I always handle situations this way. It’s very rewarding and justifying to learn that this is an effective way to handle these types of issues. To me, it has always felt like the most natural way of navigating a tough predicament where a student puts up a particular resistance to an activity in the curriculum (as I said, I work at a technical/vocational school).
I do remember one particular student who always had an emotional reaction to tough situations, which led him to having an intense physical reaction. It was hard for him to bond with a lot of the students because every little event that happened he took personally and used it as a reason to not like someone. Many were abhorrent to him, and he felt the same way towards the many. He was actually very smart and mature when having a one on one conversation with an adult. It was just difficult for him to control his emotions–he allowed them to rule him.
One particular day, my lead teacher was absent and this student had a rather extreme outburst. I did have a sub with me so I wasn’t alone, and she had tried to console him but it didn’t work. She told me she was tapping out, which made me feel uncomfortable because she was a licensed educator acting as a sub and I was only in my first year of being an instructional aide.
I swapped in for her and allowed the student to vent. This gave me time to brace myself, and also time for him to get some things off of his chest that had been building up. When he was done, I asked him if yelling at me made him feel better. It was only then that he realized his level of distress and how it was affecting others. This question quickly grounded him, which made continuing the conversation easier as I knew he would actually be listening. I steered the conversation elsewhere so I wouldn’t focus on his guilt. Instead, I pointed out the importance of the task at hand and mentioned that I had asked him to do this for me because I knew he was reliable and smart. Before I let him continue his work, I asked him specifically if he needed more time to mend or if he thought that he was capable of doing what I’d asked. He took a few seconds of deep breaths and told me he could do it. I let him know to please come to me directly if there was anything else that happened that caused him distress, and he said thank you. No other problems occurred the entire day.
That student has since graduated and still contacts me when life gets too much and his level of distress escalates. I know not all situations are so easily de-escalated, but in this case it was easier because of my relationship with my students and the amount of trust present. Approaching the situation with a clear mind and open perspective really helped in my success, and I have referenced my success with this event many times when approaching new situations in my career. Experience has given me new strategies, and I have a few default questions that I can take from my toolbox and use in conversations with my students regardless of the situation that help restore their groundedness, perspective, stability, and emotions.
I think TAP could be a really valuable strategy for some teachers I work with. As someone who comes across challenging students on a daily basis I have the opportunity to practice these types of strategies but I can’t say the same for teachers. I think this could be empowering for them to understand that taking care of themselves and being mindful of their own behavior is the first step in a successful interaction with a challenging student. Thank you!
While recently teaching a mindfulness group with teens at an alternative school, I was giving instructions when a young woman from Iran called out, “Why did you say that in an angry voice?” The initial feeling that arose in me was surprise, because I did not feel angry. Rather, I was more emphatic in my tone, trying to highlight a point. This situation alerted me to this young woman’s sensitivities (and perhaps underlying trauma adaptations). I thanked her for letting me know her perceptions (and for
advocating for herself) and clarified my intention with the caveat that I would be more mindful of my tone in the future. Since this interaction I have noticed that this young woman seems more at ease in group and willing to participate more openly. This event was an opportunity…a doorway to greater understanding and trust.
In the behavior intervention world, we’re often expected to respond appropriately (in a safe way according to a behavior plan) and immediately to a challenging behavior. It can be really difficult to do this if you’ve just been slapped or if someone is fully escalated and dangerous, requiring physical intervention. I can see TAP being extremely helpful in putting a brief but important pause between the behavior and the intervention, so the teacher or therapist can respond in the best way possible. I really liked the refocusing technique that was described to quiet a noisy classroom. I think the TAP strategy would be a good way for teachers to bring themselves into awareness in those moments to avoid raising their voices.
I can think of a number of situations in which group members were exhibiting resistance to what I was teaching or to being in group in general. I chose to focus on one particular individual who was resistant to being in a drug and alcohol related treatment group regularly and continually asked why he had to be in the group and would then choose not to participate in what we were doing in group. My reactions to his behaviors varied over time. I would regularly feel frustrated and annoyed. At times I chose to engage in a conversation with him in the group setting, at other times it would be individually, and sometimes I chose to ignore his lack of participation. I noticed in doing this TAP visualization that acknowledging his behavior as a possible protective mechanism coming from past trauma shifted my energy immediately from frustration to compassion directed at this individual. I have become more practiced at the TAP technique, though that’s not what I had called it at the time, but the added dimension of acknowledging what might be going on for the other person and not just myself is particularly enlightening. I look forward to taking this practice to a new level in my daily work.
I was able to think of a situation that you described with my own kiddo. I, as I had told you before have two adopted children with RAD from Liberia West Africa. My boy, 17 now is much worse than his biological sister, he experience so many different types of ACEs that it saddens me.
Any way, the situation was simply trying to get him to do his homework,. Right away, now I see my mistake: demanded that he get it done, rase my voice. I was so frustrated that he didn’t “care” and didn’t “listen to his mother” that I didn’t see the trauma that was showing its ugly head. Who knows what he went through in school that day? the situation went from bad to worse where he had to be removed from the house.
Could I have used TAP ! YES !!! this is why I am taking these courses to learn new techniques to help my own children and family before helping others. IF I would have taken a breath, and saw what he was actually feeling: I am tired, I had a bad day, I am hungry, I don’t understand it and feel stupid, who knows. But, I could have “slowed” myself down enough to see first off he was struggling. I could have acknowledged he was struggling, I could have chosen to proceed with a calm tone. Homework isn’t important right now, relationship is! And, by the way the meditation is wonderful. Can we do that the end of each unit. 🙂
I recalled a time in the early years of my career in education when I was a biology teacher (presently I am a school counsellor). This event occurred after lunch time during the last period of the day. This class was usually disruptive and today was no exception. A student who had recently joined the class was taking a long time to sit down and become settled. I asked her to sit; she complied. I then began teaching the lesson. While I was explaining a concept, she turned to another student and began talking. I asked her to stop, several times. She then retorted that I was picking on her that other students were talking and I didn’t say anything to them. She got loud so did I. I felt angry, frustrated and overwhelmed. Thus, I asked her to leave the class and to report to the senior mistress office (person who deals with discipline matters for female students) in an attempt to prevent further escalation of the situation. . Regrettable I didn’t handle the matter skilfully. TAP would have been greatly beneficial in that moment.
