Taking A Closer Look

Posted by Elizabeth McDuffie

Life Space Crisis Intervention: Taking a Closer Look

Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI) is a therapeutic program that addresses student’s disciplinary problems by searching for strengths and solutions as opposed to deficits and disease. It was created in response to the ineffectiveness of traditional behavior treatment plans in schools that rely heavily on cohercion, punishment, and exclusion. To the child or adolescent in crisis, such tactics often escalate the troublesome behavior leading to undesirable outcomes.

LSCI does not view crisis as a problem so much as an opportunity for growth and development. Its training equips teachers with the not only the skills necessary to deescalate stressful interactions but also provides advanced intervention techniques. LSCI defines six common patterns of self defeating behaviors and addresses them with the student, providing them with the ethical values of how to live and treat others in a group or community.

In many instances crisis seem to arise out of nowhere. For example a student may simply be asked to sit down and the next thing you know the teacher is engaged in a power struggle with the student, escalating a negative reaction from both parties. When this happens, the student is entered into what is referred to as The Conflict Cycle. In short, the student’s self concept or irrational beliefs (often that they are being picked on) lead to a stressful incident. In turn, the student’s feelings arise leading to their observable (negative) behavior. This then leads to the adult or peer’s reaction and the cycle begins itself again often leading to a negative outcome.

As educators are well aware, many children come into the classroom with emotional burdens from home and else where that they are unfortunately unable to cope with in a reasonable way. This is particularly magnified in urban areas where there symptoms of poverty, gangs, drug use and other societal ills are prevalent. When a teacher threatens an at risk student with punishment, the student often feel ostracized from the group and therefore becomes defiant and hostile. The natural human tendency is the desire to be embraced during a time of crisis, therefore making punishment or exclusion particularly ineffective. In turn, the student begins to feel a dislike and distrust for teachers and adults, thus encouraging rebellion, further outbursts and clashes with authority.

LSCI seeks to eliminate such encounters and has found alternative ways to help the youth in crisis while still in the classroom. Often times, students are reluctant to talk to a therapist or counselor about their feelings that need to be addressed. Instead of out casting emotionally at risk students by way of expulsion or the criminal justice system, LSCP seeks a model of effective inclusion to better cope with crisis. Teachers must learn new skills in confronting troubled students so that students are able to turn to teachers for mentorship and guidance instead of seeing them as the enemy.

N. J. Long, F.A. Fecser, L. K. Brendtro 1998 Life Space Crisis Intervention: new skills for reclaiming students showing patterns of self destructive behavior.
Healing Magazine Vol. 3 No. 2 Fall/Winter

*Nicholas J. Long Ph.D. is an emeritus professor of American University and director of the Life Space Crisis Institute in Hagerstown MD.