De-escalation Techniques

This is a training film, in two parts, showing a range of de-escalation films being used by a nurse on a mental health inpatient unit.  The first part shows poor practice, clearly demonstrating what it is a clinician might do, and what there might be in his response that makes a situation worse when faced with a patient who is highly aroused and distressed.  In the second part, simple skills are used which rapidly de-escalate the same situation.

When watching the film, try and identify the factors that make things worse in part one and those that successfully de-escalate the situation in part two, breaking them down into environmental, non-verbal and verbal factors.


  • be polite and considerate at all times to patients, carers and staff
  • introduce yourself to staff on placement and discuss who you are and what you are hoping to do


  • ensure you have had a local induction to clinical sites
  • discuss patients you plan to see with a clinician in advance
  • read the notes beforehand (often electronic) and inquire about risk


  • clothes should be formal, non-restrictive and professional
  • name badges should be worn on a lanyard
  • avoid taking personal belongings, bags, drinks etc into clinical settings


  • ask staff where to interview a patient (not normally at the bedside)
  • consider going to interview patients in pairs (but this is not always necessary)
  • consider room layout, open any “internal inspection” window


  • introduce yourself & put the patient at ease (open questions initially)
  • if a patient appears upset by a line of questioning, acknowledge this
  • check if they are happy to continue
  • practice your interview skills and seek feedback from peers and tutors


  • if you feel concerned or uncomfortable, then end the interview politely
  • report back any concerns to clinical staff – do not keep it to yourself.
  • if you do not feel your concerns have been heard, inform someone
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