Great illustration. I usually handled situations in this way, however even the other day I mishandled a situation, by raising my voice and being demanding and not gearing my approach within the trauma informed care lens. I felt so bad afterwards, but I noticed (personally) there are two keys that can shift this application sort of speak in my life; my son was in the area on campus( same vicinity with youth),and I was physically sick battling a cold. Either or ,my reaction was not acceptable. Although I made it right in authentic conversation the next day with the youth,I could have easily used TAP to avoid me looking like a fool. It was a learning lesson for us both and we processed therapeutically the next day and I believe he was able to see that we are humans and it opened him up more to authentic and genuine dialogue. I used as a stepping stone and learning lesson for both of us.
I recalled a situation when I was teaching mindfulness to a group of ‘at-risk’ students (approx 13 yo). The group was becoming unsettled and I responded by ‘trying harder’ and becoming more animated. The effect was to fuel the rowdy behaviour and I felt increasing anxiety as the students began calling out and hitting each other with cushions etc. I then moved into the middle of the circle and stood very quietly and asked in a soft voice “What do you need in this moment to help you to settle?” A student (who was perhaps the most overtly resistant) replied; “The mindfulness bell. Can you ring the bell.” I did so and the group almost instantly quietened and refocused. I then thanked the student for his suggestion and all the group members for their attention. For me the TAP technique is a really lovely encapsulation of what I learned that day. It is great to have it as an acronym for future situations. Thank you.
I think the TAP method would be a great addition to teachers in training! I believe they (and I) need more of these resources before they even get into a classroom. I love this method, especially the compassion component. That is so important for our mental health. With compassion, we can better identify with the others experience. Thank you Sam!
I learned about TAP in the BARs course; it’s my favorite practice, and I’ve shared it several times with teachers I’ve been coaching. Surprisingly, what came up for me in the visualization wasn’t an experience with a student but something that happened when I was about 13 or 14. There was an initial misunderstanding, and my mom accused me of doing something I didn’t do. The more I tried to defend myself, the angrier she got, saying I was being whiny and ‘difficult’–the tension got ratcheted up to the point where she slapped me for ‘talking back’. Looking back on the situation, I can have some compassion for her as a stressed-out working mother who was worried about me. Unfortunately, she was seeing me through a ‘typical rebellious teenager’ lens, so she wasn’t able to process what I was actually saying. I’m sure my adolescence would have been a lot easier if we’d both practiced TAP!
I am going to share a personal experience. Both my son and I have PTSD from an abusive family situation. He has a hard time falling asleep at night, and sometimes I get frustrated or triggered because I am exhausted from lack of sleep. Usually, if he can identify what is bothering him and talk about it, then he is able to fall asleep. The other night, he did not want to talk (or was not ready to talk) and tried coming in to talk after I had already been asleep. I was frustrated and tired and sent him back to bed. During this exercise, I imagined what he must of felt like, and how an open ear and a good snuggle would have helped to calm him down (like it usually does). For me, being strict feels so counter-intuitive. I am thankful that I am aware of both of our issues. On a side note, have you ever thought about branching out and doing trauma informed parenting classes?
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and being vulnerable. I have thought about doing trauma-informed parenting classes and think that would be a great contribution to the world of trauma-informed care.
I am able to think of several times that TAP would have been useful throughout my work history. Many of theses moments occurred when I was facilitating groups in residential care. This was several years ago and at the time I knew little about trauma informed care. In these moments, I would have completed most of the steps in TAP, with the exception of acknowledging and recognizing that the youth`s behaviour could have been rooted in trauma. Applying this perspective would have been benifical
I have been a mindfulness practitioner for a few years. That said, this year I have had the opportunity to interact more frequently to students with social and emotional skills that lag well-behing their age peers. Since starting with this course, I have challenged myself to consider these challenging behaviors as being related to trauma. This unit has helped me deepen my thinking on this and the TAP intervention will definitely help me better manage myself when when working to support students during triggering events. I tried applying this earlier this week during a student interaction and I think it helped me enhance my skillfulness.
I can recall an instance early on in my career when I was running a group with adolescent males. I was young and inexperienced and it was decades before anyone talked about trauma-informed care. The youth were generally cooperative, but there was this one youth who constantly talked over me and attempted to engage other youth (often successfully) in side conversations. I was frustrated by his constant disruption in the group and one day told him to leave the group, which of course became a confrontation. TAP would have been an extremely useful tool to have had at the time. When I was visualizing the group I could recall how annoyed I was with the young man. In retrospect, I realize I was feeling inadequate at the time but of course was not aware of it. Had I been more self-aware at the time and had I been looking through a trauma-informed lens the confrontation could have been avoided.
Thank you for the mindful reflection exercise. I have several experiences that I think TAP would be really helpful in how I respond. When I think of the ways I reacted in high stress situations I realize that I reacted immediately out of frustration not a thoughtful or skillful response and the result was unproductive. I know from my own experience even a 1-5 second delay (often a breath or two) makes a huge difference in my own self-regulation and therefore increases my compassion and patience. When I do take a breath or two I usually approach youth with a sense of curiosity and not from a place of control or getting them to do what I want or what others want. The end result is usually much more productive and an improved relationship.
In these moments having something basic like an acronym is a particularly helpful reminder for me. I like the simplicity of it and I think it would be great to teach parents in moments of stress/frustration with their child/children.
