The Sanctuary Model – What is it and how does it work?

At Morrison, we are committed to implementing The Sanctuary Model, a method for cultural change and providing trauma-informed care to those we serve. The Sanctuary Model is based on the belief that trauma, chronic stress, and adversity are universal human experiences. The model replaces burnout, compassion fatigue, and toxic stress with a renewed culture of self-care, heightened creativity, and overall resilience. It maintains that healing from trauma requires creating an organizational environment that promotes healing in all directions — staff, clients, and community.

The Sanctuary Model was created by Philadelphia therapist, Dr. Sandra Bloom, and her colleagues in the early 1980s. Over time, the model has been adapted for use in a wide range of human service programs across the U.S. and abroad. The Sanctuary Model has the following four pillars:

1. Trauma Theory

Trauma Theory suggests that many of the behavioral symptoms that we see in individuals are a direct result of coping with adverse experiences.

2. The Eight Commitments

The Eight Commitments are individual and organizational commitments to nonviolence, emotional intelligence, social learning, democracy, open communication, social responsibility, growth, and change.

  1. Non-Violence (providing physical, emotional, social, and moral safety for all)
  2. Emotional Intelligence (managing feelings well for the care-of-others and self)
  3. Social Learning (practicing the utmost respect for the ideas of everyone)
  4. Democracy (having shared decision making whenever possible)
  5. Open Communication (saying what we mean without being mean as we say it)
  6. Social Responsibility (ensuring teamwork that includes everyone’s contributions)
  7. Growth and Change (co-creating transformation for a hopeful future)
  8. Commitment to Equity* (ensuring that all feel included and have what they need to survive and thrive). *Morrison took the initiative to add this 8th Commitment.

3. S.E.L.F.

S.E.L.F. stands for Safety, Emotion, Loss, and Future. This provides a common language for processing events in our personal and organizational communities.

4. The Tool Kit

The Tool Kit is composed of community meetings, use of the S.E.L.F. concept, safety plans, self-care plans, and red flag meetings.

For more information about the Sanctuary Model, please visit thesanctuaryinstitute.org.