Sanctuary Model Comes to Atlanta


"How are you feeling today?" "What's your goal for today?" "Who can you ask for help if you need it?"

This may sound like an unusual start to your next staff meeting, but these questions, and the purpose for asking them, is deeply rooted in trauma theory and what we know about the importance of connections when healing from trauma. 

I've been a distant fan of the Sanctuary Model for several years now, learning about it through my work with ACEs Connection as well as my work with systems eager to learn more about ways to enhance their trauma-informed approaches, responses and overall organizational culture. Until a few weeks ago, I had never actually participated in Sanctuary training, but have always heard great things about the model and have long been a fan of the work of Dr. Sandra Bloom, one of the developers of the Sanctuary Model.

The Sanctuary Model is an organizational culture intervention, based in trauma theory and comprised of a set of tools designed to change the way we "work together, think together, act together, and live together." One of the things that is so great about the model is these skills are designed to be utilized with the populations we serve in our organizations as well as among staff who work within the organization. It is parallel process in action. If we're going to "talk the talk" with the people we serve, how great that we can actually "walk the walk" as professionals within our own organizations! 

Thanks to the efforts of Fulton County CASA, who is just beginning the Sanctuary journey within their own organization, I was invited to participate in the 5 day training a few weeks ago as a community partner. I walked into a room of 30+ professionals on Monday knowing only 1 person in the room and left on Friday with a host of new connections, tools, ideas and inspiration that filled me up in an amazing way. 

The commitment on behalf of Fulton County CASA is impressive. Their entire team of staff was present for the training, along with a few volunteers, attorneys, juvenile court advocates and other community partners. The fact that Fulton County CASA invited outsiders (like me) into the conversation is critical, as we know we cannot do this alone and we cannot continue to operate in silos to achieve the ACEs-informed and trauma-responsive culture change we are striving for. As one of our trainers stated, Sanctuary is about "changing mindsets, not just manuals." And to change the mindset of an entire organization, system or community is no small task. 

As a transplant from California to Georgia just a few years ago, it often feels like we (and the South in general) are playing catch up with other parts of the country, trying to educate the public about ACEs, change policy and legislation and empower individuals, organizations, communities and systems with the tools they need. The Sanctuary Model is an excellent intervention to try and close that gap just a little bit more, as we all do our part to chip away the "old way" of doing things and reinvent a more compassionate, empathic response to connecting with others and healing from adversity. 


**Do you have a Sanctuary success story you want to share? I'd love to hear from folks that are implementing the model and how it's been going!**

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