As part of the agency’s commitment to promoting safety and trauma-informed environments, Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) is implementing Advanced Crisis Intervention Training (ACIT). ACIT is the only crisis intervention certification available from a professional mental health association for responding to anger, aggression, and violence. In the 2022 Performance-based Standards (PbS), more than 70% of staff indicated that additional training would increase facility safety, and about 50% specified the need for more verbal de-escalation training. The ACIT program aims to meet that need and represents an avenue to invest in staff’s professional development and safety, while also empowering youth.
ACIT is designed to intervene with individuals experiencing crisis or emotional dysregulation in a way that prioritizes safety for staff and residents, protects dignity, and reduces the recurrence of future crises. ACIT is a highly structured framework for interacting with an individual in crisis by identifying their need, engaging safely, and empowering them to self-regulate, thereby reinforcing staff safety. At its core, ACIT is done with a resident rather than to them.
This two-day training includes two components: (1) classroom learning and (2) dynamic learning activities. The classroom component instructs staff on different kinds of aggression, situations that often precede aggression, crisis cycles, six levels of validation, and the components for verbally de-escalating someone in crisis. The dynamic learning activities involve repeated, immersive, scenario-based role plays in which participants practice the tenets of ACIT. Scenarios increase in intensity and complexity to acclimate staff to maintaining self-regulation in the face of difficult, potentially frightening situations. These activities help staff develop awareness of their own reaction to crisis and maintain self-regulation.
In addition to being trauma-informed, ACIT is supported by empirically-based principles and aligns well with JR’s use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), our dedication to rehabilitation, and our commitment to investing in our staff as our most valuable asset. De-escalation trainings like ACIT have been associated with improved staff safety, confidence, knowledge, and retention. ACIT is also associated with decreased use of restraints and room confinement and stronger relationships between staff and residents. This training provides a skill set that is foundational to our staff’s daily work.