Clinical First Aid™ Syllabus

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  1. Professional Development / Adventure Facilitation
  2. Human Development
  3. Developing a Therapeutic Alliance


  1. Community Resilience Model
  2. De-escalation
  3. Communication Skills Lab


  1. Goals of Misbehavior
    Boundaries & Ethics
  2. Suicidality, Self-Injury & Crisis Intervention
  3. Review


  1. Group Dynamics & Facilitation
  2. Burnout Prevention & Self Care


CFA - Expanded Course Descriptions

Professional Development / Adventure Facilitation: At the outset of the course, participants engage in a series of adventure initiatives designed to create the container and establish the emotional safety necessary for participants to engage fully with each other and prepare to enter into an experience that will foster both professional and personal, growth. Course material is introduced and individual and group goals are established.

Human Development and the relationship to behavior: In this foundational piece, participants are introduced to the developmental tasks of adolescence, along with stages of cognitive development and psychosocial development. The focus is on the development of personality and sense of self in relationship to the environment/significant others’ differently through the life span (emphasizing birth through adolescence). We also highlight how disruptions in development at each stage lead to different developmentally related issues, as well as different needs that may underlie similar behavior. This also sets the stage for the discussion of common diagnoses that follows on Day 3.

With an emphasis on trauma informed care and the need to create safety in relationships, the applied discussion focuses on how staff might intervene differently based on their assessment of unmet developmental needs or developmental regression during times of heightened stress.

Developing a Therapeutic Alliance: Based on the work of Scott Miller and the Solution Focused Therapy School, a simple and straightforward approach to engaging clients and creating emotional safety is presented. Participants are offered concrete tools for meeting clients where they are.

Community Resilience Model: Building on human development, participants are introduced to different theoretical orientations that can be applied to gain greater understanding of what might be happening with individual clients in the group. This basic level theoretical understanding of what a client might be experiencing can allow staff to better determine how to most effectively utilize their relationship to achieve therapeutic goals.

De-escalation: Building upon the foundational principal of the CFR, de-escalation is explored through a relationship lens. Focusing on emotional thresholds and the process of escalation, a crisis model is applied to guide interventions. Tools are introduced to leverage the relationship including mirroring and matching, “rescue” techniques and grounding and centering.

Communication Skills Lab: In this playful evening program, participants learn about “communication quandaries” and the four places shared meaning can be lost in communication. Emphasizing the importance of active listening, participants engage in a series of fun activities that illustrate effective communication and that can be easily employed with any group.

Goals of Misbehavior:  Based on the seminal work of Rudolph and Dreikers, the goals of client misbehavior are explored to determine the underlying needs that the client is trying to meet. Particular emphasis is placed on the staff member’s internal process and how this information can be utilized to help staff better understand clients and intervene more effectively.

Boundaries & Ethics: Through a series of experiential activities, participants are engaged in considering the unique aspects of physical and emotional boundary issues that are inherent in an outdoor or residential environment where staff are living collectively with students and participating together in the tasks of daily living. Participants are engaged in a discussion around such critical boundary-related issues as the pros and cons of self-disclosure, dual roles and scope of practice.

Suicidality, Self Injury & Crisis Intervention: Suicide is presented as a behavior on the continuum of self destructive behaviors. Other self harming behaviors are discussed as well, including possible functions they might serve for clients The main focus of this session is to help participants feel equipped to competently deal with a suicidal client. Demonstration and role play are utilized to consolidate this learning.

Review: This session offers participants the opportunity to synthesize and apply the vast amount of material covered to this point in the course.

Group Dynamics & Facilitation: A theoretical overview of group dynamics and different types of group facilitation is presented. Afterwards, an extended scenario of a daily group is conducted, with each participant having the opportunity to co-lead the group.

Burnout-Self Care: An exploration of causes of burnout, signs of burn-out in self and colleagues, and practical steps that can be taken both in and out of the field/workplace to avoid burn-out. Self-care strategies are introduced and participants are invited to complete a personal self-care plan.

Note: At this time, CFA courses are being offered per request on a contractual basis. We partner with organizations to provide the training in your locale. Programs often collaborate with other organizations in the area to boost participation and share costs. Please contact us for rates.