Preparing for Post-Election with De-escalation Training

Thoughts and prayers are not enough.  Prayer is important, but prayer isn’t only sitting quietly and asking Santa for what you want. Prayer is connecting with God so that we can go about doing the work God is calling us to do.  Earlier I wrote Preparing for “Post-Election” with Prayer and this is a follow up with some opportunities for training and possible action steps.  

I’ve been attending monthly Building Trauma-Informed and Resilient Communities with the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute[1] and Dr. Taunya Tinsley.[2]  At our most recent meeting, Dr. Tinsley talked about effective de-escalation themes that churches/congregations/institutions could use to formulate procedures.  Some things are specific to being in a building but lots of this could be used in any setting.  This is my interpretation of what she presented.  

  1. Staff Skills – Know yourself, be calm, safe and non-threating.  Be respectful.  Prepare ahead and use resources.   
  2. Personal Control – create appearance of calm even if anxious.  Looking calm and in control clear thinking, that results in better decisions.
  3. Verbal and Non-Verbal Skills – most of communication is non-verbal; listen closely with your ears, watch with your eyes and have an empathic caring heart.
  4. Engaging the congregant/member (person/child of God) – establish a bond; promote autonomy; minimize restrictions yet don’t eliminate those that provide safety; show trust, remain connected. Remember aggression is often a response to loss of dignity so be respectful 
  5. Timing – Early can be preventative but could be unnecessary or increase risk for exacerbating the situation.  Later increases risk of loss of control. 
  6. Ensuring safe conditions – this is again about being prepared and knowing who should respond, ex lay leaders or hired security.  Think about where you are and request the person to move to another area (for safety of others).  
  7. Strategies for de-escalation:  There isn’t a clear-cut situation, and everyone is different.  One size does not fit all.  Base what you do on the needs and characteristics of the congregant (person).  Pay attention to the person’s emotional state and formulate a strategy.  Remember to be an empathetic listener and pay attention to non-verbal cues.  De-escalation takes time and effort, it requires flexibility.  Find a balance between supporting the person and keeping the situation under control. 

Dr. Tinsley emphasized taking care of yourself first, meaning you have to be calm in order to do this kind of work.  Know yourself and how you typically respond to crisis.  Be calm, safe, and nonthreatening.  Do not let feelings interfere with professionalism.  Focus on the behavior you want from the person.  Trauma-informed and resilient institutions need a system approach that includes understanding, assessment, intervention, prevention, advocacy, and evaluation.  

She gave examples of policy/procedures from a particular congregation that showed they had thought through their mission and how they respond to crisis based on their values.  Knowing your community in is helpful.  

I found her presentation to be a helpful framework for de-escalation and noticed in other meetings I’ve attended in the last week with others thinking about de-escalation in this post-election period that there are similar themes.  I’m hoping to attend other webinars and events on this topic.  I hope to be prepared but I also hope that the situation in Pittsburgh is calmer than anticipated post-election.  

My plan in the next couple of weeks is to take care of myself, to do things that keep me calm and happy (I’ll be reading books on the Four Women Doctors of the Church). I’m also planning to attend trainings and meetings so that I can be prepared to de-escalate with other local clergy whom I know to be thinking along the same lines.

Here are a few other events that may be useful:

[1] About the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute:

Serving greater Pittsburgh since 1964, the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute exists to enhance the health of individuals, families, and communities through an interfaith ministry of counseling and education that integrates the resources of faith and the behavioral sciences. Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute builds on the strengths and resilience of individuals, families, and communities to improve the health, wellness, and quality of life of all those whom it serves

[2] Dr. Taunya Marie Tinsley is the Owner of Transitions Counseling Service LLC and Life Skills Program that includes a ministry division, Love and Basketball Ministries, where she provides individual, marriage, family and group counseling and consultative services.

Additionally, Dr. Tinsley is a facilitator with the New Paradigm Ministries Leadership Training as part of the Ephesus Project and is the Clinical Director of the Mount Ararat Baptist Church Counseling Center both in Pittsburgh, PA. She has a wealth of experience providing appropriate personal and academic growth opportunities for those seeking to become professional master’s degree-level counselors as well as for those helping professionals seeking advanced or specialty areas of training and development in multicultural education and counseling, spiritual and Christian interventions, and sports counseling/athlete development.

Dr. Taunya Tinsley has a wealth of experience providing appropriate personal and academic growth opportunities for those seeking to become professional master’s degree-level counselors as well as for those helping professionals seeking advanced or specialty areas of training and development in multicultural education and counseling, spiritual and Christian interventions, and sports counseling/athlete development.

Dr. Tinsley has also managed to stay active in both the workplace and in the community advocating for and promoting organizations, helping professionals, and their clients. She has served as the North Atlantic Regional Representative for the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD), the President of the Pennsylvania College Counseling Association, and the President of the Pennsylvania Counseling Association. In 2006, Dr. Tinsley collaborated with the American Counseling Association to develop, facilitate, and enhance the Sports Counseling Interest Network. Dr. Tinsley served on the board for the Association of Spiritual, Ethical and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC) in 2018-2019 as well as began her term as AMCD President on July 1, 2019.

Dr. Tinsley holds a B.A. in Business Administration from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN where she was also inducted in the Athletic Hall of Fame in September 2014. She received her M.A. degree in Higher Education Administration and College Student Development in 1995 from the University of Iowa. Dr. Tinsley graduated in December 2005 from Duquesne University with a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. In April 2013, she completed her requirements for the Certificate in Missional Theology from Biblical Theological Seminary. Finally, in December 2016 Dr. Tinsley earned her Doctor of Ministry with a focus in Prophetic Congregational Development Using 21st Century Methods, Establishing Strong Leadership from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH.

Dr. Tinsley spent nine years at California University of Pennsylvania as an Associate Professor in the Department of Counselor Education and Program Coordinator for the Sports Counseling Certificate Program. She has also served as the Director of Graduate Programs in Counseling at both Waynesburg University and Missio Seminary. In the fall 2019, Dr. Taunya Marie Tinsley started a new journey as an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Education and Counseling Department at Villanova University.

Her favorite scripture is Micah 6:8 (NRSV), He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

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