I really like having the specific language for what you will say when asking a class or group to bring their focus back to class. I do ask them in a quiet tone but feel like if I am saying something that we had agreed to say would be helpful. I say to my own kiddos we need to focus when I start to feel frustrated trying to get them out the door ect. I was thinking of working at a children’s home years ago while listening to the TAP meditation. The teens I worked with would escalate and using a calm tone was so helpful. Having had this training would have been helpful then.
Several of my students suffer from severe anxiety and have difficulty focusing on their academics. One student in particular has a tendency to react in a loud, vocal way when she is triggered. This recently happened in class and she started crying and hyperventilating, causing the other kids near her to get upset and worried. I gently crouched down beside her desk and in a very calm tone kept repeating, “You are OK, you are OK.” and asked her to follow my breath in an effort to slow her breathing down and help her to self-regulate. It also helped me to self-regulate because of so many of the other students were beginning to crowd around her to see what was going on. I just focused on her and our breathing. When she was able to start slowing down her breathing and listen to my voice, I then asked her in a series of smaller tasks to gather her books and prepare to walk over to the other classroom. For example, I said “OK, can you close your notebook for me? How about can you put your notebook in your backback? Are you able to zip up your backback and put it on?” Smaller, bite-sized instructions really helped her focus more on my requests and less on her anxiety. Then I used a distracting technique to really get her mind off of her anxiety. I commented on a design she drew on her notebook and asked her if she would be able to draw something like that on a piece of paper for me because I thought it would make a really great henna tattoo. This got her to smile and recognize her strengths (creative art) and to feel useful in the midst of her anxiety. By keeping the tone of my voice calm and steady, it not only kept me focused and non-reactive, but it helped her to bring her anxiety levels down to her baseline and she was able to resume the rest of her classes that day.
Recently I had a particular interaction with an elementary student where she was insisting that it’s okay to be mean to other students, as long as you let them know you’re joking. Her point of view was that other children should be able to take a joke (even if it’s purposefully mean), and if they can’t, that’s their problem. It didn’t matter to her how the other student actually felt. Fortunately, this was a theoretical conversation about an imaginary event- but it did give me a heads up as to how she might handle interactions with her peers in the future. In the class I was teaching we had built in noticing how you feel and taking 3 deep breaths, then checking in with yourself again. I felt I needed them, too, after speaking with her. We ended the lesson with sending kind thoughts to ourselves & others, to reconnect compassionately. I feel like the TAP protocol was played out as a group in this class- and it did help me to keep my composure as she was so insistent on her views. I did remind myself in the moment that she must have this viewpoint as a way of protecting herself, her toughness, her armor, and it helped me stay compassionate with her. I like the idea of using this acronym purposefully in the future.
This will be a useful tool for me. I am one of those people who can never respond right away but needs time to think and process. TAP will offer me the discipline I need to complete this thought process in a more timely manner. I tried this exercise on Thursday night but found that I was unable to reach a calm place, I went through it all but decided to re-approach it when I could really relax. (Granted, I know this is not the way it works in the real world but I needed the time to really get the feeling for it). Twice I was drawn to an experience that happened that Thursday at a Care Plan meeting when the Intensive Care Coordinator told our client in front of a room full of providers that the adjustment counselor informed her that students were complaining about this young man’s body odor. The client became resistant and there was a go around about is hygiene. I can remember feeling agitated and not really wanting to join in the conversation right away. His new therapeutic mentor, whom I just met took an empathic approach telling the client that he understood where he was coming from and related his own experience in high school. While doing this exercise, I feel that I had a greater insight into this youth’s resistance. In December, he shared how he had been molested by his grandmother’s friend. He is probably fearful to become too close to anyone. After completing this exercise, I feel the need to share this insight with the team of providers so that we all can take a more empathic approach to our client’s resistance.
Difficult situations with students arise every day! One particular instance was a 9th grade girl talking back to me last semester (“I’m not talking! Shit!) after I repeatedly asked her to stop talking to her neighbor (who eventually asked for a different seat because she wouldn’t stop talking to him). I know she is easily triggered, but she is also quite difficult in the classroom, so I think I had lost my patience with her and by the end had used a stern tone. It’s usually the aggressive tone that triggers students. It’s hard to create a balance between being firm with classroom control and not being aggressive as the person who has to maintain that control. But yes, I will keep TAP in mind and believe I am much better in situations like this now due to the heavy emphasis on being trauma informed at my school.
I’m a ‘therapeutic mum’ these days, doing my best to parent with PACE in mind (an attachment model that emphasises playful, accepting, curious and empathetic communication) so visualising using the TAP approach, which shares similar concepts, feels comfortable and familiar. Its definitely beneficial, not only in helping me respond more skilfully in-the-moment but for helping build more safety and trust in our family relationships over the long term (I still regularly do a bad job of it, so I had lots of examples to draw from for this exercise!). It good to hear the specific examples you give too. I wish I had information like this years ago, then perhaps my son’s trauma wouldn’t have become my trauma, his anger wouldn’t have become my anger, his helplessness wouldn’t have become mine…and so on..could have saved us all a lot of grief! So pleased there are courses like this one coming online, thanks Sam! It was interesting to me that Sam mentioned Aikido, because more than anything I’ve studied and learnt, its thanks to my teachers and training in aikido-based Embodied Leadership, and Aiki-Lab, that I can meet my parenting challenges with a great deal more awareness, peace and ease than before (and be more compassionate with myself when I fail). Its powerful stuff! I also appreciate what was said about paying attention to non-verbals like tone of voice – I instantly know which school teachers will (unintentionally) trigger some serious defensive behaviours in one of my children, when I hear them speak for the first time (slightly loud or bossy and I know we are in for a rough ride for that academic year). I think we underestimate how much our physical ‘presence’ (energy/posture/gestures/voice/facial expression/muscular constrictions etc) impacts and influences those around us, especially as they might be perceiving us quite differently than the way we think, or intend.
Very rewarding experience. I can see how this would be useful for others on my staff as well. Thank you for the experience.
