S.E.L.F. Curriculum

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Outline of S.E.L.F. Curriculum

S.E.L.F. Group Training

Complete Introductory Material - free download


Introduction to the S.E.L.F. Curriculum

Describes the S.E.L.F. Curriculum as trauma-informed, why that is important, and how to use the Curriculum.

Sanctuary Philosophy

Essay by Dr. Sandra L. Bloom, one of the founders of the Sanctuary Model®, the defines the values and belief system that is the underpinning of the Sanctuary Model and S.E.L.F. Curriculum which is one of the key implementation components the Sanctuary Model.

Introduction to S.E.L.F.

Simple handout for clients that accompanies every lesson or group of lessons. Meant to be given out to every participant at the beginning of the group to ground them in the basic language of Safety, Emotions, Loss and Future = S.E.L.F.

S.E.L.F. Group Guidelines

One page handout to offer some simple guidelines for group procedure

What Does S.E.L.F. Mean?


  • Introduce concepts of S.E.L.F. to the group
  • Connect S.E.L.F. to the mission of the organization
  • Connect S.E.L.F. to individual client problems

HANDOUT: What Does SELF Mean?

RESOURCE: S.E.L.F. – A Nonlinear Framework

  • More detailed explanation of S.E.L.F. for staff with some guidelines questions for staff to use with clients

Who are You a S.E.L.F. Self-Assessment


  • To learn to use the acronym, S.E.L.F. to define individual identity and pinpoint individual strengths and vulnerabilities.
  • To begin the process of developing self-knowledge and knowledge about others in the group.

HANDOUT: Using SELF to Introduce Myself

RESOURCE: Why Do We Have Emotions?

  • Brief essay on the role of emotions in our lives, why we have them and the problems we can encounter trying to successfully manage them.

Putting the Pieces Together: What Trauma Does to the SELF


    To graphically demonstrate how trauma can be experienced as a disintegration of one’s sense of self and identity

    To show that the key domains of beginning the process of recovery from trauma involve focusing on Safety, Emotions, Loss, and Future.

HANDOUT: Effects of Traumatic Experience

RESOURCE: Understanding the Impact of Traumatic Experience

  • An extended explanation about what psychological trauma is and some of the ways traumatic experience can influence the way people think, feel, and behave.

It’s All About Survival: Fight-Flight-Freeze


  • Understand the basic human stress response and how it interferes with safety
  • Be able to identify one’s own typical response to stress
  • Assess the effectiveness of one’s own stress response

HANDOUT: How Do You Respond to Stress?

RESOURCE: Fight-Flight-Freeze or How Not To Get Eaten

  • Essay explaining the basic stress response and the ways it impacts the body and the mind.

SELF Begins With Safety


  • Introduce basic ideas about what “safety” really is
  • Define Safety as: Physical, Psychological, Social and Moral Safety

HANDOUT: What Does Safety Mean?

RESOURCE: Safety- The First Pillar of Sanctuary

  • Brief essay about what it means to create safety within any environment.

What Does it Mean to Be Physically Safe?


  • Introduce four kinds of safety: Physical, Psychological, Social and Moral
  • Focus on physical safety as the most basic form of safety
  • Explain and encourage use of the Five-Step Safety Plan to maintain physical safety

HANDOUT: What is Physical Safety?

RESOURCE: Safety and Adversity in Childhood

  • Explanation of PTSD and the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

What Does It Mean to Be Psychologically Safe?


  • Focus on defining psychological safety
  • Explain and encourage us of the Five-Step Safety Plan to maintain psychological safety

HANDOUT: What is Psychological Safety?

RESOURCE: How Shocking! Thinking, Feeling and Acting Under Stress

  • Essay on the ways in which our thinking is affected by stress, how acute dissociation protects us in the short-term, and how we are likely to act under stressful conditions.

What Does It Mean to Be Socially Safe?


  • Focus on defining social safety
  • Explain and encourage us of the Five-Step Safety Plan to maintain social safety

HANDOUT: What is Social Safety?

RESOURCE: The Social Response to Danger

    Brief essay exploring the social response to danger grounded in our need to attach from cradle to grave, and some of the potential negative consequences including trauma-bonding and scapegoating.

What Does It Mean to be Morally Safe?


  • Focus on defining moral safety
  • Explain and encourage us of the Five-Step Safety Plan to maintain moral safety

HANDOUT: What is Moral Safety?

RESOURCE: Moral Intelligence

  • Brief essay that reviews the concept of moral intelligence and how it is define

The First Language of Safety: Yes, No, Uh-oh, Ouch


  • Develop greater awareness of boundaries and what it means to be safe
  • Increased awareness of personal signals for various kinds of danger
  • To help people recognize a psychological injury when it happens

HANDOUT: What Do We Mean by Boundaries?

RESOURCE: Creating Sanctuary: The Active Development of Nonviolent Environments

  • Essay describing the Sanctuary Model as a trauma-informed, whole-systems approach to creating nonviolent environments.

What Does It Mean to Trust? Social Safety


  • To explore that it means to trust oneself and other people
  • To discuss the obstacles to trusting other people
  • To develop awareness of when and when not to trust

HANDOUT: What Does It Mean “To Trust?”

