Stress Training Courses

Stress Training Courses

A service director the other day commented how it was only on Physical Intervention training that the staff start questioning to the Nth degree about scenarios and possible outcomes of events. She stated that it would not happen on a first aid course. Well I know a first aid trainer who would disagree, however I have been on a lot of training as a participant in the last year (see biog) and can agree her point is valid.

This led me to decide to write about this to consolidate some thoughts about the “what if” that facilitators receive in training. More specifically the point about people’s perception of things “not working” that leads them to ask the “what if” question.

It is very common on training to hear people mention about previous training that – “it doesn’t work”. This is an interesting phrase to me as we first need to discuss what the speaker means when they state this as an immutable fact. In essence our first port of call should be – how do we measure success?

For something to be "working" or "not working" we must have a clear understanding of how this statement can be verified or validated.

When discussing success must we have clarity around discussing de-escalation techniques versus physical techniques?  Or do we need to separate these discussions at all?

Non Physical

Firstly non physical de-escalation techniques, including low arousal and other psychological principles. We have situations where a member of staff in a stressful situation makes a statement similar to “low arousal does not work with her” or “distraction does not work with him”. Usually when you see what the carer is actually doing it cannot be called de-escalation.

However the stress that the member of staff is under at that moment and the emotional aftermath create a reality that becomes their own. The human need to feel in control of a situation puts us in a position where for us as the carer the only acceptable outcome is the person doing what we think they should. We are therefore measuring success of an interaction by our emotional response to the outcome of how much in or out of control we feel.

Just as stress is not the event but how you feel about the event, so too is our belief around the success of an interaction. We first must understand our own emotional connection to the process to be able to effectively assist others with their distress.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”


When a distractor does not work, this is not a failure of the system, it is because we have not found an effective enough item at that moment. De-escalation is about finding the tool that works, we should not claim the concept does not work because you have not found the right tool. An item that works well at one time may not at a different time.

Our work is about building relationships, better relationships make the de-escalation process easier. If we have not found an answer that gives this person an exit from their distress that they feel able to take, then by the attempt we have exhausted a single possibility. From this point we continue to “work the problem” and find other options rather than pack up and go home. Everyone is an individual, this leads to many different options under the de-escalation banner.

No training will give you answers to every conceivable situation, every course you attend increases your toolbox of options.


“That physical technique does not work!” This is a common statement and again worth further thought. If the instructor got the technique to work with the largest person in the room holding tight to prove it would not work then, is the technique to blame? The British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) current code of Practice 2014 highlights the fact that not all participants will be competent at physical skills and therefore the discussion should occur – if we are being person centred around the individuals we work with, why do we think any member of staff should be competent just because they have been taught a skill for a few days? One size does not fit all. We need to be accepting the person cannot always do the skill, and be more supportive of this person centred stance as BILD now are in the 2014 code.

Physical skills are always a hot topic, but let us take a physical skill most of us are proficient in, or have at least attempted. Driving is a physical skill. People do a series of “courses”, they do not expect to get certificated in a day. They recognise the dangers of being in control of a weapon that weighs a tonne.

A friend of mine had a driving license and had been on insurance for years with no claims or points –  she had not driven in a decade. The issue here is that she did not feel safe behind the wheel, she had no confidence about her ability to control the car. The question is, would you let her drive your car?

Not likely, and herein lies the issue. She had the certificate, she had passed the course, she was even insurable with no points on her license. However people don’t say “driving does not work”, they say, “I don’t drive!”

We have exactly the same issue in our industry. People say that skills do not work when they are missing the point that the individual is not working the skill.

When under pressure in stressful situations an individual’s ability to carry out a physical skill is altered. If they have practised using stress training they will be much more likely to be able to perform the same skill under pressure rather than falter consequently then blaming the skill. The military understand and use this stress training as do Arctic training and pilot training.

A few years back on the BBC documentary twins study, identical twins Chris and Xand van Tulleken were participants back then before going on to make the recent sugar vrs fat documentary. Both doctors, the twins were at one point subjected to placing their hand and forearm up to the elbow in iced water. While I am not sure on the actual lengths of time one twin lasted literally about 34 seconds before pulling his hand out in agony. The second twin had to be stopped by the researchers after over 7 minutes because they were concerned that about his arm if he continued. Why the huge difference in the ability considering they were twins? – The second twin having worked in the Arctic had received Arctic training.

And so we look at Arctic training, one of the things they do is drop you into freezing water, which puts your system into shock, you even find it hard to breath. However this shock and stress training does not end there, you get dry, warm and a cup of tea then they drop you back in the frozen water. Having had this shock 3 times in a day – for the next year you have control over the stress reaction to being dropped in frozen water. This stress training can save your life. If you watch Top Gear you may remember Jeremy Clarkson’s face when he was dropped into frozen water by an SAS survival guy for their polar expedition – priceless.

