PMVA/MAPA Training: How would you know which one is right?
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
At Caring for Care, we often receive calls regarding PMVA/MAPA training and people getting so confused as to what to choose. Usually, the questions we receive are more about obtaining MAPA/PMVA training rather than focusing on the individual to be cared for and the specific situation. We recommend looking beyond the brands. That’s why reading this article carefully is important.
Both options effectively manage challenging behaviours, each with unique methods suited to specific situations. The focus should shift from brand to techniques which we will discuss later.
Just the same way you would think Adidas or Nike. If you are one of those calling or confused about which brand of managing behaviour training to choose, first start with “the person to be cared for”.
Who is the individual and what are they up to. What is their behaviour like from the care plan – dos and don’ts.
That is the single most important aspect of managing challenging behaviour. Next is the environment or situation you will be involved in, which requires a good risk assessment
This would inform your choice of training. Knowing this, you will be able to ensure your trainer customise training for that person, you and for the situation.
So let’s go deeper. We hope this aspect is clear to you.
Choosing a MAPA or PMVA Training Approach
When working in healthcare, we usually come across situations involving managing challenging behaviour. As caregivers, it’s our duty to respond in a way that is person-centred, respectful, and preserves dignity.
There are a variety of training programmes that teach techniques for managing difficult situations. Two of the most well-known are PMVA (Preventing and Managing Violence and Aggression) and MAPA (Managing Actual or Potential Aggression).
These training programmes have a lot of similarities. They both aim to provide staff with skills to de-escalate situations and handle aggression in a way that minimises harm. However, they have some differences in their techniques and approach.
This often leads to caregivers feeling they need to choose one programme over the other. Some see it as an “either/or” decision between PMVA or MAPA.
But it’s more helpful to think of the choice between training programs like choosing between French fries and chips. Although they have slight distinctions, both are essentially fried potatoes with the same purpose of quenching hunger.
Although this illustration only gives a simple way to look at both. The fact is, PMVA/MAPA can both be effective for managing behaviour as many other intervention methods when customised.
Similarly, PMVA and MAPA have small variances, but they share the larger goal of equipping staff to manage confrontations. The “right” programme is the one that best suits the needs of your workplace and staff.
Rather than focusing on minute differences between programmes, let’s explore what really matters: an approach centred around the unique needs of each individual we care for.
The Person at the Centre
Every person has a distinct background, preferences, and triggers. What calms one individual may distress another. This means any strategy for managing behaviour must be customised to the individual.
Both PMVA and MAPA acknowledge this need for person-centred plans. They teach broad techniques to equip caregivers with a “toolbox” of options to manage tensions. The expectation is staff will then apply specific approaches based on what they know about the individual they’re caring for.
For example, a raised voice may cause one person to become highly agitated. But another individual may respond better to firm guidance spoken in a louder tone. Person-centred training recognises there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.
So while learning recognised models provides a helpful starting point, the priority is tailoring support to the unique needs and capabilities of each person we assist.
Managing Behaviour – Main Principle
All respectable behaviour management training is founded on similar ethical principles:
- Preserve dignity
- Avoid harm
- Use least restrictive interventions
- Promote choice and participation
This means training should provide guidance for caregivers for managing difficult situations in a way that:
- Respects dignity and values each person
- Seeks to avoid physical or psychological harm
- Uses the least intrusive responses possible
- Informs the individual and involves them in choosing interventions
Quality training programmes on managing confrontation uphold these principles. They aim to equip staff with strategies to stabilise while respecting and empowering those in their care.
Objectives of PMVA Training
One widely used programme is PMVA or Preventing and Managing Violence and Aggression. Some key details on this training:
- UK-based programme in use since 1990s
- Focus on prevention and de-escalation
- Use of holds and escorts only as a last resort
- Taught by centrally certified instructors
- Utilises breakaway techniques.
The foundations of PMVA training are built around prevention and stepping in early to calmly resolve rising tensions. The emphasis is on stabilisation by using a gradual and graded system of responses. Force is only used as a genuine last resort when other measured tactics have failed.
This means caregivers learn skills such as redirecting individuals to preferred activities, adjusting communication based on triggers, bringing in external help, and clear limit-setting. Holds and escorts are seen as crisis responses rather than routine interventions.
The training also teaches specific breakaway tactics for caregivers to safely get out of grabs or hair pulls from distressed individuals without use of restraint.
