Physical Safety Skills

The term "restraint" is loaded with assumptions and emotional undercurrents. In its basic definition, most people understand restraint to mean unequivocally controlling the escalated person physically to make their dangerous behavior stop completely. This mindset results in power struggles which are played out physically.

In contrast, RIGHT RESPONSE attendees are taught to assess and meet a person's needs- even to yield to physical aggression. This shifts the mindset from the goal of winning the power struggle to the goal of serving the person's need.

Because we purposely set about changing the long-standing paradigm that crisis management training was about reacting to crisis, we have carefully structured the language and processes we teach. When we started in 1994, crisis management training was regarded by most essentially as restraint training.

To unset that paradigm we have not used the term restraint in our learner materials. We instead use the term physical intervention to convey the important consideration that when we physically respond to a crisis situation we do so with calculated measure.

Unplug the Power Struggle
RIGHT RESPONSE attendees are taught to assess and meet a person's needs- even to yield to physical aggression. This shifts the mindset from the goal of winning the power struggle to the goal of serving the person's need.

Our physical safety responses are divided into three categories: self-protection, escorts and holds. Most people seem to lump all crisis interventions into just two limited categories: "verbal de-escalation" (neither restraint nor non-verbal de-escalation) and "physical restraint" (any force used.)

We must balance the safety of the situation with the rights and needs of those involved.

Ethical Considerations

To assist staff with the ethical dilemma of how much force to use in any given situation, we developed a Continuum of Intrusiveness which correlates the amount of force inherent in any intervention with the risks associated with it. Attendees learn to use the least intrusive intervention which will adequately protect safety and only use more intrusive interventions as warranted by the situation.

Use the least intrusive method which will keep people safe. Physical restraint can actually increase the risk of injury.

When intrusiveness increases, so does the risk of injury and other complicating factors to those involved. Thus, we should use only the least intrusive intervention necessary to keep people safe and only use more intrusive interventions as needed to keep the situation safe.


Safer Than Restraints

More importantly, attendees learn that physical intervention is used as a part of the de-escalation process — not a substitute for it. Physical restraint, after all, will not de-escalate a person. The RIGHT RESPONSE Crisis Cycle visually demonstrates the process of proactive crisis management, putting the role of physical intervention into perspective. From this concrete representation, almost no staff leaves the training believing that restraint is the first response to their crisis needs.

A New Physical Education

To further maximize safety we have utilized occupational therapists, physical therapists and a bio-mechanic to create non-aversive physical safety techniques and safer physical intervention. Instruction carefully draws attention to the common physical hazards associated with physical intervention and provides principles for minimizing these hazards. Certified instructors are regularly assessed for their ability to recognize unsafe physical intervention and their ability to correct patient safety issues. A focus on safe intervention reduces power struggles, injuries and lawsuits.

Techniques are based on the advantages of using your weight, balance, leverage, momentum and even the element of surprise over using sheer strength. Strength-based techniques are not realistic for all people, but also strength-against-strength interventions (restraints) plug in the power struggle and increase the likelihood that someone will become injured. As you will learn in the workshop, it is much easier and safer to move yourself than to move the other person.

RIGHT RESPONSE Workshop has the widest range of physical intervention techniques available with over 60 techniques for self-protection, escorts, holds, interventions designed especially for small children and for the protection from weapons.

See the Physical Intervention Inventory list at right → for the full inventory of physical safety and intervention techniques which can be tailored to your training plan.

Instruction in the RIGHT RESPONSE Workshop features a building block approach to physical skills instruction. Attendees first learn fundamental skills for maintaining their personal safety and effective movements. These skills are presented just when needed to learn a specific technique. Latter techniques are based upon the skills already learned with previous techniques. While there are a total of 63 techniques available, these techniques are based upon only a few dozen specific skills. Most techniques will use only 2 or 3 core skills. Compare this approach to other training programs which offer a more limited set of techniques which require new skills for each.

Self Protection

The Offense of Self-Defense
Caution: many self-defense techniques are actually offensive in nature. If the technique involves the infliction of pain on another person it should be labeled as offense and not defense.