I once met a psychologist who could not be convinced there was any value in “role play”, I mentioned this on the next course where an x-sniper pointed out that would be like learning to be a sniper without real bullets.



Do we need to separate the two discussions? It actually does not matter if you are talking about non-physical or physical. Success should be measured by a reduction in distress of the individual. To be calm under pressure and have the level head needed to carry out de-escalation, or physical, skills in a manner that will maintain or even build the relationship with those in distress we must move our thinking from “the skill does not work” to a stance of –

how can I work the skill?

Success can therefore be no one else getting hurt – even though the strategy does not involve controlling the person. The goal is to meet this individual’s need therefore reducing danger. If the individual has stopped lashing out and is not causing any physical danger, this should be seen as success. Yet if he is still screaming, and not physically being contained, our brain tells us we are not in control and therefore believe the skills we are doing do not work. This is an emotional response to feeling out of control and under stress. If you just show someone some skills without the emotional training component you can predict problems when things do not go the way those carers expect.


Bristol Area Open Workshop

4-6th June 2024

Bristol Area

Register Me!

West Wales Open Workshop

Autumn 2024 TBC

Narberth Area

Register Me!

More Posts from the de-escalation blog

Misbehaviour:Are You Missing the Point

Guest Post - Misbehaviour: Are You Missing the Point? - In a word, maybe. But not because you don’t have what it takes or because you don’t care about the work you do, or the people you serve. Of all the things you do every day at work; the problems you solve, the challenges you overcome, the relationships you build, when a behaviour that challenges shows up, it usually commands your immediate attention (and perhaps intervention). It often comes with a sense of urgency to eliminate it – a client may be doing something that is causing harm or putting others at risk – and your job is to fix it, right?

Evaluations are only one part

This is a series of images sent to me by the area boss. It is not about the evaluations people give me at the end it is about the consolidation through conversations within the team that matters!

Supporting Current Customers

So there was an interesting year. So many things happened and so many issues were dealt with in the spirit of humanity. Now we finish the year wondering about the new strain of the virus. Most of the populations of the UK seem to be in some sort of lockdown. And a vaccine is on the way. The Oxford vaccine has been approved. Now seems to not be the time to make rash decisions. And so it is with careful discussions that I have postponed the latest courses D8 were booked to deliver. We are delivering training and hands on consultancy to those who are in urgent need, those where the risk of not having training is assessed as too great to wait for the vaccine.

Adapting to our new normal through online workshops

As the world is adapting to the new normal we have developed a modular online highly interactive workshop to assist us all in this new normal. Given that we can suddenly have certain groups of staff isolating for a period of time we now have the ability to put them on engaging training. So how did this online workshop come into being?

Behind the Mask

I have wanted to do a post about Hanlon's Razor for a while and the mask issue has led to me combining that here. Our non verbal communication being misinterpreted or misunderstood should not be considered intentional.

During this time of COVID-19 coronavirus

With all of us having concerning times we all need to do what we can for each other. There are many stories of people going above and beyond for those in their community. I see the people who have been through our system as part of our community. We all have people in our lives we need to support and look after due to vulnerabilities. As most of you will work within our industry or have people who you need to support within your household / family you will have difficulties supporting during illness and getting cover. Isolation is a concern - there are effectively physical walls between us.

The paradigm shift staff go through

The mind shift almost always travels from introductions where people say / imply things that contradict the basic philosophy of the course to an ending where people state publicly (or privately to me) how they always thought like this. Usually adding something like - “it is great that a training like this exists so that all those other people I work with whose attitude needs adjusting can access it”.

Age and the different responses

Teaching different groups can lead to predictable responses. When you teach a group where half the participants work with younger kids (under 11 ish) and the other half work with young people (teens) there is a clear dichotomy in their attitudes and responses around problem behaviour. It all comes back to the issue around the distractor versus the reinforcer.

A Place on the Restraint Reduction Network Certified Organisations List

Certification in itself is a process that cannot be rushed, this is a good thing as it is important that the system does exactly what it says on the tin. Throughout the months of preparation, assessment and certification it is hard to appreciate what the outcome will look like for our efforts. Today (6th Feb 2020) the image of the list of certified companies looks like this - today only, however I like the imagery :-)

Debriefing, Post Incident Review, Offloading and the Restraint Reduction Network

As you know from our previous post about offloading we @D8 have always fundamentally separated the concept of Debriefing into 2 distinct and different areas. As we are in 2020 we should add that the Restraint Reduction Network Standards (2019 version 1.1) have also got these laid out into the same 2 areas.

