huge danger of false accusations, investigations, possible suspensions, and blemishes to your work history; whether founded or false.

2.  If you are working with staff that are not physically able to assist you in an emergency (thus you would prefer not having them assist you in a restraint situation), it is an HR issue that needs to be addressed immediately. Ignoring the problem of unprepared or physically unqualified staff will not go away.  Additionally, if you are the only one capable, or one of the few that can actually perform the technique, (and do so on a regular basis), you have greatly increased your chances of being sued, increased your risk and liability, and increased your chances of a workman’s comp claim due to injuries.  In taking action during these incidents, you are doing so for the benefit of the staff member that likely gets paid the same amount (if not more than you) but are unable, or unwilling to meet the requirements of the job.

3.  If you are in a situation where you have to restrain more than one individual and you are alone, who is there to help if something goes wrong (Understand we are talking about one responder handling one aggressor. There could be other staff nearby dealing with other individuals, but with this one individual you are completely on your own)?

Imagine these realistic circumstances; you move in alone to restrain the individual as you were taught.  For some reason (as we all know, it happens) it does not work just right, or you forgot to practice it enough and realize too late you are in trouble. Your efforts fail.  The aggressor now is in a fight with you to break free, or worse, they now try to hurt you.  You must now fight to gain the upper hand, and/or defend yourself.  To top it off, you are by yourself, remember? Your partner is across the room dealing with the other persons in the area.  Additionally, you have the difficulty of trying to save yourself without causing undue injury or using unnecessary force.

What are you left to do? This is unfortunately where people resort to options which are likely to be techniques with cause pain, hyper-extension, or potential injury. In the end, you have not use the proper technique you were taught, and have gone “outside” of the scope of what you were procedurally allowed to do. The risk and liability factor has skyrocketed.  If and when the individual becomes injured, you are now in a legal battle as the organization distances itself from you and your actions, and the training agency teaching the technique states that you performed the technique incorrectly, thus you went outside the scope of what they taught, eliminating their liability.

Had you been at least attempting a two-person restraint to begin with and it failed, your coworker is there with you to help you recover. Their assistance may eliminate your need to go “outside” the scope of what you were trained.  They are there to also verbally relay the events as they happened for the documentation, or the investigation that comes after. They are there to protect you should the situation spiral out of control. Odds are incredibly important in an aggressive encounter.  Odds are built on training, experience, and the ability to remain calm and controlled in an emergency. This is in addition to actual numerical odds.

A Lesson from Law Enforcement Tactics

The police call for backup because they understand the power in numbers. Why do police have “bat belts” with special tools like a Taser, baton, Pepper Spray, etc?  Because the reality is, one-on-one situations where a person is relying on hands and fancy techniques alone are not statistically successful, and often end up with injuries. The most common time when officers end up in a fight, or become injured is when they go to make actual physical contact with the bad guy (usually when trying to put them into handcuffs).

Ask any cop out there who deals with extremely aggressive, or violent persons on a regular basis and they will tell you that hand-to-hand is the most dangerous.  They love to use their Taser, Pepper Spray, or other less lethal weapons instead. No matter how good they are with their hands, they want the odds on their side. Those less lethal options are “odds“. Or, if you are willing, you can spend a minimum of 15 hours a week practicing some sort of martial art.  Often, however, these arts seek to overpower, throw, or strike your attacker by using combinations of pain, leverage, or hyper-extension techniques.  Additionally, most if not all of those techniques are based in safety for the victim, not the attacker.  Concern of injury to; or liability to the aggressor is also very low on the totem pole.  For professionals who are not allowed to use such less-lethal tools, actual additional staff numbers are your greatest ally.

For those of you that work in a therapeutic environment, the safety of the client is most important, as the clients are there for your help, not punishment.  You are expected to be able to handle crisis situations professionally without the assistance of a “bat belt.”  Part of your job entails occasionally being confronted with verbal and/or physical abuse from those that do not always understand the real consequences of it, and not responding in kind. You are held to a higher standard than most.

4.  Most single-person restraints require both of the responders arms and upper body to become engaged with the aggressor. When that occurs, you are now limited to stance, position, and balance, unless you move to the ground.  Statistically, when moving to the ground during restraints, the majority of injuries occur.

5.  Once moving to the ground you are now limited. Usually, you want to move to a different location to assist in de-escalation of the situation.  If you are pinned, or pinning the aggressor to the ground, such movement is limited, and the dangers of positional asphyxia can rise with any pressure placed on the thoracic cavity.

In conclusion:

Finding a single person restraint that can maintain its hold but not be based on pain, hyper-extension, pressure points, or joint-locks, while being conscious of positional asphyxia, and gender-safe related issues, is practically impossible, and we have yet to come across it in our 30+ years of working in and around the industry.

Looking for a two person restraint that achieves these goals and is proven effective? Your search is over.  If you are a current client, we thank you for your continued use of our services.  If you are considering hiring us, please be sure to make an informed decision on which technique, curriculum, and company you choose to train your staff; many lives will be affected by the decision made.

Visit us at to find out more about how our curriculum and techniques are safer, more effective, and drastically improving the safety and security of more and more organizations around the globe.