Let’s Learn – The De-Escalation Curve

Have you ever seen the de-escalation curve? Having an awareness can help you decide when to intervene during challenging behaviour.

The de-escalation cycle is defined in seven phases: Calm, Trigger, Agitation, Acceleration, Peak, De-Escalation and Recovery.  There are specific features at each phase allow some predictability in planning for intervention.
The goal is to interrupt the cycle where possible and develop strategies for responding.

Phase 1: Calm

The person is exhibiting appropriate, cooperative behaviour, and they are responsive to directions.

Phase 2: Triggers

If triggers are present:

  • Redirect back to calm
  • Reinforce Expectations
  • Increase opportunities for success
  • Reminder of skills for managing triggers
  • Consider function of problem behaviour for future planning/implementing response

Phase 3: Agitation

Agitation is characterized by emotional responses e.g., anger, depression, worry, anxiety, and frustration.

Consider distraction activities

  • Proximity
  • Empathy
  • Provide Assurances and Additional Time

Phase 4: Acceleration

The person shows escalated behaviours intended to test limits. They are exhibiting engaging behaviour that is highly likely to obtain a reaction from another person.

Remain calm, it is not personal.

  • State Expectations
  • Move slowly and deliberately toward the problem situation
  • Speak privately if possible
  • Minimize body language
  • Keep a reasonable distance
  • Speak respectfully

Phase 5: Peak

People with acting-out behaviour may be a threat to themselves or others during the peak phase.

Although the de-escalation curve can help in all situations, even with colleagues, family and friends,  we recommend that a risk assessment and safety plan is developed if being used with a service user. This is explored during Taye Training’s ‘Managing Challenging Behaviour’ course and ensures this step is most effective.

The peak phase could lead to severe problem behaviour, possibly including:

  • Physical aggression
  • Property destruction
  • Self-injury.

It’s key to stay calm, ask for help and/or consider leaving the situation. Your relationship with the person will inform your actions here.

It is paramount that you implement a Safety Plan for service users that considers their previous behaviour, risks, your internal safety, and lone working policies and processes. These will be reflective of the service you work in.

Phase 6: De-escalation

This phase is characterized by disengagement and reduced acting-out behaviour. This is often shown by:

  • Confusion
  • Peak behaviour decreases
  • Social withdrawal
  • Denial
  • Blaming others
  • Minimization of problem

It is imperative that you provide cool down time and do not try to force a discussion at this point. Give the person space to process de-escalation feelings.

Phase 7: Recovery

This is a period of regaining the equilibrium of the calm phase. Determine consequences, positively reinforce any displays of appropriate behaviour. Any intervention should be focused on re-establishing safe activities.

Debrief with the person after they are calm for at least 20 minutes. The purpose of debriefing is to facilitate the transition back and to effectively problem solve, not to give further negative consequence.

  • Acknowledge Feelings
  • Identify the sequence of events
  • Help gain self-awareness and insight into their self-destructive patterns.
  • Pinpoint decision making moments during the sequence of events
  • Evaluate the decisions
  • Identify acceptable decision options for future situations.
  • Practice New Skills and empower them to respond differently next time.

The De-Escalation cycle is explained and practised in our Managing Challenging Behaviour course.

If you would like to find out more about our Managing Challenging Behaviour course, take a look at the course page. We tailor all our courses to meet the needs of your organisation, using examples which are tailored to be relevant to you, your team, and your customer group.

For our top takeaways from our Managing Challenging Behaviour Course, check out our podcast episode with Taye Training Facilitator James McCarthy here.