AE team leaders group photoWe believe that our clients, co-workers, and communities are inherently capable. Historically, social service systems have neglected to center on the strengths of those we work with. Assertive Engagement seeks to support person-centered models already in existence and to build new practices where they are needed.

Common Factors Theory in psychology suggests that 85% of factors identified for successful treatment come from the client's own experience, their hope for change, and the relationship with their provider. Research on client-centered models shows that helping clients identify their own strengths and goals is much more powerful than simply telling them what to do.

Assertive Engagement is a synthesis of evidence-based practices including Motivational Interviewing, Strength-Based Practice, and Assertive Community Treatment.

Three "Sets" of Assertive Engagement

Assertive Engagement also incorporates concepts around trauma-informed care, harm reduction, anti-oppression, and unconditional positive regard.

Mind Set

  • Strength-based practice
  • Approaching people as inherently capable
  • Identifying cultural strengths

Skill Set

  • Motivational Interviewing including open ended questions, reflections, and affirmations   
  • Using culturally responsive and culturally specific tools

Heart Set

  • Addressing our own biases and judgments
  • Unconditional positive regard
  • Understanding the impacts of trauma

Download the handout

Assertive Engagement Handout (191.87 KB)

quote on white paperAE Training Testimonials

"Even a 'Data Nerd' can Use Assertive Engagement"

George Yolland is a member of the Data and Evaluation Team at the Multnomah County Youth and Family Services Division. George helps maintain ServicePoint records and other data for the Homeless Youth Continuum. He attended a recent AE training and generously shared his experience.

"At first, not being a caseworker or someone involved in direct services to our clients, I felt a bit like a fish out of water. Many of the cubicles near mine have a sign proudly proclaiming its occupant as a 'Data Nerd' and another identifying our pod of cubes as 'The Data Zone',  so, for me at least, this type of training is a bit out of the ordinary. However, after three days of Assertive Engagement training, I believe even a Data Nerd benefits from this training.

How will I use Assertive Engagement in my role? I will strive to listen more intently without judgment. To allow others time to communicate their concerns and desires and to be empathetic to those concerns and desires. I'll use my Mind Set: what's in my head, my impressions; my Skill Set: the training and tools I've learned; and my Heart Set: my empathy for others. I'll take these techniques and try to effect positive change with the work I do, but particularly in how I work with my colleagues and our clients. Will this be easy? No. Change is hard. But treating each other with empathy and dignity, while effecting positive change, is worth working towards."

Ralph Holcomb reflects: Assertive Engagement Training: What on Earth am I Doing Here?

"That was the question I asked myself as I pulled up at the Grotto for the three-day training put together by tash shatz.  After all, I don’t see clients, three days is an enormous amount of time to spend away from the office, and I pride myself on NOT being a touchy-feely kind of guy.

It didn’t take long to realize the skills I was learning in the training could apply to the workplace as easily as in a setting where people are offering services.  It was great to be reminded about the difference between empathy and sympathy, the “Ask-Offer-Ask” technique for giving advice that respects the other person, and motivational interviewing skills around drawing out the other person’s story.  I learned about when not to ask questions, and to respect the flight, fight, freeze response we all can have to trauma.

It turns out that assertive engagement just means treating each other with kindness and positive regard.  And, we could use a whole lot more of that in this world and workplace, don’t you think?  In a larger sense, I guess that is what we’re supposed to be doing here on earth."

AE Partnerships

Partnering to bring AE to the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS)

Multnomah County's AE Initiative was established in 2011. One of the leaders of the process was Seth Lyon. When he left the county after 15 years of service to work as the statewide Manager of the DHS Self-Sufficiency Training Unit, we began a new partnership of bringing AE practices into DHS trainings.

Since last summer, the AE Initiative at Multnomah County has trained nearly a dozen DHS Self-Sufficiency Training Unit staff on AE curriculum. They've adapted AE principles, concepts, and practices into the core "Family Engagement and Coaching: Coaching for Family Success" training that all Family Coaches at DHS now receive.

This spring, we're partnering to deliver internal trainings for DHS staff. We'll keep you updated as we continue to work together towards unified models of service delivery that center people as the experts in their own lives.

2017 By The Numbers

In 2017, we trained nearly a thousand people. Approximately 969 people joined us for 3-day trainings, 1-day trainings, half-day trainings, special events, and refreshers.

Here's a breakdown of AE training participants in 2017:

  • 416 people - joined us through eight sessions of our foundational 3-day trainings
  • 128 people - joined us through four 1-day training sessions, including over 80 attendees to our supervisors trainings
  • 125 people - joined us at two daylong events in collaboration with many partners: a workshop on "Trauma Informed Care and Assertive Engagement" at the Northwest Institute of Addictions Studies annual conference, and a special event called "Supporting Unhoused People and Sustaining Natural Areas" 
  • 103 people - joined us through 3-4 hour AE introductory or refresher trainings for:
    • New Avenues for Youth - Willamette Cottage staff
    • Portland State University SNAP outreach team
    • Multnomah County Energy Assistance network
    • Portland Homeless Family Solutions - Emergency Winter Shelter staff 
    • Adult Care Home Operators 
  • 90 people (estimated) - participated in multi-day AE trainings for DHS Self Sufficiency and Community Action Partnerships of Oregon
  • 80 people (estimated) - attended 1.5 hour AE sessions at the first annual Multnomah County Department of County Human Services conference
  • 27 people - participated in our first ever 2-day AE train-the-trainer convening

2016 By the Numbers

In 2016 we provided 17 AE trainings for approximately 580 attendees. 

Trainings in 2016 included:

  • 3 day-long trainings for approximately 90 attendees.
  • 5 half-day or partial day trainings for about 80 attendees.
  • And we provided our standard three-day training 9 times for about 410 participants.

Beyond trainings we also held:

  • 2 refresher sessions on AE for SUN Service System providers.
  • 1 AE event, screening the film "Paper Tigers" for over 200 attendees.
  • 2 feedback sessions to improve AE trainings, one with agency partners and one with county staff.
  • And we released the first survey for agency supervisors to inform the AE initiative.