The Life Space Interview (LSI)
Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI)


    The Life Space Interview (LSI) was developed by Fritz Redl, a pioneer in psychoeducational interventions.  A recent variation on the LSI is the "Life Space Crisis Intervention", developed by Nicholas Long, a student of Bill Morse, who was a student of Fritz Redl.  Everything described in this section has since been incorporated into the more updated/modern " LSCI".  Below, you will find a link to a web site that describes the LSCI and how to implement it.
Click here for a short biographies for Redl, Wineman, Morse, and Long

The older Life Space Interview is a classroom counseling approach used to manage behavior and change behavior patterns of students.  It is a crisis intervention technique in which a student's behavior is discussed with him/her at the time of the problem's occurrence.  Practitioners of this approach believe that the student is most receptive to ideas for change when he or she is in crisis.  Others believe that it is best to wait until the youngster is calm and more reflective.

    There are two types of LSI.  Both are "here and now" reactions to an event or experience in a student's life. "Emotional-first-aid-on-the-spot"  is used when the teacher wishes to  "cool off"  the student, resolve the problem quickly, and return the student to an activity.  The "clinical exploitation of life events" is a more in-depth technique in which the teacher helps the student to gain insight into his/her behavior and change inappropriate ways of acting.


    There are five different types of emotional first aid. Which one you use will depend upon the situation encountered.

1. Drain Off Frustration Acidity - Allow the student to vent his/her emotions, but assist the youngster in regaining control and calming down. When the student is calmed, gently, but firmly, explain why a rule or direction is necessary and why it must be followed (e.g., "I realize that it's your turn at bat, but we must go in now before the bell rings to go to the next class.").

2. Support for the Management of Emotions  -  Provide support to the student when pent up feelings and emotions surface.  Often times this technique is used when the student has been victimized or has a personal problem.  Help the student sort through events and put the problem in perspective.

3. Communication Maintenance - Often, upon intervention, the student withdraws.  This type of interview attempts to prevent the student from breaking off communication with others.  Try to keep the student talking and communicating regardless of the topic of conversation.

4.  Regulation of Behavior and Social Traffic - This strategy involves the consistent application of rules and guidelines by a calm, patient adult.  The situation is handled by enforcing the rules of the school or classroom.

5. Umpire Services - The teacher makes a judgment in cases of inter-child and intra-child conflict after having reviewed all available information.  A fair, impartial decision is presented and enforced.


    This category of responses is the more involved of the two LSI techniques. Redl provided no steps for its use, believing that the adult must be flexible in his or her approach to each new situation. There are, however, five different  recommended approaches for counseling a student who has been involved in a severe emotional or behavioral flare-up.  One, a few, or all of these might be used during  the discussion.

1. Reality Rub - The teacher helps the student to realize that s/he has misinterpreted or refused to recognize certain information pertinent to an incident.  The student is made aware that his or her perceptions are not correct, and s/he is informed as to the truth of the situation under discussion.

2.  Value Repair and Restoration - The teacher attempts to awaken dormant values such as respect, empathy, trust, etc.  Many students are unable, at present, to display emotions which represent vulnerability.  They tend to act out aggression, nonchalance, and anger most often.  The teacher attempts to "massage" the numb value areas and help develop appropriate emotional responses to certain situations.

3.  Symptom Estrangement - Some students don't realize that their behavior is inappropriate or bizarre in the eyes of others.  The teacher brings the student's attention to the specific behavior and how it is viewed by others.  It is hoped that the student will come to realize the problem and talk about other ways to meet his or her needs.

4. New Tool Salesmanship - In this interview, the student is helped to improve his/her ability to react in a problem solving situation.  "Tools" or ways of solving problems are taken from past experience and applied in new situations.

5.  Manipulation of the Boundaries of the Self - This interview is used with two types of students: those who allow themselves to be "used" by others, and those who victimize or take advantage of others.  The student is made aware of his/her behavior pattern in an attempt to make him/her more receptive to interventions.

