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July 11, 2023

Addictions Treatment and Conflict Management

Conflict Management Training for Addiction Recovery & Treatment Services

As the world becomes more complex, so do the problems that arise. One of the most significant problems that organizations face is the risk of aggression and violence. In such situations, it is essential to manage people's behavior in a way that does not escalate the situation further. Conflict management is the essential skill that teams involved in such situations should possess.

In July 2023, Gerard O'Dea, Director of Training at Dynamis, delivered a training program on conflict management at an Addictions treatment service in Abu Dhabi, in conjunction with the Department for Community Development and the Family Care Authority in Abu Dhabi. In this report, we will cover the training program's highlights and the experiences of the staff.

Preparation is key

The training was for a team of staff who are about to open an addictions treatment center in the UAE. Gerard O'Dea delivered a training program on conflict management to prepare the staff for dealing with clients who may display frustration, distress or aggression. The training program aimed to provide the staff with the necessary skills to manage such situations effectively.

Experiences of Staff

The staff had a wide range of experience and came from different cultures. Some staff had previously dealt with aggressive patients in different roles. However, the responses to aggressive patients were not uniform. Some staff disclosed that they had used a show of force to make a client “back down”. In previous roles, some staff may have tended to over-medicalize patients who displayed aggression, frustration or other negative emotions.

Our role at Dynamis was to acknowledge the positives and negatives of past experiences of staff, and to orient them in a direction towards relational models of care.

Discussions about Triggers and Trigger-situations for Clients

Gerard discussed triggers in detail with the staff. They found that clients are likely to become frustrated when they want to do something that is not allowed or when they don't want to do something that is required of them. The staff learned that it is essential to have strategies in place to deal with these issues when they arise. Active listening and persuasion are effective tools to manage these situations effectively.

Practices

Gerard had the staff practice responding to patients who present with highly-aroused, intimidating or abusive behavior. The staff learned how to initiate an interaction with a client in a non-escalatory manner. They also learned how to listen actively to another person, manage a person's refusal to cooperate, and identify when their colleague may require assistance to have a safe and effective interaction with a client.

  • How to initiate contact with a client
  • How to manage frustration / intimidation
  • How to work with a disclosure or complaint
  • How to work with a refusal
  • How to work with a person in crisis

Results

The training:

  1. set expectations for providing ‘a supportive atmosphere’
  2. remind staff that clients can become frustrated, angry, upset
  3. underline that frustrated, angry, upset clients present a safety problem for everyone
  4. re-affirm that non-escalation is primary (don’t escalate everyday encounters)
  5. highlight that de-escalation is difficult, therefore best to prevent heightened interactions
  6. focus on consistency as a key goal for the staff team
  7. begin installing a working ‘operating system’ for the team as they work with clients
  8. hopefully, align with the senior management team’s ethos and direction for the centre

Feedback


"Thank you very much for your efforts and for the great training you gave us over the course of three days, feedback from the team indicates the Importance and success of the training."
- Staff Development Manager, Addictions Treatment Centre, Abu Dhabi

"thanks for the training it was a great experience, well delivered and on point with the sort of approach we are trying to create."
- CEO, Addictions Treatment Centre, Abu Dhabi


Critical for the Staff team

Conflict management training is essential for anyone working in a service that has the risk of aggression or violence. The training program at this addiction treatment service was a success, and the staff engaged well with the training. The next steps are to document the procedures discussed in the training, hold a specific meeting to determine the expected risk of serious violence in the service going forward, and the preferred strategy/ethos/responses to this.

In conclusion, conflict management training is critical for personnel working in services that have the risk of aggression or violence. The training program at this service was foundational, because it is essential to have a conflict management/de-escalation training platform in place. The staff learned how to manage patients effectively and respond appropriately to different situations. By documenting the procedures discussed in the training and getting cross-discipline agreements to determine the expected risk of serious violence in the services future, management will be able to ensure that their staff is well-prepared to manage any situation that may arise.

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Gerard O'Dea


Gerard O'Dea is the Director of Training for Dynamis. Training Advisor, Speaker, Author and Expert Witness on Personal Safety, Conflict Management and Physical Interventions, he is the European Advisor for Vistelar Conflict Management, a global programme focussing on the spectrum of human conflict.

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