Two innovative programs involving the use of appropriate influence in dependant relationships came together at Monty Roberts’ Flag Is Up Farms, Solvang, California.
The first, Join-Up, the trust-based communication methods developed by world-class horse trainer Monty Roberts, needs no introduction. The other, The AVERT Project, created and directed by Leonard Manzella, provides Empathic Response Training for schools, institutions and families. Even though their clients are obviously very different, Mr. Manzella and Mr. Roberts recognize the similarities in the work they do, one with families and the other with horses. In the case of families, the children are dependant on their parents. In the same way, the horse is dependant on the herd until they are removed from it. That dependency is then transferred to the owner, or trainer. Not only are the dynamics similar, so are the problems that are caused when force or violence enters into the relationship.
The AVERT Project recognizes the notion that when people holding positions of authority over others lack the capacity for empathy their potential for inappropriate and/or violent behavior is greatly increased. Whether they are politicians, business leaders, parents, teachers, military personnel or members of law enforcement, if they lack the capacity for empathy they run the risk of abusing their position, unwittingly or not, and violating those in their charge. Implementing the AVERT Violence techniques has benefited institutions of education, law enforcement, social services, private corporations, and more locally families referred by the San Luis Obispo County Probation Department.
Manzella reflects on Roberts’ work saying, “As I watched Monty Roberts create an arena in which that horse could discover a new way of being, one of trust and cooperation through Join-Up, I realized my struggle has been to do the same with people. I have tried to help them overcome the abuses they suffered in the past so as not to carry them into the future, abusing themselves and others.” In creating an alternative to the cycle of violence both Roberts and Manzella use their ability to empathize, inviting others to make the choice for change.
The AVERT Project is able to decrease the risk of institutional violence by establishing a system-wide model for behavioral accountability—one that improves relations among staff and those they serve while reversing the problem of staff burnout. In-house personnel are trained how to implement AVERT for their institutions by utilizing specifically designed media, workbooks, and advanced role-training techniques.
For Manzella, the AVERT Project is the culmination of over twenty years of my experience in the field. During that time I have come to view the vast majority of professionals working in positions of authority in institutions of education, law enforcement, social services, and private corporations as being decent people trying to make a difference. However, there are some individuals who, for whatever reason, take it upon themselves to espouse a code of behavior that runs contrary to the well-being of their institution and to the safety of others, sometimes without realizing they are doing so. With that in mind, I designed the AVERT project to establish a system-wide model for behavioral accountability—one that will eliminate existing codes-of-silence by creating an atmosphere of openness and trust through an on-going discussion that will cease to tolerate any individual’s behavior that threatens the safety and/or integrity of others.”
For more information about the AVERT Project, visit www.avertviolence.org.
Press contact: Debbie Loucks