What Are Strategies for De-Escalating Crisis Situations With Patients?


    What Are Strategies for De-Escalating Crisis Situations With Patients?

    In the high-stakes environment of healthcare, a Medical Director recounts a moment where assessing risk and clear communication were key to de-escalating a crisis with a patient. Alongside industry expertise, we've gathered five additional answers that provide a broader spectrum of strategies used by professionals in tense scenarios. From maintaining a non-aggressive posture to the implementation of relaxation techniques, discover the varied approaches to crisis management.

    • Assess Risk and Communicate Clearly
    • Maintain Non-Aggressive Posture
    • Practice Active Listening
    • Empower with Choices
    • Utilize Time-Out Strategy
    • Introduce Relaxation Techniques

    Assess Risk and Communicate Clearly

    Psychiatrist on De-escalating a Crisis Situation with a Patient

    When you become a psychiatrist, you receive training on helping patients who are in crisis. Since my practice focuses on the treatment of depression, a crisis situation I sometimes encounter is when a patient is dealing with suicidal ideation, which may progress to the point that the patient is at risk of harm. To de-escalate this situation, I have to assess whether the risk to the patient is significant enough that they need emergency hospitalization. It may be necessary to advise the patient to call 911, or to call 911 on the patient’s behalf. Clear communication with the patient matters because the patient needs to understand that we want to help them receive the emergency care they need before returning to our office for their ongoing depressive symptoms.

    Written by Dr. Bryan Bruno, Medical Director at Mid City TMS. Mid City TMS is a New York City-based medical center focused on treating depression.

    Name: Dr. Bryan Bruno

    Company: Mid City TMS

    Designation: Medical Director

    Website: https://www.midcitytms.com/

    Headshot: https://imgur.com/Iq9QW5U

    Dr. Bryan Bruno
    Dr. Bryan BrunoMedical Director, Mid City TMS

    Maintain Non-Aggressive Posture

    Adopting a stance that is non-aggressive and keeping a reassuring tone can significantly decrease the chances of a situation escalating. By maintaining an open posture and avoiding direct eye contact that could be perceived as challenging, the atmosphere can become less intimidating for the patient. This approach sets a baseline of safety and reassurance, conveying to the patient that they are in a supportive environment.

    Communicating through calm and clear body movements can be as powerful as the words spoken. Take a moment to consider how your physical presence affects others and adjust accordingly to encourage a sense of peace.

    Practice Active Listening

    Active listening goes beyond just hearing words; it involves understanding the underlying emotions and concerns being expressed. When a patient is in crisis, showing that their feelings are seen and valued can build trust. By repeating back what they’ve said and asking clarifying questions, you show that you are engaged and invested in their well-being.

    This empathetic response can transform the dynamic of the interaction, leading to a reduced sense of anxiety for the patient. Make it a priority to listen intently and respond with kindness and understanding to pave the way for resolution.

    Empower with Choices

    Giving individuals in crisis the opportunity to make their own choices can significantly increase their sense of control and autonomy. When someone feels that they are being heard and their preferences matter, it can reduce the intensity of their distress. Inviting the patient to participate in the decision-making process concerning their immediate situation allows them to feel more grounded and less overwhelmed.

    It's essential to balance guidance with the freedom of choice to ensure a collaborative and stabilizing environment. Encourage the person to voice their preferences and be part of their solution-finding process.

    Utilize Time-Out Strategy

    Time-out isn't just a concept for children; it's an effective strategy for adults to gain composure during moments of high stress. Temporarily stepping away from a crisis situation allows all parties, especially the patient, to gather their thoughts and emotions. This pause in interaction is an opportunity to break the cycle of escalation and reflect on the next steps.

    It's critical that the time-out is presented as a positive and constructive choice, not a punishment. Suggest a brief period of respite for everyone involved to regroup with calmer minds.

    Introduce Relaxation Techniques

    Relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises or guided imagery can play a crucial role in diffusing a tense situation. By introducing such methods, the patient's focus shifts from the source of distress to their own body and breath, promoting physical and mental calmness. This switch in focus can be a turning point, as it steers away from conflict and towards self-regulation.

    These techniques can dissuade further escalation and lead to a more manageable state of affairs. Encourage the person to join you in a simple breathing exercise to decrease their stress levels and work towards resolution.