Tara had been working with a young man, TG, in a residential setting for quite some time. They had developed a positive relationship. TG was doing so well that his team began to talk with TG about returning him to his family home. On this particular day, Tara was in a room alone with the young man when he suddenly backed her up against a wall and held a knife at her throat. Tara was very frightened but used her relationship with him and her verbal skills to engage him, eventually saying, “you’re afraid”. The young man began to cry, released Tara and explained, “If I go home, I will die or I will have to get back into a gang”. With this additional information about his very valid fear, instead of punishing him, the treatment team arranged for him to move into a half- way house in another state. He has since graduated from high school and college and has remained in contact with Tara.

Tara explained, she realized the reason for his dramatic change in behavior (the antecedent) was his upcoming release and return to his family home and former peers who were gang members. His behavior was a method of communicating his fear about what he saw as being the inevitable outcome of his release plans and sabotaging his placement back home. It is likely that he chose Tara to attack because of the healthy relationship they had, knowing that she was less likely to retaliate against him than other caregivers. The treatment team did a remarkable job of looking behind the behavior to understand the reason for the behavior and choosing the most appropriate response.

Shared with Aaryce Hayes – Mandt System Faculty