Psychosocial Underpinnings of Security Training

Credits Craig Higson-Smith Last Updated 2014-08

The impact of any training program depends upon the participants’ ability to integrate new information and use that information effectively. Security training emotionally challenges both trainers and trainees in many interesting ways. The study of fear is a deep and thought-provoking area, and as trainers, we learn about ourselves and about those we teach.

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By Craig Higson-Smith, of the Center for Victims of Torture

Introduction

The impact of any training program depends upon the participants’ ability to integrate new information and use that information effectively. Too often, participants attend excellent security training programs, but then fail to implement what they have learned. Therefore, it is imperative that trainers explore those factors that motivate participants to learn and use new skills, as well as factors that might hinder this process. Technical experts who do not take the time to understand the psychology of the people they are training will ultimately fail as teachers.

Security training emotionally challenges both trainers and trainees in many interesting ways. The study of fear is a deep and thought-provoking area, and as trainers, we learn about ourselves and about those we teach. This module covers five broad areas seen in the menu below. We encourage you to initially read these in order, as they build upon each other, and later refer to the most useful sections as needed:

1. Getting to Grips with Fear

The security trainers’ emotional wildcard.

2. Using the Anxiety Pressure Gauge

Heighten the impact of security training.

3. Raising and Lowering the Pressure in a Group

Our skill as trainers is measured in part by our ability to manage the way in which our groups work with difficult material.

4. Stress and Traumatic Stress Reactions in Security Training

A natural part of the way human beings respond to challenge and danger.

5. Building your Own Emotional Resilience as a Security Trainer

Avoid the pitfalls of burnout and vicarious traumatization.

About the Author

Craig Higson-Smith is a researcher and trainer with the Center for Victims of Torture. Originally an anti-apartheid activist, Higson-Smith has a MA in Research Psychology and has spent the last two decades working on issues relating to violence and traumatic stress in the developing world. He is the author of multiple scientific papers and editor of several books in the field. During his career he has worked in many countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.