Affect Labelling

Over the last few years we have had a terrific response in terms of de-escalation with our course incorporating Affect Labelling. Emotions arise to make us pay attention to our environment. The more emotional our experience, the less we can think clearly, resist impulses, and engage in constructive problem-solving. By creating even the simplest label, we learn to express what we are experiencing. At a rudimentary level, we think about what is causing us to feel emotion and take action to experience either more or less of the emotion, depending on the situation.

Update Days - Interesting Responses

In a previous life I worked as a trainer for another organisation. This organisation had several trainers which meant when delivering update days I would, more often than not, be delivering an update day to a group who I had not delivered the original course to.When doing the introductions on an update day I used to consistently hear a couple of common comments.

Holiday Cottage

D.ESCAL8™ know it can sometimes be difficult finding somewhere to take the individuals we support on holiday. Concerns around behaviour - particularly noise and breakages - make supporters feel limited in the choice of accommodation. D.ESCAL8™ recommend Fronrhydwen, a family run smallholding in Pembrokeshire, where Des Cooke lets out a cottage for holidays. The four bedded accommodation is set in a rural 4 acres, affording space and quiet, whilst being situated a short drive from all the area has to offer. Des and his family have welcomed individuals and their carers on many occasions. They have a relaxed and flexible approach e.g. acceptance that noise is part of life.

Offloading - a subsection of de-briefing

If there is any indication or suspicion that anyone has suffered an injury or psychological trauma following the incident / use of physical intervention they must receive treatment and support as soon as is reasonably possible. Debriefing is misused as a term, and while analysis is important in a Positive Behaviour Support framework, your D.ESCAL8™ facilitator discussed these two areas and the differences between debriefing and offloading. 

What kind of support carer are you?

When under pressure we respond in a small number of differing ways. These tend to be in 2 main camps. Those who feel the need to control and those who have a more relaxed attitude. The question is which has a better effect on the person in distress? Picture this, you are under pressure and in distress and you shout at your partner "just get me my dinner!" and your partner replies "No, you will not talk to me in that manner! ENOUGH now."

Participant PDF Certificate Access Online

the D8 admin system has developed steadily over the last few years and is now at the point where we can release individual participant online access to their own digital certificates. This has been a while coming and the certificates do not look anything like their physical solid card counterparts. However it does mean participants who for one reason or another do not get their certificate from the course organiser or have lost it, can gain a digital replacement themselves online.

de-escalation and PBS training hubs

From Inception D8 was formed as a method of getting high quality training to those who care for individuals in distress. Part of that concept involves smaller companies and individuals who find accessing training prohibitive for various reasons. Apart from the obvious cost implications with running a full training course there are also the implications regarding closing a business to release staff for the course to occur.

Parent and Family Workshops - Assisting Individuals in Distress

Over the last few years we have been having many conversations with family members who say they never receive support with their child or relative's behaviour.For a long time we debated how to achieve supporting family around their person. I grew up with disabilities as part of my family life and therefore am quite close to the fundamental idea that we are in a great positions to assist others.

What should we be focussing on in DeBriefing

The term debriefing is an industry-used term. In our industry while useful it is often misunderstood when talking about application at ground floor or grassroots level. When discussing the term de-briefing we have separated the term debriefing into different areas. I will discuss one of these here.

Training Administration System

A brief conversation around the administration system that we use on a daily basis.

Attachment Trauma & Relationships

Recently I was lucky enough to attend the latest BILD seminar entitled - Attachment Trauma & Relationships D.ESCAL8 has, from its inception, focused on attachment, trauma and resilience in relationships and in our main course titled – “Developing Positive Relationships with Individuals in Distress”. I was therefore interested in this seminar in particular and was able to swing my timetable to go in the last few days prior to the event.

Positive Behavour Support Training Animation

PBS, Positive Behaviour Support Training focuses us to follow a path, yet there has not been a succinct summation I cared to share until now. The British Institute of Learning Disabilities’s new Centre for the Advancement of Positive Behaviour Support has commissioned a video animation to help explain PBS. I have put it here and also an easily memorable short link for you to this video.

The Assumption about Physical Intervention Training

What would you do? This seems to be an innocent question with a straight forward answer. However, when asked by someone who works in healthcare industry, assumptions take over and most people are convinced they know exactly what that entails – lets look at the options

Challenging Behaviour - Outdated

Challenging Behaviour is a term the healthcare sector has misused for years. When the term was originally introduced, it was an attempt to move away from the then widely used term "behaviourally disturbed". The healthcare sector recognised that the term had become associated with some very negative connotations and therefore should not, in good conscience, be given to an individual.