How To Use Life Space Interviewing

1.   Intervene.

2.   Listen to the involved parties in a nonjudgmental manner.

3.   Analyze the situation and determine whether this incident is an isolated
            happening or part of recurring theme.

4.   Choose a specific LSI approach.

5.   Implement the selected approach while being polite, attentive, and concerned.

6.   Change or combine approaches as necessary.

(You could use LSI techniques while following the counseling sequence of events found in the link titled "Classroom Counseling")

Activities and Discussion Questions

1.   Identify which type of emotional first aid was used in each of the following

a.   "Bill, you need to sit down in your seat right now.  I want to see you sitting
            here with us, not in the office."

b. A teacher restrains a student until s/he calms down.  The teacher then says,
        "I know that you want to go with the other kids, but we have a rule that
        says all classwork must be done before you can have free time and

c.   "I realize that Betty knocked over your project, but I cannot allow you
        to hit other students.  You have lost 15 minutes of recess if you
        apologize to her.  If not,  you lose the whole recess period.

d. Dierdre enters your room in tears.  You call her aside and talk shortly about
        the relationship with her boyfriend.  This discussion seems to help her.  The
        tears subside and she is ready to re-enter the class activities.

e.   Izzie is so angry about an incident in the hallway that he violently slams
        the door to your room.  He appears very tense.   You ask him what
        happened, but he says "Nothing." through his clenched teeth.  You start
        up a conversation about the Buffalo Bills, his favorite football team, to
        get him talking, get his mind off the hallway incident, and loosen him up.

f     Herbert comes into the room, slamming the door and throwing playground
        equipment which was contained in a box by the door.   He is apparently mad
        because some children on the playground had been calling him names (e.g.,
        Herbie the Lovebug).  The teacher says, "I realize you are upset.  No one
        likes to be called names.  It hurts us.  But you know we don't throw playground
        equipment in the room.  Take a minute to calm down and then I want you
        to go pick up the playground equipment."

g.   Johnny and Chris were fighting.  Johnny apparently stole an object from Chris.
         The teacher listens and then talks to both students separately.  Based upon
        the information presented, the teacher rules that the object must be returned
        to Chris before Johnny goes out to recess or he will lose that and future recess

n.    Pedro is adopted.   The other students tell Pedro that his real parents didn't
        want him and left him on a door step.  Pedro returns early from recess and
        tells the teacher that the other students teased him.   The teacher listens and
        allows Pedro to express his emotions.   The teacher then kindly explains
        reasons why parents may have to give up children and how his new parents
        wanted him and went though the adoption procedure.

i.    Ted received an "F" on a paper and is extremely upset.  He doesn't say a word,
        but makes many gestures which indicate that he is tense.  When the class
        period is almost over, the teacher situates himself or herself by the door and
        asks Ted what is making him upset.  The student says "nothin"'.  The teacher
        says "Oh, by the way, did you go to the chess tournament last night?"   Ted
        and the teacher exchange quips, but the topic of conversation is eventually
        turned back to the paper grade and ends with Ted saying,  "If  I get an F in
        this subject, I'll  be ineligible for the Chess team."  The teacher responds by
        saying  "What can we do about this situation to insure that you will pass
        this class?"

j. Corrine  is being disruptive by being out of her seat or looking around at other
        students' projects during reading group.   The teacher says, "Corrine, you
        need to be sitting in your seat and paying attention because it's reading time."

2.    Often, a teacher must choose between the use of two types of LSI.   He or she must decide whether to quickly resolve a situation or engage in a more in-depth conversation.   In the following situation, decide whether you would use emotional first aid or clinical exploitation of life events, and with which students.   Assume that an aide, parent or other teacher is present.

     While on a trip to a soda bottling company, the students are watching thick bottomed bottles go by on a conveyor belt.  Some of the students quietly joke about Sandy's eyeglasses being as thick as the bottom of cola bottles.   Kelly, who overhears this discussion, decides that this observation is funny and yells out, "Hey, Sandy's glasses look like the bottom of cola bottles!"   Sandy, shedding tears, runs further into the bottling plant, turning periodically to yell obscenities back toward the other students.  S/he runs through a doorway labeled:

Restricted Area.  Danger. 

