Seeking Safety is an evidenced-based and integrated treatment approach for those who struggle with co-occurring trauma and substance-use disorders. The aim of Seeking is to help you attain a sense of internal safety in your relationships, thinking, behavior, and emotions.
After enduring a traumatic experience, many of us are left feeling vulnerable and may turn to substances as a means for coping with painful emotions to escape and avoid having to deal with the present. Rather than delving into the past, Seeking Safety focuses on the present as a way to encourage you to move forward and repair what comfort and security may have been compromised along the way.
The Purpose of Seeking Safety
Seeking Safety is designed to help boost motivation and guide you to see the connections between your trauma and addiction issues. While emphasizing on humanistic themes such as safety, compassion, and honesty, Seeking Safety has roots in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Both Seeking Safety and CBT are present-oriented approaches with a focus on rehearsing a new repertoire of skills that help you feel more empowered, competent, and grounded.
This integrated approach allows people with dual diagnoses to receive treatment that addresses both trauma and substance abuse issues simultaneously utilizing a blend of cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, interpersonal skills, resources, and practical life skills.
Through the Cognitive Behavioral component of Seeking Safety, we will encourage you to commit to taking small, but concrete steps toward healing. This involves cognitive restructuring, a technique that targets irrational beliefs and core fears that keep you feeling stuck and engaging in self-destructive behaviors.
We will also help you to develop interpersonal skills and social awareness to expand your support network to support your recovery while learning to navigate the relational issues that may be interfering with your recovery.
The life skills and resources component of Seeking Safety plays includes a tailor-made plan for you which may include any combination of the following: career counseling and job skills, psychiatric referrals, housing, and any other supportive skills to assist you to break free of your current struggles and begin to heal and thrive.
Establishing safety across many domains of life will help you learn to cope safely rather than destructively. We will help you learn to identify and ask for help from other safe people, leverage community resources, care for your physical health, develop compassion for yourself and others, learn to embody honesty, and begin to engage in self-nurturing activities to create safety both internally and externally.
Is Seeking Safety right for me?
Seeking Safety can be adapted to working with individuals as well as groups. This modality has been used to work with adolescents as young as 13 years old, as well as adult women, men, and mixed-gender people, and in a variety of settings (outpatient, inpatient, residential), and for both substance abuse and dependence. Seeking Safety can be used for anyone with a trauma history, even if you do not meet full criteria for PTSD, and also for those who struggle with addiction issues, but do not meet full criteria for having a substance use disorder.
How are Seeking Safety sessions structured?
Seeking safety is a structured and systematic approach that has been proven by research to be effective in helping people with trauma and substance abuse issues.
Seeking Safety starts by presenting 25 topics to help you learn healthy coping skills to achieve safety and security within yourself and within your other relationships and activities in life.
In order to promote safety, the sessions follow the same structure each time so you know what to expect, feel contained, and learn how to set goals and commit to achieving them.
You can select the topics we cover that are most relevant to your individual needs and what you are most interested in focusing on to empower yourself and heal. The topics covered in treatment vary and include a wide range of coping, communication, and interpersonal skills. Some examples include learning how to ask for help, healing from anger, setting boundaries in relationships, relaxation techniques, and grounding and coping skills to learn to move through emotional pain without being overtaken by it.
At the beginning of sessions, we will start with a check-in and encourage you to explore how you are doing, identify any issues to incorporate into the session, and provide a consistent start to each session. Once you’ve identified which topic you’d like to focus on, we will explore an inspirational quote from the Seeking Safety materials together and explore its relevance to your life. This serves as a form of inspiration for free-association to occur as well as a theme to keep in mind for the week to focus on outside of session.
Our main focus in sessions is your needs, goals, and what you are going through in life. We will provide you with practical skills such as hand-outs and other resources to help guide our sessions and to give you something concrete to practice and review outside of sessions. The session ends with a “check-out” during the last 5 minutes of the session to solidify your learning and establish a commitment to take action toward your goals outside of session. Committing to these goals helps you practice your skills and apply them to your daily life so that you can create greater safety and stability in every area of your life.