The Sanctuary Model®

Sanctuary Model®  provides our trauma informed treatment philosophy. We are committed to creating a non-violent, democratic and productive community to restore children's sense of safety and self-efficacy. Sanctuary has been effective with both children and adults across a range of human service organizations, including residential treatment centers and public and private schools.

The Sanctuary Model ®, developed by Sandra Bloom, MD is a trauma-informed method for creating or changing an organizational culture. Although the model is based on trauma theory we have found its tenets have application in working with children across a wide diagnostic spectrum.

Originally developed in a short-term, acute inpatient psychiatric setting for adults who were traumatized as children, the Sanctuary Model has since been adapted by residential treatment settings for children, public schools, domestic violence shelters, group homes, outpatient settings, substance abuse programs, parenting support programs, and has been used in other settings as a method of organizational change.

The Sanctuary Model is not an intervention but a full system approach focused on helping injured children recover from the damaging effects of interpersonal trauma. Because it is a full system approach, effective implementation of the Sanctuary Model requires extensive leadership involvement in the process of change as well as staff and client involvement at every level of the process.

The aim of the Sanctuary Model is to guide an organization in the development of a culture with seven dominant characteristics all of which serve goals related to a sound treatment environment:

Culture of Nonviolence

building and modeling safety skills and a commitment to higher goals 

Culture of Emotional Intelligence

teaching and modeling affect management skills 

Culture of Inquiry & Social Learning

building and modeling cognitive skills 

Culture of Shared Governance

creating and modeling civic skills of self-control, self-discipline, and administration of healthy authority

Culture of Open Communication

overcoming barriers to healthy communication, reduce acting-out, enhance self-protective and self-correcting skills, teach healthy boundaries 

Culture of Social Responsibility

rebuilding social connection skills, establish healthy attachment relationships 

Culture of Growth and Change

restoring hope, meaning, purpose

The impact of creating a trauma-informed culture should be observable and measurable. The outcomes we should expect to see include: 

o Less violence including physical, verbal, emotional forms of violence
o Systemic understanding of complex bio-psychosocial and developmental impact of 
    trauma and abuse with implications for response
o Less victim-blaming; less punitive and judgmental responses
o Clearer more consistent boundaries, higher expectations, linked rights and  
o Earlier identification of and confrontation with perpetrator behavior
o Better ability to articulate goals and create strategies for change
o Greater understanding of reenactment behavior and resistance to change
o More democratic processes at all levels

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.

For more research and publications on the Sanctuary Model, follow the links below: