Natural therapeutic holding: a non-aversive alternative to the use of control and restraint in the management of violence for people with learning disabilities


Christopher Stirling, North Staffordshire Housing Consortium, 6 Richmond Terrace, Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.


For at least the last 10 years, control and restraint (C&R) has gained increased popularity amongst nurses as a safe, professional and legal means to manage violence in health care settings. However, during this period there has been an increased momentum to find non-aversive management strategies for people with learning disabilities and there has been frequent debate on the abolition of practices which do not achieve this. More recently, the main criticisms of C&R have been the professional and ethical objections that the techniques used inflict some degree of pain or discomfort to the client, and the fact that it remains a reactive strategy with no theoretical framework for professional practice. On this basis, alternatives should be sought which seek to address these issues. This paper outlines the development of natural therapeutic holding, an approach which is non-aversive and which provides a theoretical structure for professionals to base their practice on in order to develop clear therapeutic goals for the client. Initial findings within a small community residential service for people with learning disabilities indicate that natural therapeutic holding was a preferred method of intervention strategy by staff, proving as effective as C&R in the management of violent incidents, with interventions being much shorter in duration and non-aversive in nature.