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The Most Common Trigger to Unsafe Behavior: Plan A

When describing the upsides and downsides to the three Plans of CPS, we highlight how attempts at Plan A often escalate things by throwing emotional fuel on the fire. This is particularly true with traumatized children and adolescents. Why? Because Plan A activates the stress response leading to dysregulation. In other words, when you use Plan A, the response you often get is fight or flight. And if flight isn’t an option, then fight it is.

So you can imagine we weren’t surprised to read the this article on violence in correctional facilities in NY where a large percentage of inmates have mental unless and trauma histories.

This quote caught our eye “in particular, correction officers have struggled with an increasing concentration of mentally ill inmates who experts say often respond defiantly or erratically to the harsh, zero-tolerance disciplinary measures successfully employed in the past.”

In our work with the NYPD in schools this year, we have found a dramatic decrease in violent assaults on officers which might be the effect of officers and agents responding to challenging behavior with more empathy and less Plan A after our initial training with them.

Many years ago our colleagues from Yale implemented CPS with help from Dr. Ablon and saw a dramatic decrease in restraint and seclusion like so many other programs we have worked with. They then published their results  and subsequently wrote a paper about the experience entitled “Beyond Point and Level Systems” which contains an excellent review of the literature on just this dynamic. Turns out there is a fair amount of research demonstrating that Plan A causes the worst moments in many facilities which is sadly ironic because our first response to unsafe situations is more Plan A.

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