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May 13, 2021

Becoming an effective PMVA Trainer

Becoming an effective PMVA Trainer

Probably the most important decision a company makes when it wants to change the culture of their workplace is this:  

Which personalities will lead the training effort?

In on successful case we were involved with, the organisation chose three of their most senior carers, who had all been in the service for long enough to know the common flashpoints, the most common scenarios which result in restraint interventions, the most effective strategies used to de-escalate situations with their specific service-users.

Coming into the trainer programme with all of this experience, not to mention a ton of energy and motivation to make a difference, the stage was set for each of these senior staff for becoming a effective PMVA Trainer.

On day-one of the trainer programme, the Dynamis trainer and the prospective new trainers all sat down together and looked at the data which had been gathered from the staff team during the TNA phase.  

We looked at where the teams felt comfortable, and where they felt less confident.  We compared this with the experiences of the senior staff working with them on the floor. With some probing questions and reflection, we started to gather together a picture of what the teams needed:

  • a wider range of conflict management tools
  • more consistency in how the team responded to crisis (common language)
  • more teamwork and mutual assistance during incidents
  • greater competence in personal safety (activating the ‘attack alarms’ less often) and
  • greater competence in working together during the physical interventions (teamwork and confidence in each other)

Our job from the Dynamis perspective was to come up with the most-common, most-risky scenarios which embody both the experience of working with the service users in this specific workplace, AND allow for the staff team to explore the new tools we would be ginving them in the conflict management programme.

Those becoming an effective PMVA Trainer were full of energy for this and immediately saw how this approach would help them to move the needle for their staff team.  People could rally around these objectives – they were, after all, needs that they had expressed themselves.

We discussed common scenarios with the team and came up with a variety of common encounters which could be used in this way – vehicles for learning.

And so, each person was now more ready to begin becoming an effective PMVA Trainer.

At the start, we led off with detailed modelling and instruction from the Dynamis master-trainer about how the non-escalation, de-escalation and crisis management components which would be used in these scenarios.

Before too long, we had to tackle a major question – “What is the game plan here?”

Any team going into a high-stakes performance needs to know what their ‘game model’ is.  A game model is a specific set of objectives about ‘how we do things here’ that the whole team understands and that each team member can follow as their go-to plan when things aren’t exactly going to plan!

With our Vistelar methodology, this game-model / game-plan is very clear:

“We agree to treat every person with dignity by showing them respect in every encounter, and particularly when we may disagree”

When dealing with someone who has cognitive difficulties, like in this learning disability and mental health service, we additionally use the following 5 strategies to get us closer to this goal.


  • Model Calmness
  • Reduce Stimulation
  • Separate and Support
  • Adapt Our Communication
  • Meet Urgent Needs

We returned to these mantras time and again during the repeated scenario evolutions during the training, making sure that this model for interaction was embedded deeply in the staff team’s practice of de-escalation and crisis management with their service users. 

We practiced the encounters this way, until staff couldn’t do it any other way.   The new trainers could really feel now, what it means when becoming an effective PMVA Trainer!

Fundamental to our SCENA approach is that verbal de-escalation skills and physical protective intervention skills have to be learned and practiced in-context in every practice activity, so that proficiency develops hand-in-hand.

This is how the training was modelled for the new trainers. Countless repetitions of scenarios, with intelligent corrective feedback to produce incremental improvements in performance.

As the training progressed, our Dynamis trainer gradually handed “Trainer” level responsibilities over to the new trainer candidates. Once candidates have seen and understood trainer-level tasks (setting practice-activities and monitoring them, giving appropriate feedback) at the right level, it eventually becomes necessary for them to practice these trainer behaviours.

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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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