Yes, I was able to think of a recent interaction with a youth who became resistant and confrontive, shutting himself down in the session. In doing this TAP exericise, I was able to acknowledge how I felt, and move to showing compassion towards the client, seeing him through the lens of his possible trauma issues. However, I did find myself getting stuck in that moment, and not having a clear focus of how to proceed or knowing what interventions I should use to move forward with the client. I thank you for the opportunity for experiencing this tool. I can see where it could be of some value to some of the youth I work with.
hi Sam! this is a great method and happens spontaneously for me sometimes… but other times, i get triggered and it doesn’t happen. what came to mind was a recent amazing experience i had teaching mindfulness to a class, where there is one boy who is really struggling, he has an aid and is very VERY resistant.. to the point that when i start talking he plugs his ears. (nice!). anyway, sometimes the gift with teaching mindfulness (different than when i am teaching music) is that i remember more readily to bring my practice to what is happening. it is too much to type out all the details, but i had a huge breakthrough with him and it came out of me being playful, curious, self-regulating, and non-judgmental, then asking him questions instead of leaping to conclusions. it was a life-affirming and teacher-affirming moment to experience. i think the next step for me is to try to remember this technique in those moments when i feel stressed out… i look forward to working with TAP this week.
Such great insights and experiences here! Thanks all for sharing!
This TAP exercise did allow me to remember a couple of experiences I had with resistant or disruptive clients, and visualize myself responding in a more skillful way. I also recognized a great opportunity for me to practice this technique in my personal relationships!
I recalled a situation I was leading is which a young man was so disruptive the special ed teacher, her aides, & school psychologist (who were all in attendance) were so disturbed by it–not only did we all pow wow for an hour after class, but they were literally still processing the event with me 3 days later. It was a major bump in the road; threatening to change they way they teach their other programming. I tried a few of the tools in TAP, but he wasn’t having it. What I’m realizing I didn’t try was to drop into a deeper layer of connection; of speaking FROM compassion–while holding space for his trauma. I had awareness, a great intellectual map, and good tools. In that context, I didn’t hold a space for the depth of his trauma, I didn’t “blend: with him there. This was partly due to an implicit bias that he wouldn’t really want that level of connection in that context. (Which may be true–but I didn’t give him the chance to make that choice. I made it for him.) I moved too quickly, wanting to move his resistance out of the group. Connecting at the level of vulnerability he really has, underneath his probable trauma feels like an intimacy taboo to me. Not normally “acceptable” for kids in school; unless they initiate self-disclosure. I’d be curious about holding that level of connecting from compassion as one of the tones in the harmony. Like you say about leading meditation for youth–one eye open. In this case, challenge myself for the compassion wing of the bird to connect a little more fully. Too much compassion, in a group setting, I’ve learned is too intimate for them. But maybe I can swing the pendulum back a little more, putting my awareness in a number of the layers of support scaffolding simultaneously. A Harmony. Both/And.
This was a very useful technique to help you relax and understand how you are feeling and help you understand how your client might be feeling or thinking. I have a client that had been abused so extensively for years that she couldn’t even close her eyes or do a relaxation technique. It gave me time to re-group and think the process through and realize the extent of trauma she had and how much it affected every moment of her life. It will also help her to be able to stop n evaluate how she is feeling. Useful technique and easy to remember.
I am running on fumes here, so I wasn’t able to 100% focus on this exercise and found myself thinking and reflecting on a lot of the coursework as I am trying to get caught up on while baby sleeps.
I found that I had a number of situations that would have been applicable, and what I am noticing is how when I am stressed or worn or uncomfortable, I resort to my own astronaut suit. This exercise is so valuable, especially in acknowledging our own emotions, which does create some distance, and an ability to meet another person with compassion. Or the self with compassion.
Such a useful technique, and I will try to use this often.
I have been using TAP for the past 10 years of my life.I has changed me and the way I see the world. I was always very reactive when I was young and always very defensive. If this isn’t something you already try to practice I can’t emphasize enough what a great tool this is.
I can start to think that this TAP exercise can be so beneficial to people who work with youth, from teachers to social workers to clinicians and even parents dealing with their own children. If we can understand that our own bias can lead to predisposed emotions then we can give ourselves and the ones we serve a better chance to be mindful and heal from within. That deep breath of realization is so essential in the mindfulness process of preparing the next step to take.
I think back to an evening campfire program I was facilitating for a group of ~25 youth. I was trying to gain their attention and introduce the first group of youth performers, when one youth was disruptive and resistant to my attempts. I took a deep breath and gave him space as I recognized he was having a hard moment. In a sense, I used part of the TAP technique, but I now feel more informed, aware, and prepared to utilize the TAP through a trauma informed lens.
Everybody’s stories have been so helpful. I think the perspective of having compassion is so important. Compassion is what humanizes people and helps us move past our ego when we are interacting with young people who have experienced trauma.
Many years ago as a social worker intern for a school of students with behavioral issues, I was asked to observe a class. The teacher asked for assistance because a few students were disruptive causing her to stop class many times in the day. When I walked into the classroom and sat down at a desk one student cursed at me calling me names and wanted to know why I was there to watch him. I felt threaten, afraid and curious as to why this student that did not know me confronted me this way. I am not a confrontational person and calmly told him he was not the only student in this class. I also thanked him for my colorful introduction. He smiled and sat down. The solution was to change a few student in the class and soon the problem was solved.
I am a compassionate person and know that showing compassion will have a positive outcome. I will use the TAP technique because the acronym us easy to remember. Also the TAP meditation will be helpful getting me into the zone and focused.
Working one on one or one on two with youth at a therapeutic high school offered me many opportunities to use this techniques similar to this. The most compelling case was a teen with severe early trauma who also had pretty severe developmental delays and cognitive limitations.