RESOURCE: Attachment, Trust and Trauma

  • Essay on basic attachment research and the effects of disrupted attachment on subsequent development

Fences Make Good Neighbors: What is a Boundary?


  • Introduction to concept of boundaries and the importance of boundaries in people’s lives
  • Assessing functionality of interpersonal boundaries
  • Demonstrating other styles of creating and maintaining boundaries

HANDOUT: Fences Make Good Neighbors

RESOURCE: Implementing S.E.L.F.

  • More detailed explanation of S.E.L.F. with some examples of practical applications

Living Without the Terrorist Within


  • Identifying self-defeating and self-deprecating thoughts
  • Creating safety within oneself and developing positive self-regard
  • Enhancing self-respect

HANDOUT: Do You Have A Terrorist Within?

RESOURCE: When Victims Become Bullies

  • Essay on bullying behavior in children and in adults

Volume Control


  • Teach how to appropriately match emotional reactions to the realities of the situation
  • Provide tools for thinking about emotional reactions that precipitate action

HANDOUT: Volume Control

RESOURCE: Fear Conditioning & Volume Control

  • More detailed information about emotions, emotional management and the way fear interferes with normal emotional and cognitive function

Introduction to the World – and the Words – of Emotion – Mad, Sad, Glad, Scared, Shamed


  • Develop ability to identify emotions in a situation and match appropriate emotion to that situation
  • Develop ability to verbally communicate emotional states
  • Desensitize individuals to self-sharing in a group
  • Develop recognition that emotions can be used to create different outcomes

HANDOUT: The Words of Emotion: Mad, Glad, Scared, Sad, Shamed

RESOURCE: I Don’t Want To Talk About It: Numbing and Addiction to Stress

  • Essay that explores emotional numbing, alexithymia, the relationship to health, addiction to trauma and endorphins, the social role of emotions and emotional contagion.

Problem Solving


  • Provide a logical, S.E.L.F. approach to problem-solving
  • To provide a tool that can help make problem-solving more manageable

HANDOUT: Problem Solving Worksheet

RESOURCE: The Problem of Evil

  • Philosophical essay exploring how the notion of evil has been defined and how understanding the nature and consequences of traumatic experience may alter those notions and potentially lead to different response to people who do bad things

To Connect or Disconnect: That is the Question


  • Explore the ways in which intensely disturbing or traumatic experiences may cause us to disconnect from our bodies, emotions, thoughts, and memories
  • To develop an understanding of what dissociation is and how it relates to previous trauma

HANDOUT: Do You Disconnect?

RESOURCE: Dissociation

  • Essay defining dissociation, offering examples of dissociation, and exploring some of the long-term effects of chronic dissociation

How To Stay Grounded


  • Explore the natural inclination of the mind to emotionally and physically disconnect from disturbing or traumatic situations
  • Describe simple methods for getting grounded in order to reconnect and reorient mind and body to present reality

HANDOUT: How To Stay Grounded

RESOURCE: Memory and Dissociation Under Stress

  • Essay describing the memory disturbances that frequently accompany traumatic experience, including flashbacks and post-traumatic nightmares

SELF-Soothing and Stress Management


  • Identify stress responses in mind and body
  • Differentiate between soothing behaviors that are maladaptive and those that promote healing
  • Select behaviors and responses that can decrease emotional arousal

HANDOUT: Managing Emotions

RESOURCE: “But I Just Can’t” Perception, Learned Helplessness and Attention Problems

  • Essay exploring the helplessness associated with trauma, learned helplessness and interference with cognitive and behavioral function.

Hurt People Hurt People


  • Normalize discussion about the contagiousness of violence
  • Demonstrate how aggressive behavior begets aggressive behavior
  • Explore different ways that people respond to the stress response

HANDOUT: Are You a Puffer or a Shrinker?

RESOURCE: Hurt People Hurt People

  • Essay that explores the ways in which victims can become victimizers with a special emphasis on domestic violence and child abuse

Addictions, Safety and Self-Soothing


  • Discuss the ways addictive and compulsive behaviors are played out in everyday life
  • Develop understanding about the connection between addictive behavior and problems with emotional management

HANDOUT: The Primary Colors of Emotion

RESOURCE: Double Trouble – Substance Abuse and PTSD

  • Brief essay relating substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder

Resolving Conflict


  • Develop awareness of the ways in which conflict resolution can be blocked and the different kinds of conflict resolution styles available
  • Review list of guidelines for managing or resolving conflict

HANDOUT: Guidelines for Managing Emotions and Resolving Conflict

RESOURCE: I Like To Play With Fire: Risk-taking, Suicidality and Aggression

  • Essay exploring the connections between a past history of trauma and a variety of risk-taking behaviors including sexual promiscuity, suicidal and aggressive behavior.

What Do We Mean By Loss?


