The Pressure and Release Model is also called the Continuum of Communication or the Communication Continuum. It is a way of exploring how we interact in relationships by discussing how much pressure we’re putting on the relationship. Is there too much pressure, like yelling at someone? Or is there not enough pressure, like choosing to ignore the other person? There is a continuum of pressure and we teach our students and their families how to begin at the lowest pressure continuum. That may look like a suggestion or approaching an interaction with curiosity. For example, if we wanted a student to start their laundry it might sound like, “Oh, we’re going to be busy later. It might be a good idea to go start your laundry right now.”. This is a low pressure request in the interaction.
Working with the Continuum
Understanding the continuum of pressure helps our students learn what the right amount of pressure is for different requests. Laundry is not a big deal, but if it has to do with their safety, the pressure in the request is different. For example, if we are on an outing and a student stands up in their canoe, that becomes a health and safety hazard. In this situation we might go to a higher pressure continuum to express that the request we’re making is something they need to listen to right away. Here that may sound like, “Please sit down now.”. It’s all about learning how to put pressure on at the right time and the right amount of pressure for the right request, which we also use in our equine therapy at Asheville Academy.
Students who are learning how to appropriately act on the continuum can practice these skills during equine. Horses are very, very sensitive to pressure, so they are a great starting point to help students understand how much pressure they’re putting on in a momentary relational way because horses are very relational. Horses are herd animals and want those relationships. Working with horses can feel like a lower pressure situation because they do not have to work with their peers. They’re not really working with the therapist, but rather working with equine to learn. They can begin on the lower end of the continuum with a suggestion. The next step would be to ask. The next step is to tell. Then finally, insist. After each step the pressure increases. We make sure that each student knows the terms of suggest, ask, tell, insist so that they are aware of where they are on the continuum.
Understanding this continuum can aid in talk therapy as well. Therapists are making a request of the student. So when I am making a request, I also am going to remember where to start on the pressure continuum in making this request. Making these requests, I would start at “Do you think it’s a good idea? What do you think should happen in this situation?”. It is a great way to bring the students in and collaborate, always starting at that curiosity and suggestion level.
Relationship Building Through Pressure and Release
Many students struggle with self esteem and want to work on improving their self esteem during their time at Asheville Academy. The Pressure and Release Model is a tool that can help them practice assertive communication. They can practice approaching peers with a request in an assertive way with the right amount of pressure, which helps them to build that sense of mastery. They learn that they can get what they’re asking for through healthy communication where there is not too much or too little pressure. Our students learn that relationships need to have reciprocity, a balance of give and take. It can be challenging to make new friends at this age, and with this tool they can understand how to better express themselves to create meaningful and healthy relationships.
We also work with teaching the families about the pressure continuum. When both students and families have these terms to use, they can use the pressure continuum with their family when they return home. This can help families avoid power struggles and aid in communication at home. Beginning in the suggest and curiosity can help students think critically about what they are experiencing in the moment and how they are showing up. Creating a relationship based on trust, much like we do with equine, helps bring families into relationship communication rather than task communication.
Equine therapy can provide powerful emotional feedback to our students. More than just a friendly face, horses are also very responsive to the posture and emotional state of humans, which can cause students to open up about their troubles by viewing them through the lens of the horse’s response.
Our family-focused program is uniquely designed to help younger students develop the skills to expand their resiliency, manage and communicate their emotions, and most importantly, strengthen their relationships with themselves and family members. For more information please call (800) 264-8709.
Natalie is an Asheville, NC native. She when to Appalachian State University to complete her undergraduate degree in Music Education. After some time working in management in the hospitality industry in Asheville, she moved to South Korea to teach English as a second language from 2012-2015. She came home invigorated to work with kids in a new capacity and sought out a way to continue to educate and lead kids into success outside of a classroom. Natalie completed her MA for Clinical Counseling at Lenoir Rhyne University in 2019 and is excited to be a part of AAG’s clinical family. Outside of work, Natalie enjoys playing competitive Ultimate Frisbee and spending time hiking or biking with her family.