George King Brings Thoughtful Leadership to Summit School at Nyack
George King is a Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) trainer hired by the Summit School in Nyack in 2016. For the last 35 years, he has helped residential care staff understand young people and crisis situations better so that they can respond in an effective, therapeutic way. George is quick to note that the training he provides is not only relevant in staff-student relationships but is a set of skills which can help anyone at any age in life.
“For me to be a better partner, better spouse, better father, I don’t just train it. I live it, eat it, walk it, talk it… it made me a better person overall.”
So what exactly is TCI? Cornell University’s Residential Child Care Project (RCCP) defines TCI as the following:
“Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI), a trauma informed crisis prevention and management system first developed in the early 1980’s for New York State’s voluntary child care agencies, incorporates findings from the social science literature and is implemented through research informed strategies such as organizational assessment, active and targeted data analysis, training, and technical assistance… The TCI system assists organizations in preventing crises from occurring, de-escalating potential crises, managing acute physical behavior, reducing potential and actual injury to children and staff, teaching children adaptive coping strategies, and developing a learning organization. This model gives organizations a framework for implementing a crisis prevention and management system that reduces the need to rely on high-risk interventions.
TCI addresses six general domains:
1. Leadership and program support
2. Child and family inclusion
3. Clinical participation
4. Supervision and post-crisis response
5. Training and competency standards
6. Documentation, incident monitoring, and feedback”
For George, TCI is about managing your environment therapeutically. In order to prepare students and staff for a crisis situation, he has them practice scenarios, “like a fire drill.”
“We have to think about the trauma re-enactment that’s going on when there is a crisis to make sure that kids understand…and even the adults understand… that the purpose of this is to make sure everyone is safe.”
The curriculum and system of procedures place students and staff in a position where they are forced to look inward and learn how to manage their own feelings as well as others’. The Summit School in Nyack has a team of New York State licensed clinical professionals who offer support to George as together they provide a coordinated therapeutic effort.
“My job is to alter their belief system… so they believe life can go on no matter what issues we have… So I can train you, but the true application comes when you’re actually in [a crisis situation]. And then we stay around with our response team and give you that support and then give you the feedback.”
When evaluating the result of a crisis and looking at how to improve in the future, George has found he learns the most from the young people involved. They provide the context which he can use to try and understand their perspective.
“I believe that all people, not just young people, want structure. If they can’t ask for it, then they act out to get it. And they have to be able to trust you. So once you give them the structure to make them feel safe… you can do the real work and help them grow no matter where they’re coming from… If any student here didn’t feel safe enough to trust us, we would get nowhere.”
George King has a process with each new student to meet with them, listen to where they are coming from, and try to understand them. His first goal is to show the student that he will truly listen and provide plans of action for the student to improve their life. From there, he provides ways for them to see the world differently from the way they see it when they just go home from school. Community service, student unions, and other after-school programming provide an outlet from the realities that students partake in at home. His process of providing students with advice and outlets and listening to them and their family’s feedback is how he helps prepare them for post-graduate life.