Why is Ukeru Important?
There are many different crisis intervention systems that exist to aid staff working in the behavioral and mental health field in managing crisis situations. Most agencies select a system whose philosophy matches the philosophy of the organization.
When Grafton began focusing on moving away from the use of restraint and seclusion, we knew that staff would need another “tool” to aid in managing crisis situations- a tool that would help staff feel safe managing crisis situations; “extraordinary blocking” became that tool. As we learned more and more about trauma and its impact on the people who experience it, we realized that it was about more than just reducing the use of physical restraint. We came to the realization that virtually every client in our care had experienced trauma on some level- even if coming to Grafton and being separated from his/her family was the traumatic experience. And we knew that any practice that could potentially re-traumatize a client was not an option.
And so “extraordinary blocking” was expanded into Ukeru, a full crisis intervention system that is a least resistance approach to crisis management. It is a method of responding to clients in a way that is safe, comforting, and restraint free.
Ukeru includes understanding that when a client is exhibiting challenging behavior, he/she is either trying to communicate something or is responding to a perceived threat in his/her environment. As humans, when we feel threatened, our response is generally to do whatever we need to do in order to survive. With Ukeru, we recognize that what others label as “inappropriate behavior”, may in fact be survival skills. For our clients, whether or not the threat actually exists, it is very real to them, and so our response needs to be one that assures them of their safety. And as humans, we tend to feel safer when we are comforted.
Ukeru also includes release techniques to aid staff in freeing themselves from hair pulls, wrist grabs, and chokes in ways that do not ever involve grabbing or grasping the client, thereby minimizing the chances of that brief physical contact being perceived as threatening. It also minimizes the risk of anyone getting hurt.
And when it is determined that talking to a client during the crisis is appropriate, our words are soothing, aimed at helping the client feel safe and get his/her needs met.
With other systems, restraint is still taught to be used as a last resort. Ukeru is restraint-free, and we have been using the full system without restraint for 1 year now in our Winchester service region. Our data shows that restraint is not needed. Additionally, our data shows that injuries, if they occur while using Ukeru, are less frequent and less severe than with systems that use physical restraint.
And so Ukeru is important because it doesn’t rely on having a “potentially trauma-inducing last resort” option. It allows us to remain focused on what is truly best the best treatment for our clients- treatment that is safe, comforting, and reflects dignity and respect.