He was very withdrawn but would suddenly explode with very graphic, violent threats. I had been spared such threats for weeks while other teachers had bared the brunt. He and I had made a strong connection making a real river raft together. For the first time in his life he liked going to school.On this day though, I was feeling stress because we had to finish making lunch for the school but the student had checked out and wanted to quit. I pushed for him to stick with it and he blew up, probably because his normally very regulated teacher was giving off some stress signals. And because of a severe attachment disorder. He got an inch from my face and let loose with a blow by blow account of how he would cut my head off and then cut the rest of me to pieces and the shove the pieces down my own throat. I took a breath, focused on my feet so I would stay embodied (I have a dissociative tendency in response to violence and anger) brought to mind his suffering as a baby & toddler and then proceeded with a variation of TAP. I was able to do this because of 6 years of practice with similar youth.
I paused smiled gently, got up on my toes, and out of no where came up with the best cowboy accent ever to say, “Well, pardner, I would advise you not to do that because you see, I might just tie you up to an ant hill at sundown and let those little critters tickle the be-jesus out of you.” The accent was amazing. ha ha! Like I channeled John Wayne. He looked surprised and then started laughing. “Can you teach me to talk like that?” And that moment led to us making a cowboy film together, using other kids as fellow bank robbers and the director as the sheriff. It was a hoot.
So in this case I used mindfulness and a paradoxical intervention. I had worked with youth long enough and known him long enough to know that he was not in amygdala hijack mode. I think he had begun to get connected to me and it was making him anxious. So he was testing me and pushing me away. It was a breakthrough for him and for me. I had been “bear-hugged” by a disturbed youth the year before and it had triggered my own trauma. Working with our clinical supervisor and my own mindfulness I was able to use that experience to feel quiet stable in the face of anger.
In doing the TAP exercise I was able to re work a situation where the student was resistant to what he was being asked to do. My initial feeling was fear and fear that the situation will escalate to the majority of the class opting out of the activity. With these new ‘eyeglasses’ that this course is giving me to look at a situation with trauma informed lens, I’m finding myself having compassion for the student. With this compassion I am more easily able to let the resistance pass and not try to manipulate a result. I find that learning the language through your use of examples is very helpful.
In my memory, I recall feeling anxious and scared when I group I was in front of began to become restless and inattentive. At the time, I think I did take it a bit personally, and let my own ego and insecurities get in the way. When I re-lived this scenario just a moment ago, and practiced the TAP technique, I felt significantly more at ease. I find it helpful, and liberating even, to recognize that disruptive behavior can signal a person’s own response to trauma and does not mean that I have done something wrong. After taking a few breaths and acknowledging this fact, I felt much better proceeding through this memory. I will definitely put this to use the next time I encounter a situation like this.
The TAP technique is definitely something that I can use easily with youth.
I have found this module very informtive. I really believe in the idea of recognising good behaviour. I needed to be reminded of the power and versitility of the process.
I could use the TAP technique. I think this really supports the counsellor and the client who is struggling to talk about their conflict situation.
… I love this… especially the ACKNOWLEDGE part as I am good at acknowledging MY reaction ( frustration, anger, embarrassment at having my *authority¨as the teacher challenged) and breathing into my belly… and now upon further reflection that embarrassment is actually a pretty fragile ego- position isn´t it?— as it gets into ¨power play¨which the kids love, of course, and that´s exactly what I want to avoid! (This is an 8th Grade class Im referring to at the moment) Ie; *me¨against ¨him/her/ them¨… SO after my acknowledging MY reaction, if I can summon up my empathy for THEIR M:O´s more quickly: defending themselves (SURVIVAL mode) ., and then go into Compasion-mode more quickly., which is really always my ultimate true goal. When I CAN do that I find I stand or sit quietly, smiling, and wait for them to FOCUS. (Smiling works better than Yelling.) I very rarely yell, but it´s not only the volume, I realize it´s my tone of voice for which I have to bevery careful of (Ie; critical) … I find that at times AFTER the fact or ´confrontation¨ when I have time I do often reflect on THIER suffering, and it makes me quite sad, as I often feel quite helpless, especially when I don´t see much change over a long period of time OR when I see the behavior escalating, OR hey revert to their *old ¨behavior,which often means there is something going on somewhere else in their lives… SO the LEAST I can do for them is to give them respect and compassion and connect, even if its just for a few minutes. Very often they just want to be HEARD, so at the end of class I will often have a 5 minute chat session (often I will bring up a topic, such as movies in whihc they can all engage and participate in. OR if their is an issue gie them time to express their opinion in a onstructive way. C:)
I really appreciate the concrete, step by step nature of TAP. I am an MFT trainee and am currently placed if a school. I believe strongly in trauma informed practice and it is also easy to let a moment full of high emotions take over. This is something I can see myself using before, during, and after my contact with children and youth. I also want to share it with teachers and my fellow students in my program.
I was able to think about my experience each week with a youth at an after-school program. He is hilarious, loves to participate, and is a genuine great kid; however, he loves to be the center of attention, interrupts/distracts a lot, and can be very unkind to other kids in the group. I usually feel dread, anxiety, and anger towards him when he behaves in this way. Luckily, we have a good relationship and he responds positively to my redirection. This TAP exercise helped a lot, I can usually maintain by calm and center with this individual, but I think doing this before and after I meet with him each week would help me let it go and hold on to it for less time after the fact. Thank you!
I loved this unit- and found myself exciting to share some of these strategies with the teachers I work with. I liked the A of the TAP and appreciated the concrete examples of how to utilize this. I think I often forget this step, I usually take a breathe and go into acknowledging the client’s feelings, and I forget to acknowledging my feelings (I know- I forget to do that in the moment-which is MY theme!:)), this will be very helpful in supporting my schools!
I have informally been practicing this technique for some time, however, it has been extremely helpful for me to have a more formal way of walking myself through these steps. I deal with kids who have traumatic adaptation behaviors quite frequently, and though I always try to maintain a centered approach, I sometimes get triggered and feel my ego rise up. This more step-by-step approach will be very useful.
