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Why "de-escalate" when you can UN_ESCALATE ?

When and where

Date and time


Holy Trinity TO (Church of the Holy Trinity) 19 Trinity Square Toronto, ON M5G 1B1 Canada

Map and directions

How to get there

Refund Policy

No Refunds

About this event

  • 1 day 7 hours
  • Mobile eTicket


The overall aim of this workshop is that participants are better able to reduce the number and impact of situations in which those seeking support from health and social services experience that in ways they find dehumanizing, degrading and oppressive...


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?

Please Note:

If you are looking for training that offers something like "three easy steps to de-escalate any person, in any situation, in three easy steps" then this really is not it.


  • 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.

That's two very full days


Learning Aims and Objectives


The overall aim of this workshop is that participants are better able to reduce the number and impact of situations in which those seeking support from services experience that in ways they find dehumanizing, degrading and oppressive.

And, especially:

  • When working with individuals who have been marginalized and stigmatized.
  • In those encounters that that lead a person seeking support to react in ways that services then deem that individual to be “escalating” and “in need of de-escalating”.

Also, that staff in services feel better equipped, more competent, and better able to work in ways that they can bring forth their full humanity and enjoy their work.

The goal? :

Number of encounters experienced by clients as as oppressive: zero.

UN_ESCALATE: Learning Objectives

Participants in this workshop will be better enabled to:

  1. Recognize for many of those who seek support from health and other services that their experience of doing so can often be degrading, dehumanizing and oppressive.
  2. Inquire into our current practices, habits, and the underlying assumptions informing them; and how they can contribute to clients often experiencing services as degrading, dehumanizing and oppressive.
  3. Understand the complexity of dynamics at work in a situation we might call “escalating”.
  4. Explore new models of understanding and working with situations we call “escalation” that are less violent, coercive, oppressive and more focused on building relations that promote connecting, healing,
  5. Recognize the part we might play in generating or contributing to a situation that might be regarded as “escalation” – when in the roles from designing and directing to daily running of services that many people experience as oppressive.
  6. Identify ways we can act differently to reduce the likelihood of “escalation” arising, and to reduce the damaging impact whenever it does.
  7. Reduce defensiveness in-after-action reviews and debriefings following encounters that go all “Pete Tong”
  8. Work in ways that can reduce both the number and severity of instances in which individuals who seek support from services experience that as oppressive.
  9. Offer support to those seeking services who find it difficult and who wish to enhance their ability to self-advocate: Express their needs for support – in ways that make it more likely they will receive it.
  10. Offer support to those seeking services who find it difficult and who wish to enhance their ability to Communicate any dissatisfaction they may experience with service in ways that makes it more likely that they will be heard and be addressed.
  11. Initiate and maintain relations and relationships between those we call “worker” and those we call “client” that are rooted in mutual dignity and respect and, which generate connection, learning and healing.

Community of Practice and Learning - UN_ESCALATE

You will then be able to join our community of learning and practice in which we meet to reflect together on our efforts to put into practice what we're learning with and from each other.

This community of practice is rooted in ideas like...

  • There can be no learning without practice and no learning without reflection.
  • We cannot understand a system unless we try to change it
  • We cannot change a system unless we acknowledge and change our part in it.
  • We cannot change our part in the system without being willing change our thinking.

a WORKshop for WORKers...

...and open to all.

We will 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

[At the East side of Eaton Centre]

Poster pdf:

More info here :

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