Crisis Intervention Team Training

Dear Three Rivers Defense friends,

I hope you are enjoying February in good health and staying warm.

I just finished another round of our annual Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training at the sky boxes at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. The Gallatin County Sheriff's department conducts a week-long training for county, city, and university law enforcement officers, detention center staff, hospital ER staff, fire fighters, and other service providers. The goal of the training is to improve the trainees’ education, training, and experience for intervening in crisis situations. Ideally, they leave the training with more compassion and skills to resolve crises safely and efficiently. They should be able to communicate more effectively and to use their new skills to determine quickly whether the crisis requires an emergency medical response, a mental health referral or intervention, an arrest for a crime, or a combination of these responses.

I graduated from the program in 2011, and I’ve been participating with the scenario training for new trainees almost every year since then as part of my annual recertification. The scenarios are confidential. But in essence they put the trainees in emergency situations with people in crisis. Some are mental health emergencies, like a suicide attempt or a psychotic episode. Some scenes cast the trainees into an environment with total chaos, like one scenario that we call "The Train Wreck."

Volunteering as an improv actor in these scenarios, I always refresh my memory, and I learn a little more each year. I suppose that’s why we are required to participate in these scenarios to keep our certification. One of my take-aways last Friday was that you need to put your safety first, but you can learn a lot if you take the time to engage with and to listen to people. When you can safely do so, find out who might have information and learn what they have to say and what light they can shed on the situation you are confronted with.

This is not only true for crises, but also in our everyday lives. For example, when you buy a house, you may want to take the time to talk with potential neighbors, or to inspect the house with plumbers or roofers, particularly if you are not obtaining a formal inspection. As another example, when associating with a potential new business partner, learn about this person from others she has done business with. If she badmouths most people she has worked with in the past, you may want to stay away from her because you will probably be the next person she’ll malign. Both of these examples may seem to state the obvious. But when we are busy, when we want to embark on new endeavors that we are passionate about, and when we meet people who tap into our passions and who at first seem charismatic and charming, we may not always do what in hindsight seems self-evident.

DBEAT is an acronym we used in CIT training. Below, I’ve adapted it for holistic self-defense in every-day life:

1. Distance: Keep a safe distance.

In everyday life, this can mean, keep enough physical and emotional distance from people so that you can assess them objectively. Take your time and distance to get to know them thoroughly before trusting them.

2. Back-up: Call for back-up.

For people who aren’t law enforcement, that can mean, call your friends. Get feedback from trusted friends or relatives before you invest in personal or business relationships, especially when you have a gut feeling that someone may not be 100% trustworthy.

3. Empathy: CIT graduates are trained in empathic listening and observation.

For you, it may mean to take the time to listen and observe how someone else feels. Reflect on how your actions make someone else feel. What do you project? How do others perceive you?

4. Action: Trust your intuition and allow yourself to act on it when it tells you to be careful with a situation or person.

5. Time: Physical distance translates into reaction time and can increase your safety. Taking time to respond in business or private dealings can allow you to act more thoughtfully and to avoid reacting in a manner that you may regret later.

Brigitte Schulze