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Debriefing an Individual Following Behavioral Escalation

May 3, 2018
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Debriefing with an individual after a crisis or near crisis can be an important component to a whole person approach to care.  There are many ways to debrief with the individual. However, there are many approaches that may be more general and some that may be individual-specific.  Asking questions about what happened and figuring out what to do differently the next time this situation occurs may be very beneficial for the person.  At times, staff may be required to debrief with the individual according to regulatory requirements.

This blog discusses these questions, the regulatory requirements with debriefing, and provides examples of visuals and different manners to debrief with the individual.

Successful Debriefing of an Individual

In many professions, debriefing is a common occurrence (e.g., business, law enforcement, etc) and allows many professionals to evaluate the outcomes of their behavior.  In professions where staff feel rushed and/or may have many job responsibilities that do not pertain to debriefing, debriefing with the individual may become less of a priority.  When staff are not skilled in debriefing with an individual following a crisis situation, the debriefing may, at best, be unhelpful and, at worst, could lead to a different crisis or near crisis.  By making time for debriefing with the individual and having people who are skilled in debriefing involved in the process, the individual is more likely to benefit from the debriefing.  This benefit can contribute to fewer crises or near crises in the future.

There are times when staff may develop a specific format for debriefing with individuals.  Debriefing according to the person’s social skills, emotional skills, and cognitive level should be considered when developing a debriefing form or format for an individual with special needs.  It may be important to ensure that staff and/or advocates who are familiar with the individual are present.  It may also be an important consideration that all staff involved in debriefing the individual is ready to participate.  Staff need to recover from any emotional responding before debriefing with the individual.  Some individuals may benefit from a verbal rehearsal of future situations and what to do instead of what they chose to do the previous time.  Other individuals may benefit more from the use of a visual, such as a flow chart to show the sequence of antecedents, behaviors, and consequences, as well as other preferred choices if they ever encounter that situation again.

Regulatory Requirements

When debriefing with an individual, staff need to be aware of any regulatory and policy considerations.  Sometimes regulations or policies may mandate a debriefing session with an individual. Some regulations mandate a time period for which a debrief is required to occur. In some settings, only staff with specific training, qualifications, or job duties may be allowed to debrief.  Awareness and implementation of these regulations and policies are important.

In an ideal world, debriefing would be done in a manner that always benefits the individual. However,  staff training, availability of time to debrief, and regulatory and/or policy requirements can sometimes constrain the debriefing process. Ideally, a debriefing session is a discussion and not a lecture. It should also help the person understand misinterpreted triggers, and should be adapted to what works best for that person.

Learn more

If you are interested in learning more about debriefing an individual after a behavioral escalation, watch the presentation below. Be sure to check our other educational Behavioral Briefs on our YouTube channel.

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