De-escalation Training for the Social Security Administration (SSA)

Cognitive Task Analysis

Challenge

SSA employees who interface with the public at SSA Field Offices frequently deal with angry and sometimes aggressive claimants who may be upset about their SSA benefits. For some individuals, benefits from SSA are their only form of income and disruptions with their payments cause severe distress and anxiety. The claimants sometimes take their frustration out on the SSA employee behind the counter. SSA requested development of customized training to aid their employees in de-escalating a potentially dangerous situation.

Solution

ARA assisted SSA in developing customized de-escalation training. ARA began by interviewing SSA field employees around the country using ARA’s cognitive scientists to determine techniques which were useful in de-escalation and identify behaviors which could further escalate the situation. ARA used this information to develop four interactive online training modules SSA field employees could perform at their workstations as time permits. The online training was then followed up with a 50-minute classroom training to reinforce the information previously learned online. ARA performed 3 pilot classroom training classes to gauge the effectiveness. ARA also performed a train-the-trainer class for SSA personnel.

Impact

The project was deemed successful and the training was rolled out nationwide by SSA.

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