The Sanctuary Model: An Integrated Theory

What is the Sanctuary Model?

What is the Sanctuary Model? The Sanctuary Model® represents a theory-based, trauma-informed, evidence-supported, whole culture approach that has a clear and structured methodology for creating or changing an organizational culture.

The Sanctuary Model

The objective of such a change is to more effectively provide a cohesive context within which healing from psychological and social traumatic experience can be addressed.

As an organizational culture intervention, it is designed to facilitate the development of structures, processes, and behaviors on the part of staff, clients and the community-as-a-whole that can counteract the biological, affective, cognitive, social, and existential wounds suffered by the victims of traumatic experience and extended exposure to adversity.

I. What is the Sanctuary Mission?

To teach individuals and organizations the necessary skills for creating and sustaining nonviolent lives and nonviolent systems and to keep believing in the unexplored possibilities of peace.

II. What Should a Certified Sanctuary Organization Look Like?

  • A Sanctuary program should be a strong, resilient, tolerant, caring, knowledge-seeking, cohesive and nonviolent community where
  • Staff are thriving, people trust each other to do the right thing, and clients are making progress in their own recovery within the context of a truly safe and connected community.
  • Tangible results of a Sanctuary community include decreased staff turnover, decreased use of coercive measures, decreased critical incidents, staff injuries, and client injuries, greater client and staff satisfaction.
  • Such a community is sufficiently knowledgeable that it fully recognizes the ever present possibility of violence and therefore constantly attends to protecting its social immune system against the spread of violence in any form – physical, psychological, social or moral.
  • In such a community, communication is open, direct and honest and people trust that they will find out information that they need to make good decisions.
  • Members of a Sanctuary community are curious about human behavior and do not assume that everyone is motivated in the same way. They are accustomed to listening deeply and to being heard by others.
  • If someone feels that their trust has been betrayed, they are willing to give the other person the “benefit of the doubt”, and find out what happened, rather than leap to the worst conclusions. 
  • A Sanctuary community uses knowledge already attained and is gaining new knowledge all the time in the context of social learning.
  • Within this community, members recognize the importance of democratic decision-making and shared responsibility in problem-solving and conflict resolution all of which serves to minimize abuses of power and enables an organization to deal more competently with the challenges of complexity in the world around us.
  • Every effort is made to include anyone affected by a decision in the decision-making process and as a result people feel free to dissent, to raise troubling concerns, and to support consensus agreements even when they may not fully agree themselves
  • A Sanctuary community is able to have safe and useful conflict as a means of learning and growing. Conflicts are seen as a resource and are generally well-managed with emotional intelligence and open communication.
  • Everyone in a Sanctuary community recognizes that “hurt people hurt people” and that therefore, creating and sustaining a just environment is vital to everyone’s safety and well-being.
  • Because the heart of Sanctuary is community, people in a Sanctuary environment are encouraged and supported in their individual striving but are also expected to maintain an active concern for the “common good” even when that may mean putting aside one’s own individual needs.
  • In full recognition of the vulnerability to loss that everyone experiences, a Sanctuary community honors individual and group losses, while using a vision of the future to prevent stagnation and to promote continued development.
  • Ultimately, people who come into a Sanctuary community are offered an opportunity to have corrective emotional, relational, and environmental experiences.

III. To Find Out More:

  1. Who We are
    1. Sanctuary Philosophy
  2. Historical Foundations of the Sanctuary Model
    1. Moral Treatment
    2. Social Psychiatry
    3. Therapeutic Community
    4. Maxwell Jones
    5. Traumatic Studies
  3. The Sanctuary Model: An Integrated Theory
    1. Mental Models
    2. Complexity & Emergence
    3. Sanctuary as Organizational Operating System
    4. Living Systems
    5. Attachment & Disrupted Attachment
    6. Psychobiology of Trauma
    7. Complex Responses to Toxic Events
    8. Group Dynamics & Parallel Process
    9. Authoritarianism
    10. Trauma-Informed Systems
    11. Violence as a Public Health Issue
  4. Components of the Sanctuary Model
    1. Sanctuary Commitments
    2. S.E.L.F.
    3. Sanctuary Toolkit
    4. Trauma-Specific Treatment
    5. Outcomes & Research on the Sanctuary Model
    6. Sanctuary Institute - training and education in the Sanctuary Model
    7. Sanctuary Network - programs that are adopting the Sanctuary model
      1. Adult inpatient
      2. Residential Childcare
      3. Shelters
      4. Substance Abuse Rx
      5. Schools
      6. Juvenile Justice
    8. Sanctuary Certification