PMVA trains staff to use just enough force as absolutely necessary and to continuously evaluate with the goal of de-escalating holds/escorts at the earliest moment.
Throughout the programme, the focus is on respecting rights while keeping everyone safe. Caregivers build their “toolbox” of customised prevention strategies for each individual as the first line of response.
PMVA is a common course you would find in UK and knowing the importance of pmva training will also help you make a good decision.
Key Components of MAPA®
An alternate training choice is MAPA® or Managing Actual or Potential Aggression. Features of this programme include:
- Originated in 1996 in Canada
- Addresses verbal, physical, and covert aggression
- Strong emphasis on understanding behaviour
- Strategies for verbal intervention
- Training in physical restraint and disengagement
MAPA® takes an educational approach and ensures staff comprehension of what drives challenging behaviour. There is in-depth instruction on matching verbal and emotional responses to the level of escalation.
For example, a person in the early stages of distress requires emotional validation. But an individual nearing crisis may need clear, concise limit-setting. Caregivers learn these nuances and customising in the MAPA curriculum.
The training also incorporates physical restraint and disengagement techniques for severe incidents. The methods aim to be safe, ethical, and use the minimum force necessary.
Staff are trained to continually evaluate the need for any restraint and release at the earliest possible moment.
As with PMVA, the first focus is always on early intervention through understanding, communication, and distraction.
Hands-on techniques are truly last measure options when individuals seriously risk harm to self or others.
Considerations for choosing between PMVA Training or MAPA Training
When making decisions between just PMVA (Preventing and Managing Violence and Aggression) and MAPA (Managing Actual or Potential Aggression) training programs, the key points to consider are:
- Risk Profile:
- PMVA is better for low to medium risk environments
- MAPA necessary for very difficult cases.
- Staff Role:
- PMVA is a good choice for all staff for general knowledge.
- MAPA for specific staff needing to assist in incidents.
- Training Time Available:
- PMVA done through short briefings and discussions
- MAPA requires extensive hands-on practice
- Expected Outcomes:
- PMVA builds a culture to prevent risky situations.
- MAPA develops crisis response capabilities
- Existing De-escalation Skills:
- PMVA if staff lack conflict management training
- MAPA to enhance skills of experienced staff
- Resources/Space Available:
- PMVA just needs classroom and course materials
- MAPA requires protective gear, equipment
Choosing between PMVA and MAPA depends on the specific risks, responsibilities, and competency gaps in an organization related to managing confrontations and aggression.
Common Components of All Training
Whether your workplace decides on PMVA, MAPA® or another recognised training such as breakaway, the course should reinforce key themes like:
- De-escalation Plans: All staff share details on individual early warning signs and calming strategies. This informs prevention plans tailored to each person.
- Padding Skills: When physical intervention is unavoidable, training reviews padding vulnerable areas and avoiding pain compliance. Safety remains paramount.
- Dynamic Risk Assessment: Staff learn to continually evaluate threats and modify responses by asking – what is the minimum intervention needed right now?
- Caregiver Resilience: Quality training devotes time to coping with stress, seeking support after incidents and developing emotional endurance in a demanding work environment.
The goal is shaping a culture focused on safety, diversity, dignity, and empowerment – not merely teaching isolate techniques. Skills gain meaning when applied according to each person’s unique needs.
The Case for Breakaway Techniques
Alongside established models like PMVA or MAPA®, some workplaces utilise breakaway training. This teaches practical skills to safely manoeuvre out of grabs, holds or hair pulls using minimal force.
Breakaway techniques can be effective when used appropriately, as they give staff methods to create safety and space during confrontations without use of restraints. The focus is regaining control through non-combative movement and balance redirection.
As with all training, breakaway tactics must be applied respectfully per each individual’s needs. Customising response plans while empowering those we serve remains paramount.
If you are not familiar with breakaway training and techniques, the blog post what is breakaway would be very helpful.
When to consider breakaway training
Breakaway training should be considered and implemented in these typical high-risk situations:
- Jobs with a credible threat of physical assaults or restraint:
- Healthcare staff (risks from combative patients)
- Correctional officers
- Police, security guards
- Work involving close proximity or contact with potentially aggressive individuals:
- Caretakers for those with mental illnesses, neurological conditions
- Teachers or counselors dealing with behaviorally challenged youth
- Social services working with populations in crisis
- In work settings with a past history of violent physical incidents and injuries.
