It’s a saying that was and is drilled into our minds as kids.
STOP! DROP! AND ROLL!
Now it was popping into my head during those fight or flight moments. During those moments when everything was falling apart. When that one particular client in the group was melting down and I could see the domino effect starting. When that one client was starting to breath heavy and I knew I had about 30 seconds to respond and save this situation before the aggression started. When that one client who had been trying to escape work tasks was starting his familiar routine again.
An important note: Sometimes there is no saving a situation and it is completely out of our control, no matter how we respond. I could have a million dollars or endless amount of candy to give to my client and they would still lose it. This was an important lesson for me to learn, especially as an element of self-care. Sometimes it is completely out of our control and that is okay too.
However, for that last ditch effort when things are falling apart, I find myself thinking:
STOP! DROP! AND ROLL!
First, STOP! Stop what you are doing and what you are playing. These could be causing the meltdown. I found a kiddo melting down because I was playing arpeggiated chords to induce relaxation. I also like to reminder myself to take a breath at this moment. A breath for you a fantastic model for clients to see how we respond with our coping skills during times of stress. Also that breath can save your sanity!
Second, DROP! This process can only occur after I feel my body has calmed a bit (especially if you are in an aggressive situation) so those deep breaths are incredibly important. I start to think about dropping my expectations down a few notches (but not completely getting rid of them because this can fuel escapism behavior). Can I ask less of them in this moment? Is it more important that they stay in the session? Is this behavior occurring regularly and it is escapism? This second step is where I figure out what can I “drop” within my expectations for the session. Maybe a success today for this client is just being in the room for the whole session.
Third, ROLL! Roll with it. Go with flow. Maybe your session plan is thrown out the window today; that is okay. Maybe the rest of the session is spent with lower expectations than usual for this client (we all have bad days right!?). Maybe today you roll with it because you aren’t in the best place to think creatively and need to touch base with other team members about the behavior. Maybe today is the day to pull out the most preferred intervention for this client and just be human with them; an important part of maintaining that therapeutic rapport.
This saying has helped me navigate so many situations. It’s turned meltdowns into contagious laughing, aggression to de-escalation, and escapism into accountability. I hope it’s helpful for you too!