3.    With a partner, or a group of others, discuss which LSI technique you would use in the following situations.

a.     During lunch, Quincy pours ketchup into Marie's milk.  Maria pushes Quincy's tray of food onto his lap.  You witnessed only the yelling and shoving after the tray tipping.  What type of interview will you use?  Why?

b.    Jason, a student in your classroom, is known for being aggressive and assaultive.   He frequently, and with no apparent reason, hits other students.   You have had many consultations with Jason about this behavior and know that he once lived in a very violent home where he was frequently exposed to unprovoked physical attacks.   Today, while you are teaching,  Jason unexpectedly turns around and smacks his best friend Hank across the mouth saying, "Quit staring at me!!"  You immediately intervene and are prepared to conduct a life space interview.   What type of interview will you use?  Why?

c.    Lucy is a large, verbally aggressive, but very intelligent student in your classroom.   She is a new member of your class and is having difficulty forming friendships.  She frequently reprimands other students, believing that her view is the correct one and that no one else's' opinion matters.  Lucy, for example, dislikes the Chicago Cubs and berates Mike for wearing a Cubs' cap to school.    Yesterday, Lucy told Mike that the St. Louis Cardinals were the best team in baseball and that the Cubs "stink".   She told him that he had better not wear the Cubs' cap ever again.
    Today, Mike shows up with wearing a Cubs' cap and a  big smile.  As soon as Lucy sees him, she runs over, rips the cap off his head and throws it across the room saying, "You mother f...., I told you the Cubs STUNK!"   What type of interview will you use?  Why?

d.    You are having difficulty managing the behavior of three students in your classroom.   Ted, Keith and Susan are frequently arguing and fighting.   They often call each other names and play cruel tricks on each other.  You have decided to have a discussion with them.  At the onset of the conference, you realize that Ted and Keith are heaping all the blame on Susan who serves as a scapegoat.  What type of interview will you use?   Why?

e.  At the onset of the class day, Slim and Sid begin arguing.  Yesterday, Slim let Sid borrow a music CD on the condition that he return it the next day.  Sid, however, forgot to bring the CD to school as promised.  Slim claims that Sid has stolen his favorite music and calls him "a thief".   Sid desperately yells back at Slim, trying to defend himself and explain the situation.  The two boys begin cursing at each other when you intervene.  What type of interview will your use?  Why?

f.     Bud presents the image of a teen-age "hood."   He is known for being a bully and "tough guy."  He frequently scares other students with threats of physical violence.   Bud, however, is really not the "tough" guy that he pretends to be.  Deep down, he feels rather threatened by others.   He likes to make other students afraid of him because it makes him feel more powerful and eliminates the chance of them ever scaring him.  During recess today, Bud becomes very angry because Tom hasn't passed him the basketball during the entire game.  Bud walks over to Tom, grabs him by the shirt collar, and shakes him violently, while accusing him of being a "ball hog."  Your aide breaks up the dispute and tends to Tom while you take Bud aside for a talk.   What type of  interview will you use?  Why?

g. Steve passes a note to Carl, a bully, as requested by a group of girls.  The note says, "You're ugly. Signed, Steve."  Steve often is the brunt of others' humor.  You witness only Carl threatening to "kill" Steve after school.   Assume that recess or your planning period is about two or three minutes away.

h. Conrad uses extortion and strong arm tactics to gain money for a second lunch.

i.  Ernie, while on a camping trip with your boy scout troop has been sent for "left handed smoke shifters", "bacon stretchers", and "egg peelers" (non-existent items).   He was also left in the woods by others after dark during a  "snipe hunt" (a ritual induction of "tenderfoot" scouts).    He is often victimized by others as he attempts to please them to become part of the "in group".



To go to a description of the revised LSI, known as "Life Space Crisis Intervention",
        click on the highlighted link below ( and go to "page 20"

Go to: Charley Chrystal's (page 20 for LSCI)

Fetch Dr. Mac's Home Page
Thanks Charley.
Author: Tom McIntyre at