The first set of techniques taught in the RIGHT RESPONSE Workshop are Self Protections skills that allow you to maintain safety should you be attacked. You will start with the Basic Position which enables you to protect yourself at all times and move any direction any time. You will also learn 3 Basic Movements that enable you to move out of dangerous quickly, but safely and avoiding the risk of tripping. These include the Lateral Step, Pivot Step and Back Pedal.

avoid being hit or kicked by staying out of the way

Avoid harm using your 3 Basic Movements to stay out of harm's way. If you can't get out of the way to avoid being hit, use Repelling techniques to safely escape and deflect the blow. If you can't avoid nor repel the blow, you will learn how to use Protection techniques to prioritize the safety of your head, neck, torso and groin.

Non-aversive Releases

In the event that you cannot escape an attack, you can use Release techniques to get out of situations where you may be pinched, grabbed, scratched, bitten, choked or have your hair pulled. All of the Release techniques you will learn in the RIGHT RESPONSE Workshop are non-aversive. This means that you do not apply pain or pressure points to get the person to release you. Instead, you will learn how to move yourself out of these situations while avoiding injury to yourself and your attacker.

A non-aversive approach to releases helps you maximize compliance with all applicable laws and regulations regarding intervention

A non-aversive approach to releases helps you maximize compliance with all applicable laws and regulations regarding intervention. By avoiding strength-based techniques for releasing yourself, you also minimize the potential for injury and for escalating the situation. This also helps you maximize the therapeutic relationship that you may have with your attacker.

"We trained 120 people in El Paso in English and in Spanish. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that they are asking us to come back to train the people who missed it. I was able to get out of the headlock from a 300 pound man because the Choke Release technique totally worked! I then taught it to an 80 year-old woman because her son weighs 300 pounds and she was able to do it."

-Marjorie Costello, RIGHT RESPONSE Instructor, Vice President of Corporate Relations, DSSW; Disability Services of the Southwest

Physical Intervention

When a person's behavior endangers themselves or others (and maybe property), use Physical Intervention skills to maintain safety. Be sure that your intervention will make the situation safer and not more unsafe. Weigh the risks of your intervention with the risks of not responding at all.

The RIGHT RESPONSE Workshop features Escort and Hold techniques for controlling the person until it is safe to release them. These techniques feature options for 1, 2 or 3 person interventions. All are designed to minimize the most common physical dangers associated with restraints including asphyxiation, joint dislocation, limb separation and falling hazards. Careful instruction and professionally-designed techniques maximize safety during an inherently dangerous activity.


Escorts allow you to take an individual from a more dangerous place to a less dangerous place. The RIGHT RESPONSE Workshop includes escorts for 1, 2 or 3 person interventions and include options for less intrusiveness or more security. There is an even a technique which is useful for escorting an escalated person who is wearing no clothes!

An escort is a short-term intervention designed to move an escalated person to a safer location.

An escort is a short-term intervention designed to move an escalated person to a safer location.


Holds are essentially the same technique as the escorts, except for the need to move the person. In this context, you safely hold the person while you de-escalate them to the point that they behavior no longer poses a threat to physical safety. Contrary to what most people believe about restraints, RIGHT RESPONSE Workshop attendees are not taught to restrict all movement by the person which could escalate the power struggle and increase the risk of injury. Rather, attendees are taught to flexibly move with the person in order to reduce the struggle and the impact.

Holds can be safer than restraint when the interveners go with flow rather than trying to overpower the person in order to immobilize them.

Holds can be safer than total restraint when the interveners go with flow rather than trying to overpower the person in order to immobilize them.

Toolkit Techniques

The RIGHT RESPONSE Workbook contains interventions which are typically suited to most environments and likely meet the most common laws and regulations. The Toolkit contains additional interventions which are either not needed by most audiences or are significantly intrusive. These techniques may be taught as needed or directed.

Toolkit interventions include techniques designed specifically for small children (roughly under 8 years/80 pounds), Wall Holds, Prone Floor Holds, dealing with Time Out Rooms and Protection from Weapons. Note that the RIGHT RESPONSE Workshop does not provide a Supine Floor Restraint which is more dangerous than the prone version for about two handfuls of reasons.

Be sure to check your local regulations for requirements regarding specific intervention techniques or skills. Feel free to contact us to request an evaluation of your requirements or regulations. We regularly follow regulatory developments as well as participate in the development of policies and procedures.

RIGHT RESPONSE Workshop is mostly a Prevention Training
Attendees learn to use physical intervention as the last resort to maintaining safety and learn more proactive alternatives which can prevent dangerous incidents and increase safety.

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