  • Define broad category of loss
  • Teach the various ways of showing grief and unresolved grief

HANDOUT: The Many Faces of Loss

RESOURCE: Sexual Assault

  • Essay on the nature of child and adult sexual assault

Using SELF To Work Through Loss


  • Demonstrate the ways in which the components of S.E.L.F. can provide a guide for working through loss
  • Explore barriers to working through loss in order to move on into a different future

HANDOUT: Losses Associated with Childhood Adversity and Trauma

RESOURCE: The Grief That Dare Not Speak Its Name

  • Essay about the many losses associated with abuse and deprivation in childhood

Never Having to Say Goodbye- Reenactment


  • Understand the ways in which the self-limiting roles they are currently playing are a result of past experiences
  • Recognize the ways in which reenacting past self-defeating roles reproduces helplessness, abusive power, and a tendency to be revictimized
  • Recognize how reenactment roles affect identity and reproduce loss

HANDOUT: Is It the Same Thing Over and Over

RESOURCE: Traumatic Reenactment

  • Essay describing in more detail the dynamics of traumatic reenactment as it manifests in behavioral reenactments and self-harming behavior

Learning to Let Go


  • Recognize that working through loss is vital to creating a different future
  • Describe the meaning of “letting go” and a process for completing it

HANDOUT: Learning to Let Go Worksheet

RESOURCE: Give Sorrow Words: Emotional Disclosure and Physical Health

  • Brief essay describing research on using writing to promote both emotional disclosure and improved physical health

How to Lose Your SELF: Turning People Into Chameleons


  • Learn how to set boundaries to better define one’s self
  • Understand the impact of peer pressure
  • Demonstrate how easy it is to lose one’s sense of identity in interaction with others

HANDOUT: Do You Ever Lose Yourself?

RESOURCE: The Neglect of Neglect

  • Essay describing the ways in which childhood neglect contributes to adult problems

Habits and Resisting Change


  • Learn about the automatic nature of forming habits and what it takes to change bad habits in order to achieve safety
  • Recognize that changing habits requires managing difficult emotions
  • Recognizing that changing habits involves facing fears and enduring loss in order to create a better future

HANDOUT: What Are Your Habits & My Plan for Changing Habits

RESOURCE: Revictimization, School Failure and Substance Abuse

  • Essay about how revictimization, failure in school as a child, and substance abuse as an adolescent and an adult all relate to each other and precipitate reenactment behavior.

What We Resist Persists


  • Recognize the fears that are aroused as barriers to change
  • Inform participants about the Stages of Change theory

HANDOUT: Loss, Fear and Stages of Change

RESOURCE: Barriers to Recovery and Stages of Change

  • Essay reviewing the Stages of Change theoretical framework and some reasons why it is so difficult for practitioners to address the impact of trauma on their clients.

One Step At a Time – Is That All You Need to Know?


  • Demonstrate how direction, vision and future planning are essential parts of change
  • Demonstrate that we can influence our own future through the choices that we make

HANDOUT: Five Steps to a Better Future for Myself

RESOURCE: The Bystander Effect

  • Essay that explores the ways in which victimization and perpetration are influenced by everyone else – the social context within which events unfold.

How Does Change Happen?


  • Demonstrate the ways in which we can influence our choices that determine the future by understanding the patterns of the past
  • Recognize how important it is to learn from the past

HANDOUT: Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

RESOURCE: Chaos, Complexity and the Process of Change

  • Essay that attempts to simplify the emerging concepts of complexity as it relates to the ways in which people change



  • Differentiate between destructive and constructive forms of exercising power
  • Become familiar with direct and indirect methods of exercising power
  • Recognize previously untapped sources of personal power

HANDOUT: Exploring What Power Really Means

RESOURCE: Retributive vs. Restorative Justice

  • Essay that explores the difference between justice that is based on retribution and justice that is based on restoring the integrity of the community

How To Influence the Future: Self-Fulfilling Prophecies


  • Understand how we play a role in determining how other people treat us
  • Guide participants in a method for altering the roles ewe automatically play so that people will treat us differently

HANDOUT: Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

RESOURCE: How Labels Determine Reality

  • Essay describing the ways in which we tend to label things, including people, and they how those labels can become self-fulfilling prophecies that actually determine how reality is defined.

Relapse Prevention


  • Identify situations which compromise sobriety – from substance abuse or destructive behaviors – while attending to the emotions that accompany change
  • Define strengths that allow individual to successfully resist relapse

HANDOUT: Relapse Prevention Worksheet

RESOURCE: Caring for the Caregiver: Vicarious Trauma

  • Essay on “vicarious trauma” describing the cumulative transformative effect on the helper of working with victims of trauma.

Moving On and Giving Back


  • Introduce the idea of a survivor mission
  • Describe successes people have had in struggling with challenging life experiences
  • Develop understanding for how giving back is an integral part of growth, recovery and personal development

HANDOUT: Survivor Mission

RESOURCE: Social Transformation of Trauma

  • Essay describing various ways that people transform traumatic experience into something of value for themselves and for others

Imagining A Better Future


  • Introduce the idea of living a balanced life
  • Exercise the skills necessary to envision a better future

HANDOUT: Inventory of Recreation Activities

RESOURCE: The Sanctuary Model of Organizational Change

  • Brief essay on why trauma-informed services are so important and what it actually means for an organization to be trauma-informed