The Sanctuary Institute is a five-day intensive training experience . Teams of five to eight people, from various levels of the organization, come together to learn from our faculty, who are colleagues from other organizations implementing Sanctuary. Together teams begin to create a shared vision of the kind of organization they want to create. These teams will eventually become the Sanctuary Steering Committee for their organization. The training experience usually involves several organizations at the same time and generally these organizations are very different in terms of size, scope, region and mission. This diversity helps to provide a rich learning experience for the participants.
During the training, the Steering Committee engages in prolonged facilitated dialogue that serves to surface the major strengths, vulnerabilities, and conflicts within the organization. By looking at shared assumptions, goals, and existing practice, staff members from various levels of the organization are required to share in an analysis of their own structure and functioning, often asking themselves and each other provocative questions that have never been overtly surfaced before. Many of these questions have not been raised before because participants have never felt safe enough to say what has been on their mind or in their hearts, even after many years of working together. Although the continual focus is on the fundamental question of “Are we safe?”, participants quickly learn that in the Sanctuary Model being safe means being willing to take risks by being willing to say what needs to be said and hear what needs to be heard.
Participants look at the change process itself and are asked to anticipate the inevitable resistance to change that is a fact of life in every organization. They look at management styles, the way decisions are made and conflicts resolved. In the process of these discussions, they learn about what it means to engage in more democratic processes on the part of leaders, staff, and clients in terms of the simultaneous increase in rights and responsibilities. They evaluate the existing policies and procedures that apply to staff, clients and families and ask whether or not they are effective in achieving their shared goals. They are asked to learn about and become thoroughly familiar with the psychobiology of trauma and disrupted attachment and the multiple ways that post-traumatic stress in all of its manifestations are present in the lives of the children, adults and families they work with. They are challenged to begin thinking about the implications of that knowledge for treatment. They also learn how high levels of stress in the organization can impact relationships, emotions, and decision making at every level of the organization. They develop an understanding of the conceptual tool for organizing treatment that we refer to as “S.E.L.F.”. They learn about vicarious trauma, traumatic reenactment and the importance of understanding themselves and providing support for each other. And they are introduced to the various components of the Sanctuary Toolkit including Community Meetings, Safety Plans, Red Flag Reviews, S.E.L.F. Psychoeducation, S.E.L.F. Treatment Planning, and Sanctuary Team Meetings.
Participants report that the week-long training is a powerful experience – some have said even life-changing. It needs to be because they have a big job to go home to. They will need to go back to their respective organizations and begin to change the culture of the organization and change long standing paradigms and patterns of behaviour.
The Sanctuary Steering Committee is instructed to go back to their organization and create a Core Team – a larger, multidisciplinary team that expands its reach into the entire organization. It is this Core Team that will be the activators of the entire system. The Core Team should have representatives from every level of the organization to insure that every “voice” is heard. It is vital that all key organizational leaders become actively involved in the process of change and participate in this Core Team. The Core Team is armed with a Sanctuary Direct Care Staff Training Manual, a Sanctuary Indirect Staff Training Manual, a Sanctuary Implementation Manual, several psychoeducational curricula and on-going consultation and technical assistance from Sanctuary faculty members to guide them through the process of Sanctuary Implementation that extends over three years and hopefully leads to Sanctuary Certification.
Organizational change takes several years to really get traction and then continues – hopefully – forever. The objective of the implementation and technical assistance is to edge an organization closer and closer to the “edge of chaos” where creative, self-organizing change occurs, without destabilizing it to such a point that it becomes chaotic and dangerous.The responsibility of Core Team members is to actively represent and communicate with their constituents and to become trainers and cheerleaders for the entire organization. The Core Team works out team guidelines and expectations of involvement for individual team members as well as a meeting schedule and decides on safety rules for the constructive operation of the team itself. The Core Team is ultimately responsible for the development of an implementation process aimed at including the entire organization in the change process that involves teaching everyone about the Sanctuary Commitments, Attachment Theory, Trauma Theory, S.E.L.F., and the Sanctuary Toolkit. The Core Team facilitates the development of educational programs for direct care staff as well as indirect care staff who work in human resource, finance, facilities management, food service, and administration. It is likely that the Core Team will facilitate changes in admissions, interviewing of new staff, orientation programs, supervision, as well as training and education policies. They oversee a plan for significantly greater client participation in planning and implementation of their own service plan and figure out how they are going to engage a wider network of their stakeholders in the Sanctuary change process. The ultimate goal is to take meaningful steps to change the organization’s culture and engage as many community members as possible in that process.
As discussions begin in the Core Team, participating staff begin to make small but significant changes. Members take risks with each other and try new methods of engagement and conflict resolution. They feed these innovations and their results, back into the process discussions. The Core Team must always maintain a balance between process and product. It is not enough to talk about how we will change things. We must also make actual changes in the way we do business. The Core Team therefore not only plans together how best to share what they are learning with the larger organization, and trains all agency personnel and clients in the Sanctuary principles, but also decides how to integrate the Sanctuary Toolkit into the day-to-day operation of the organization and how to evaluate how these initiatives are taking hold in the organization.
Through the implementation steps of the Sanctuary Model, staff members engage in prolonged dialogue that serves to surface the major strengths, vulnerabilities, and conflicts within the organization. By looking at shared assumptions, goals, and existing practice, staff members from various levels of the organization are required to share in an analysis of their own structure and functioning, often asking themselves and each other provocative questions that have never been overtly surfaced before. As this happens, the development of more democratic, participatory processes begin to emerge. These processes are critical because they are most likely to lend themselves to the solution of very complex problems while improving staff morale, providing checks and balances to abuses of power, and opening up the community to new sources of information.