I also teach new educators teaching techniques, and I think being able to teach them these steps will be revolutionary. Thank you!
I found the T.A.P. visualization very helpful in calming myself down. Personally and professionally, I have extensive exposure and direct experience with trauma. When dealing with my 14 y.o. son who essentially has no trauma hx except for dealing with me when I get triggered by his behavior. This exercise and many other interventions I’ve learned over the past 20 years, can help me stay calmer with him so that I’m not projecting my own irritability and/or trauma distortions all over him or my wife. My 14 y.o. has a very secure attachment and can challenge my directives at times which of course triggers my younger parts as well. this exercise helps me in staying in the here/now so I don’t cause myself, him or anyone additional harm from my chaotic and traumatic childhood.
I have a client who has experienced trauma for years. The youth is in a safe situation now, but the effects are visible in every relationship at home, with teachers, counselors and strangers. In the situation I am thinking the youth was very depressed, school was not going well, nor was the relationship with the counselor. We were to the point where the youth discussed the trauma and abuse. The youth was depressed, lashing out, distant and resistive to the whole conversation initially. Once the youth realized that I was non-judgmental, took the time to listen, was not taking the statements of “nobody and everyone” personally, we were able to proceed and have a meaningful conversation which resulted in setting goals.
I think this should be a basic interaction tool for people who are dealing with traumatized youth. I have observed too many people fall into a power struggle with a teenager by taking their statements personally and react without thinking.
The TAP experience brought up strong feelings for me – almost did not want to go there – when I recalled a past experience in a group counseling session with 4-fifth grade girls. The girls were engaging in rowdy behavior – yelling, climbing on desks, hiding and running around. I noticed I had feelings of helplessness, being overwhelmed, feeling humiliated and finally feeling some anger towards this group. I was particularly disarmed because I thought i had a built enough rapport with each of them and had some agreements in place as well, that they would not do this kind of behavior. I think feeling out of control is the scariest for me. And I hate being made a fool of which is my ego talking. I noticed anger appeared in response to my bruised dignity. Anyway, I so see how I can acknowledge all of these feelings and still choose a skilled response. I am imagining I return to the counseling table and continue to work on the project of the day – making puppets, for example – and quietly inviting them to join me. I could repeat this without demand. I already know one of the girls trusted me and liked to hang out with me and would return, I am imagining, fairly soon with her friend following not far behind. The girl with the most trauma would probably come back last. I could see us exploring with curiosity what that experience was all about. How the girls felt during the incident and reminding the girls of my role with my intention to offer a safe place to play and talk and work on the conflicts they have in their home life and at school. Also share my feelings of not knowing what to do to assist them best. TAP is definitely a practice. I want to keep practicing.
I will definitely be using this in my practice as a way to develop insight into my clients and their difficulties. I can see myself using this in my personal life as well, particularly when my son does something that triggers one of my own issues.
I do try to remain present in my body and be aware of what my state is in the moment – I want very much to also be safe for others. The part of the TAP that I appreciate is the moment that shifts probably both of us…in the perspective that the youth is coming from a self protected trauma adaptation. Although from a clinical perspective, that is something always being understood in terms of defense mechanisms, the vulnerability, etc; however, the sequence and immediate accessibility in these moments with TAP, made that shift feel more palpable in me – I felt myself really shift in my flow with that student. Interesting. Thanks Sam.
I have used a similar approach but really like the TAP acronym to use when I teach others especially young people. I am trained as a nurse and have been confronted with angry individuals of all ages. So several situations came to mind while I did the exercise. Although I usually can feel my heart beating faster in a difficult situation, the person I am working with does not sense any distress coming from me. I demonstrate empathy by pausing to breathe and then using questions or statements that indicate my curiosity about what is happening from the other person’s perspective. Often I am not the cause of the problem, other things have happened that built up to the point of an outburst of frustration or anger. It has been hard to describe the process in a meaningful way to others. TAP will be very helpful.
I will be using this during my work sessions as a way to better understand my clients and what they have experienced. I can also utilize this practice in my personal life as a mother of two, one being a teenager.
The TAP is a very useful tool that I see myself definitely using with my youth. Using this method it will help me get a better understand why my young clients behave the way they do.On a more personal note i also see that TAP would benefit myself and my family especially my sons.
A 6 foot tall, 15 year old young man came to see me because his mother wants him to be in counseling. He is angry at the world and did not want to be in the office. He began the first session by telling me that he did not trust anyone and that meant me too. He complained about his peers and some of his teachers. He also told me that he liked his previous counselor and how great she was, but his mother didn’t like her. I listened. During the next few session he related incidents at school where his anger took over and he was sent home from school. A few sessions later, I took the chance to teach him how to breathe and settle so that he would not become so angry at his peers and get in trouble. He just glowered at me and accused me of telling him what to do. When I asked him what he needed from he he answered angrily, “Nothing!” Thoughts were racing through my head. Most of them were, “I don’t know what to do next.” I used breathwork, compassion and listening with what I hoped was an accepting countenance. He finally calmed himself without any more “direction” from me. Several sessions later, he slowly began to share pieces of his life, very tentatively waiting to see my reaction to what he was saying. I continue to use the TAP during our sessions so I don’t go faster than he is able to go. It seems to help him begin to develop a measure of trust for our sessions.
I listened to this today in preparation for a presentation. Being aware of the resistance and thinking where it might come from was calming. It also helped me focus of ways to deal with the resistance in a way that allows others to work through their own issues with compassion and understanding. I will continue to ground myself with finding ways to present the materials to help others develop their own ways of understanding and learning.
I remember a particular situation when I was doing an intervention with some young boys whom were geared towards joining a gang and while speaking to the guys ONE in particular raised his voice in a very disrespectful way towards me, I paused before responding but became very defensive and a bit angry too, so I started to respond to him when one of his friends signaled me from where he was sitting and making signs to not follow up with him. I really felt this guy needed 2 things Medical Assistance because it was obvious that he was going through something based on the lifestyle he was living and 2. that he needed some guidance and affection in his life someone to reassure him that he’s going to be ok and there is a better way of dealing with things. At that moment I wish I could have held his hand so he knew I was not his enemy. I enjoyed the TAP technique because it made me relax before reacting, it’s definitely a technique I’ll use daily in my office and when working with my youths.
