What is Seeking Safety in Substance Abuse and Trauma Treatment?
Seeking safety is a form of treatment for trauma and substance abuse. Psychological and emotional trauma can result from extremely stressful events that shatter your sense of safety or security, such as domestic violence, childhood abuse, combat, being the victim of a crime, being involved in a sudden accident or experiencing a natural disaster. What happened to you isn’t as important as how you reacted to it and how it has impacted your life.
Substance abuse is turning to substances such as alcohol, street drugs or prescription drugs to alter your emotions or to escape from reality. There are many reasons people turn to substances and become compelled to keep using them, which frequently includes trying to avoid experiencing the overwhelming emotions that accompany traumatic experiences.
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The Seeking Safety Treatment Model
Seeking Safety is an evidence-based treatment model that is focused on the present and aims to help people find safety from addiction or trauma. This counseling model is done in either group or individual sessions, and it can be done as a stand-alone treatment or combined with other forms of treatment.
This approach focuses on developing coping skills to help you to be safer in your thinking, actions and relationships. There are 25 topics included in this model. Some of them include:
- Taking good care of yourself
- Asking for help
- Recovery thinking
- Healthy relationships
- Setting boundaries in relationships
- Creating meaning
- Grounding, which is detaching from emotional pain
- Community resources
- Getting others to support your recovery
- Integrating the split self
- Respecting your time
- Coping with triggers
- Red and green flags
- Life choices
These topics can be completed in any order. Not all 25 have to be completed, and you can complete as many or as few topics that apply to you as time allows. Sessions of Seeking Safety are structured with a check-in, an inspiring quote, discussion and check-out. It’s a safe and optimistic environment that focuses on empowerment and choice.
The Key Principles of Seeking Safety
Under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Seeking Safety model was developed beginning in the 1990s by Lisa M. Najavits, PhD, at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital. The model has been successfully used for more than 20 years, for people who have struggled with all forms of addiction or trauma including all genders and those from diverse cultures and ethnicities.
The key principles of Seeking Safety are based on five central ideas:
- Safety as the treatment priority
- Integrated treatment to address both trauma and addiction for those who have both
- Focus on ideals to inspire hope
- Content areas including cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal and case management
- Attention to clinician processes to help clinicians work on their own emotional responses
The treatment is done using simple language that avoids jargon. The emphasis is on practical solutions, and it’s been found to be effective in treating people who are particularly vulnerable, such as the homeless, veterans, people experiencing domestic violence and those with severe or persistent mental illness.
Focusing on the Present
If you’ve experienced trauma, you may not wish to spend a lot of time thinking about the past or dwelling on the things that have happened to you. This includes painful details surrounding the compulsion to abuse substances. In Seeking Safety, you won’t be asked to reveal upsetting stories or details about your substance abuse or traumatic experiences.
This doesn’t mean the model encourages avoidance of the past. It only means that the focus is on what you can do right now, today, to create a better life for yourself, which can be very freeing for anyone who has struggled with substance abuse or trauma.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use and trauma, please call us at (866) 339-3544 or submit the form below to learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment programs in Los Angeles.
Since 2004, Lori has worked with the behavioral health treatment community to bring awareness about mental health disorders and evidence-based treatments. Lori strives to help people better understand mental illness and provide support to those needing help and their families. As a mental health advocate, Lori works to be a voice for those suffering from substance abuse, dual diagnosis, borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other disorder.