Workshop: UN_ESCALATE – September 2022


As if it were not abundantly so before, the last two years has made crystal clear the extent to which just how stressed beyond limits are our systems and individuals who work in them and those they are intended to serve.

When most stressed we tend to default mode and talk of escalation – de-escalation, and place expectation on staff to be experts in deescalating those said to be in-need-of “de-escalation”.

We create a completely bonkers binary of escalate

deescalate, in which we assume and expect that:

  • those we call “clients” [amongst other terms] will “escalate”
  • and those we call “workers” are then expected to “deescalate” them.

And, we keep creating results nobody wants:

including but not limited to “burnout”, which in turn generates more “escalation”.

This is perhaps an unintended consequences a system strained beyond limits, and experienced as injurious and oppressive, and all this in a system espousing important principles of “anti-oppression” and “trauma informed”.

Q. How can we begin to question current practices and habits and the underlying assumptions they are built upon and limited by ?

Q. How might we stand back and examine eth mindset – habits of thinking – and the orthodoxy lays the foundations of this and thus creates the patterns we see repeated dozens of times a week, even each day ?

Q. How might we begin to look at how we design and deliver services?

Q How might we begin to build approaches and practices at individual team and organization level rooted less in fear, containment and control but in connecting and healing?


  • Different, and intentionally so.
  • Starts in a different place and carves a different path.
  • Shares ideas, tools from many sources including: systems thinking and relational dynamics, peace building, peer support, health promotion.
  • Focused on ways we can critically examine how services are designed and operated , to not do – or to undo – some of the many things that get done to people who access services that lead them to react in ways that get called “escalating” and results in them being deemed a “person in need of de-escalation”. 

If we do this then, maybe, we’ll find ourselves thinking that we need to “de-escalate” another  person less often.

“Yeah, we do things round here all the time that ‘escalate’ people.”

UN_ESCALATE : Some basic assumptions.

  • No individual escalates all by themself. We each “escalate“: in response to [something in] our environment, and in context of our whole life experience.
  • Whatever a person is doing is both an expression of a deeply felt need, and a survival response.
  • Whatever survival response we tend to fall back on is likely one that we’ve learned from how life has treated us and one that’s worked so far… but is also not the only one and may not the best one for this moment.
  • The only person I can “de-escalate” is me. None of us can “de-escalate another”.
  • We can though, de-escalate the situation in which we both find ourselves.


  • Q. How might we draw upon experiences of being in the role of  worker required to “de-escalate” a person said to be “in need of de-escalation”?
  • Q. How might we draw upon experiences of having been that person said to be “in need of de-escalation”?
  • Q. How might we go beyond the operationalization, steps, and rules-based approach of  “de-escalation” and instead UN_ESCALATE?

This is a TWO DAY workshop.

Two full days


a WORKshop for WORKers…

Sharing ideas, thinking tools and practical stuff you can use so you can suck less.

This workshop is designed to share some ideas , tools and approaches we can use to examine how we can change the way we approach situations in which it is usually said that an individual is “in need of de-escalation”.

  • Shares and examines some ideas on how we might look upon and understand how escalation works and how power plays out in that.
  • Creates opportunity – to use some of these ideas, individually and or in combination, to examine how we work in services in ways that lead people to “escalate” and generate practical ideas for changing how we work in these situations, including systemic changes and also personal choices we make in how we go about the work.
  • Including generating ideas for change in our workplace individual, team and organisation level – or different choices we can make starting from our next shift.
  • Skills Practice. Working in small groups, you’ll create real scenarios you come across in your work and want time to practice: thinking, doing differently, using the ideas and tools shared in parts 1 & 2, feeling how it feels in your body, reflecting and building confidence.
  • Designed as small, interactive, participatory workshop .
  • Spaces are Limited [20 spaces]. 
  • NO ZOOM!


Kevin Healey


Church of The Holy Trinity

10 Trinity Square

[next to Eaton Centre]


Register online now via Eventbrite using the checkout box below.

If you prefer to go to the full event page at Eventbrite use this link:

About recoverynetwork:Toronto

We believe people can and do recover from "mental illness" - because we are living it. We believe in the power of supporting each other: learning from and with each other. You are welcome to join us..
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