Some thoughts on Restraint Reduction

July 18, 2019

Reducing the need for restrictive practices in services

If we focussed more on NON-escalation, it would mean that we spent less time doing DE-escalation – wouldn’t that be nice?

At Dynamis, we are committed to the idea that any type of restrictive practice should be the last resort in managing conflict.  If a restrictive intervention isn’t necessary then it shouldn’t be happening – this is fundamental to our legal, ethical and moral position in regards to restraint.

Our communication methodology is based on a number of key tenets and maxims which guides our training practice and forms the bedroom of how we advise staff to manage interactions with their customers, clients, patients and service users.

1)  Everyone wants to be treated with dignity and to be shown respect.

To be a contact professional who crafts their interactions with people as carefully as any artist, then this must be the fundamental bedrock of practice.

2) Treat people the way you would like to be treated in identical circumstances

When we meet people who are distressed, anxious, annoyed or frustrated, the only way to lead them to a place of calm and reasoning is by understanding where they are coming from.   We need to listen carefully and to actively empathise in order to see the situation from their perspective.

3)  Use Five Maxims for Effective Communication

  • Listen with all your senses
  • Ask, don’t tell
  • Explain Why
  • Give Options
  • The 2nd Chance

These maxims for effective communication in the midst of stress help to guide the contact professional and the person they are dealing with, towards resolution in a way that is respectful and has the warmth of human feeling.

4)  Establish Social Contracts and Deal with the Gateway Behaviours

When we interact with other people, there arises a social contract of expectations, of fairness and certainty which binds the relationships together.  Social behaviour is behaviour that considers the other.  When we allow people to chip away at the rules of these social contracts, dismissing elements of them or contravening the values or morals upon which they are based, the Social Contract disintegrates and weakens.  Where social contracts are weakened, more primal (more self-oriented) human behaviour emerges – aggression, violence, status displays, tantrums.  Contact professionals need to recognise when the protective shield of the social contract is being pulled away, and they should step in to gap and repair it.

5)  Mobilise the Bystanders

In a professional workplace, there should be no bystanders.  Where we are all engaged in our work in the same space, then the actions of others become, by our participation, our own actions too.  Vicarious responsibility means that organisations and managers are held to account for the actions of their staff.  It may also be the case that colleagues who stand by and experience poor judgement or wrong-doing by their colleagues can be held to account for their participation in this way.  Ethical Interventions happen when individuals exercise their moral values and put them into action.

These five points above are just some of the key points from our conflict management and verbal skills development course from Vistelar, called “Verbal Defense and Influence” which has been used in social care and healthcare settings for decades to guide contact professionals towards resolving conflict without resort to physical use of force.

To learn more about our Restraint-Reduction initiatives and our methodology for creating environments which are not compatible with aggression and violence, visit:

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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.

Gerard O'Dea

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