Yes, I was able to think of a situation. When I was a first year teacher, I had an EBD middle school self contained classroom. I was definitely not a skilled teacher and did not have a mindfulness pratice. This 7th grader looking back was very triggering to me and I was very reactive and took things personally. TAP would be very helpful and just a mindfulness practice itself would have helped with remaining objective.
I work as a homeroom teacher with refugees and immigrant teens. I am also a mindfulness instructor. This exercise is a good reminder. I was able to think of a recent situation with a female student from Syria. She refused to participate in PE lessons.
I’m looking forward to trying this, I can think of SO MANY situations where this would’ve helped me handle a situation better. I work with the same population youth you described in unit before this one, and this reminder is really valuable to practice compassion not only for them as a human being but for their lived experiences and the ways they’ve learned to interact in protective and reactive ways as a result of trauma. I will also recommend this TAP technique to my co-workers and one young woman I know who has been stuck in a heavy loop of volatile reactivity that often results in harming herself and others, with repeated trips to Juvenile Hall. Thank you for sharing such a simple but widely applicable coping and regulating aid.
While doing this exercise, I did remember a time during an anger management group that the whole group was triggered. I was not sure how to proceed and I could not get a grip on what was happening to get the clients to settle down and engage in the conversation.I am beginning mindfulness exercises with this group and I am very grateful for this training.
I like this practice as it helps to review a past situation in which a child I was working with acted out with her mother in order to control and manipulate her parent with aggression and anger. I am reminded to put compassion ahead of correction- understanding that the manipulation one is seeing is a manifestation of fear and that fear needs to be addressed first by the parent.
TAP is going to be super useful for me in my school setting; very often staff (myself included!) react poorly when we are irritated — but we expect students to be perfect with us all the time!! We need to hold ourselves to the same expectations. Taking a moment to breathe, think, then react will help me to remain compassionate.. and patient!!
I can’t help but replay in my mind over a decade in public schools and countless students being sent to me to either deescalate or engage in conversation with an adult because they had shut down. How immensely a training and exercise like this would have changed to views of the staff. I tend to be on the too self aware bracket where I analyze myself, my bias and my worldview in situations constantly, but not always in the moment. I make it a point to reconnect with a client with whom I’ve had a difficult session with and call out myself and how what was going on with me effected our time together and how I responded to them.
For this exercise in particular I thought of a Kindergarten student I worked with very briefly last school year, because I was only one day/week I was not put into the rotation of adults engaging with this student. At 6 years old this student had a few traumatic adaptations that he would use in rotation depending on what triggered him. I remember trying to “help” with this student and feeling like an outsider as my approach was not aligning with what the school was doing. I felt helpless, like a failure. I felt angry that the student wouldn’t listen to me. I stopped right there during the exercise and struggled with what I would do differently with a 6 year old who developmentally couldn’t understand the depth of what I wanted to explain to him about what was going on. This left me yearning for more personal development in age appropriate intervention models and techniques.
My thoughts then shifted to one of my first jobs in the field where I ran a wraparound program and we drove the students home every night after our program. It was my first day with the students and I triggered something in a 13 year old female where she decided to spit in her hand, wipe it on me and then pull my hair while we were driving her home. The other worker with me moved back to restrain the child in the van while I moved to the driver’s seat to drive us home. This was standard practice and I was surprised by how escalated it got so quickly. I think back and wonder how I could’ve verbally responded to her so as to avoid the other worker restraining her. I remember not getting upset, but actually being concerned for all of our safety.
We were driving in a car in an area that was known to be more violent than others. Our supervisor told us to get out of the area as fast as possible. I want to go back in time and replay what happened to be aware of and acknowledge her trigger more.
Thank you for TAP. I have found it to be useful in the classroom when facing resistance as well as in parenting.
I enjoyed the exercise. I was able to think of a situation that occurred recently where I became immediately defensive and reactive with a student who was really unsafe. I appreciate the pause that this provides before the reaction. Even if the response is the same in the end, I think that using TAP will support the mindfulness practice we all hope for when we are working with challenging behavior.
Hi! A little late to the party but glad to be here. I had a bit of a hard time focusing – a great moment to have empathy for my students who I’m always guiding through mediations. I often teach with a co-teacher, so the first scenario that came to mind was a time when some students were triggered and my co-teacher responded differently than I would have in that moment. Do you have any words of wisdom for working with a co-teacher who may not have the same type of TAP approach? I was then able to picture another scenario, and what I really appreciated was giving myself permission to imagine exactly how I wanted that interaction to go. I so often focus on what could go wrong, so it felt really powerful to focus on what could go right. Thank you!
Great technique, and I am inspired to work to “work it in” as a normal response. I was recalling a scene out in the woods, when a youth I have worked with for 4 years, really triggered and came at me, swinging a big stick. I replayed the dialogue leading up to this dangerous moment, and both TAP combined with more careful self awareness of my voice tone and asking questions, rather than reactions to harsh words, could have quite possibly de-fused the situation. It did turn out ok, as I jumped out of the way, and with a little space and time the youth eventually came back into his more balanced state. Thanks for all of these vital tools!
Can absolutely be beneficial in those moments where things can easily become escalated with youth.
The scenario I returned to was one of teaching mindfulness to a group of third graders. In this class I had a one student who would routinely choose to not engage in our practice of mindful awareness. She would often sit close by me and on our last day together I invited her to try again. I did so gently and as an invitation with the intention of refraining from setting up an expectation. I happen to be familiar with her history which includes a number of ACEs and leave a good deal of space for consideration of this with her. I love the direction in the ‘T’ to ground in oneself before anything else. This is an excellent reminder. I will also practice using this technique at home with my own children especially prior to connecting with them as they transition home from their other house. Thank you for this simple and supportive technique, Sam. It takes care of both the adult and the youth…or anyone else we are interacting with who may present with their coping skills first.
