There are a number of violence threat assessment checklists and tools available to guide an assessment of someone who may pose a danger to him/herself or others. In fact, it is vital that we use such tools to ensure that we are gathering the most relevant data on an individual’s history, social supports, past and current behaviors, possible threats, mental health, and a number of other variables. Yet, there is a problem with violence threat assessment checklists.
Checklists alone will not answer all of our questions.
A checklist cannot clearly tell us what type of risk is posed by a person others avoid because they feel nervous and fearful around him or her. A checklist won’t explain what’s happening we feel discomfort or unease, but can’t put our finger on the reason.
To perform a thorough violence threat assessment, we need to have a keen understanding of what the threats and behaviors mean to the person of concern. We should be familiar with the violence escalation process. We must have a number of trained professionals at the table to gather missing data and interpret the findings of our assessment. We’ll want to be cognizant of the group dynamics that can affect our assessment. We need to practice our threat assessment skills.
The stakes of assessing violence risk are high, and to minimize risk and liability, we need to develop the skills necessary to do so as effectively and accurately as possible. Equally important, we’ll sleep better at night knowing we are using a solid practice based on the exact model used by the Secret Service and FBI to assess and manage threats.
Checklists are important, and there are a number of excellent tools available to you. But, they should not stand alone. Your threat assessment skills will be much better if you obtain adequate training and practice before using them. The tools will guide your inquiry, but much will be missed without a deeper knowledge of the threat assessment process, risk factors and warning signs associated with targeted violence.
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