- Evidence that current policies and training are inadequate
- Environments with uncontrollable factors that suddenly escalate encounters:
- First responders entering emergencies with unknown dangers
- Public transportation staff dealing with unpredictable attacks
- Where wearing restrictive gear or uniforms creates safety risks if grabbed:
- Hazmat suits, oxygen tanks on backs
- Supplementary skill to enhance other training:
- Add breakaway techniques to PMVA or MAPA programs
- Learn techniques to escape if initial defenses fail
The focus of breakaway is disengaging from dangerous grabs, holds, and assaults quickly. If this is a credible threat, the training should be mandatory to reduce harm and injuries.
PMVA/MAPA: Choose Training That Customises Care
Every workplace has unique requirements, so no one training model is inherently superior. An approach that is thorough and effective for one organisation may not suit the needs of another.
But all quality training has shared components centring human value and tailored care. Staff learn broad techniques, then apply individualised support focused on respect, communication and empowerment.
Whether your workplace provides PMVA/MAPA training or breakaway training or another programme, the priority is equipping staff with knowledge of each person’s needs.
Techniques give guidance, but compassionate care comes from truly seeing someone, listening and uplifting their humanity.
So when evaluating training models, consider how well the curriculum allows customising crisis response per each individual’s history, triggers and capabilities.
That is the mark of excellence for any training programme or technique aimed at managing confrontation or aggression.
The most meaningful models remind us that behind every behaviour is a human longing for comfort. Our task is responding with empathy while keeping everyone secure.
Table: PMVA vs MAPA vs Breakaway
|Uses praise, rewards, and social skills training.
|Focuses on building trust, encouraging positive choices.
|Uses positive reinforcement and motivational interviewing.
|Looks at triggers and reasons for challenging behaviour.
|Identifies why challenging behaviour happens through watching and studying.
|Studies behaviour to understand why it happens.
|Makes personal plans based on individual needs and assessment.
|Creates support plans based on the study of behaviour.
|Makes and uses plans based on what individuals need.
|Collaboration and teamwork
|Encourages working together with parents, teachers, and therapists.
|Promotes working together between families, schools, and others.
|Says it’s important to work together and talk between family, professionals, and support groups.
|Data-driven decision making
|Uses data and progress tracking to change plans.
|Keeps track of what is done and changes plans based on outcomes.
|Uses data and study to see progress and improve plans.
Remember the Individual
Whether your workplace utilises PMVA, MAPA®, breakaway or another programme, the priority is respect and dignity. Staff can learn broad behaviour management concepts, but must tailor support to individual preferences.
This means moving beyond a narrow focus on one “right” training model. When choosing an approach, consider what best equips your staff to connect to the distinct needs of each person you serve.
And remember, just as Coke and Pepsi quench thirst despite subtle recipe differences, PMVA and MAPA® share the same ethos. At the heart is using creative, dignified strategies to provide security and comfort for everyone, especially those we serve.
The most meaningful training nurtures practical skills that uplift human value. When faced with aggression, recall the principles of avoiding harm and prioritising personal needs. Then take a breath, get centred, and ask – “What does this individual require in this moment to feel respected, secure, and valued?”
That question gets to the heart of person-centred care. And delivering customised support tailored to the individual is what quality training is all about.
PMVA (Preventing and Managing Violence and Aggression) training should be utilised:
- Proactively in facilities, organisations, public spaces with risks of violence and aggression issues.
- Used as ongoing awareness for frontline staff, security personnel, healthcare workers, etc.
- General orientation for new staff to set culture/expectations.
- Used BEFORE signs of confrontation have emerged.
MAPA (Managing Actual or Potential Aggression) training should be utilised:
- Reactively in settings with high risks of behavioural escalations and aggressive confrontations.
- For staff who have to directly intervene in and manage aggressive incidents.
- First responders, mental health workers, law enforcement officers, security guards, etc.
- Used DURING emerging signs of agitation, hostility, threats, tension.
Breakaway training should be used:
- For staff/occupations exposed to risks of aggressive physical contact attacks.
- Healthcare staff who may face combative patients, correctional officers, police.
- As a last resort option when already in a physical altercation.
- Used DURING incidents where disengagement/escape techniques are needed.
PMVA aims to PREVENT violence from happening.
MAPA aims to CONTROL violence in progress.
Breakaway aims to ESCAPE from attacks.
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