The TAP technique is often something i practice whenever i am present & conscious enough to “catch” myself in the midst of adversity and tempted to respond to the adverse situation with the same type of adverse behavior. Thus, if someone is acting out in anger, i may be tempted to get angry too… however… being compassionate and peaceful as the TAP technique suggests… is truly the RIGHT approach. The original technique i learned similar to the TAP technique was: Stop, Breath, Observe/Witness, Invite Compassion & Be Compassionate. The specific situation I thought of during the audio exercise was an example from my experience whereby this technique did not seem effected. ??? i was working with 9 & 11 year old boys who were acting out together in a rowdy, disrespectful and non-compliant fashion. i was conscious enough to “catch” myself from responding in a triggered unconscious manner. i practiced the technique of TAP and took the time to bring myself to the most centered, calm and compassionate state of being… i then approached the boys in this calm and compassionate state. the Boys looked at me as a non-threat, a non-serious-confrontation and the Boys seemed to interpret my calm demeanor as an indicator that I was not upset and thus “ok” with their actions… as I used words and reason to explain to the boys that their rowdy behavior was NOT ok with me… the Boys just laughed and found my words humorous. Thus, my calm & compassionate demeanor was Not enough to “reach” and “change” the boys behavior… as soon as i “pretended” to get Angry and Upset… only then did the boys take me seriously and actually stop themselves from proceeding in the rowdy fashion. Does this event seem familiar to anyone else? Is it every ok to “pretend” to be angry in attempt to alleviate a situation? I always prefer to approach and address situations in a calm and compassionate manner… I never intend to act triggered in an angry way… …but since working with traumatized youth… i have witnessed that sometimes a “pretend-angry” response is often what is required on my part to gain the attention of the rowdy youth. Many questions surrounding this.. ???
During this exercise, I imagined a particular instance in which I was facilitating a therapy group in a residential treatment setting and one individual was being particularly disruptive, talking over people, talking about how he didn’t want to be there and this is bullshit, etc. When I used the TAP technique in visualizing this, I was able to take a breath, acknowledge my own frustration and impatience, acknowledge that his behavior is likely stemming from his history of traumatic experiences, and was able to maintain a calm tone of voice and ask questions to refocus. This was different than the actual situation played out (I was not being my best, most self-aware self that day) and he ended getting more frustrated and leaving the group. I think this technique can be helpful in many situations; taking a moment to pause, acknowledge, and address from a place of self-awareness and compassion for other, can go a long way. And the more I use this sort of technique, combined with a regular mindfulness meditation practice, the easier it becomes.
I run a therapeutic group for boys on the verge of exclusion called Sport and Thought. Using football ‘soccer’ and psychodynamic group therapy. Helping them to regulate themselves, through sport and also to notice times, during training exercises, where they are anxious and what they do with the anxiety.
After a difficult training drill, where a small fight nearly broke out, I got them all together and we did some stretching exercises, with the aim of them only concentrating on the exercise they were doing at that time and how that particular stretch felt. We then introduced a breathing exercise. Exercise before the match is in the agreement set out at the start of the work but it is also a great grounding exercise and helps them to re-focus when they need help to regulate.
I sort of do the TAP method in my practice, however, I look forward to doing this intentionally in the future. The situation I was thinking about was in regards to a trafficked victim and when she was triggered it was very difficult to work with her (residential settings). I remembered several times I would have to ask her to the same simple questions over and over, just try to get her to access her pre-frontal cortex. I think validations would be a great thing to add to the TAP technique. At times it would minutes of validation before we were able to help regulate her.
I love the TAP technique, and have used something similar in my own practice. N(otice) A(cknowledge) M(eet mindfully) E(mpower) is a technique that I use. However, TAP is a shorter and easier process to go through in the moment. When I think about this past moment, I feel as though what I really missed was the opportunity to acknowledge my feelings fully. This particular situation that I am thinking about was one in which the student most likely had many traumatic adaptations. His life was not easy, and he surely needed methods to protect himself. If I had been able to be more present to that in the current moment, than I would have felt less anxiety in myself, and could have been more compassionate.
Yes, TAP is super helpful. I think it’s important to help teachers cultivate a mindfulness practice so that at their most stretched and challenging moments, it can still come naturally to them. I think it’s something that has to be practiced in ‘easy’ times — outside of work, while cooking, etc — so that it’s a familiar and practiced habit we can call upon when we ourselves are managing our own stress response. The other takeaway I thought was most important from this unit or resonated most strongly was just really stressing how important and helpful it is to respond and ask questions with respect and respectful tones. I think this is one we can often all do some self-reflection on keeping it at the forefront of our interactions with youth.
I REALLY appreciated the COMPASSION component of this exercise- perspective of gratitude that the individual is taking care of him/her/themselves. The TAP method really helps in getting me to separate myself out of the situation and become an observer and improves the ability to have more neutrality and not get as triggered.
It also reminds me of the “Name it to tame it technique” for shifting from a state of reactivity into a more regulated state. When we can acknowledge that it is the person’s trauma, the pain, the hurt that they have experienced that we are interacting with, and in fact, not directly them, it can help us to show up in with more compassion and as a more regulated, steady version of ourselves. If we get thrown off our center by a young person’s reactivity, this won’t serve either of us. And of course ,this is easier said than done to practice, but such an important technique.
Ive practiced TAP many times. Its funny though, as a teacher I find that practicing TAP at the end of the day when my willpower is more likely to be depleted…is very difficult. It definitely takes discipline and high self awareness.
I really appreciate the TAP technique and can see how it could totally shift the outcome of a difficult situation with a student. The hardest part for me is remembering to use TAP!
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