We see many traumatized individuals every day and we know that the students we serve have experienced traumatic events causing them to struggle with chronic stress and adversity. Unfortunately, while trauma is not new, as a society we seem to lack the ability to recognize it in one another.

At the root of our work, we strive to see our students, their families, and our school leaders in ways that matter. To help us with this work, we practice The Sanctuary Model®. It is a clinical and organizational blueprint for change which, promotes safety and recovery from adversity through the active creation of a trauma-informed community. A recognition that trauma is pervasive in the experience of human beings forms the basis of The Sanctuary Model®. This is true, not only for those we serve but, equally for the people and systems through which service is provided.

CISPAC’s Sanctuary Trauma-Informed training anchors our work with students, families, school, and community leaders, elevating the integration of human services in our work.

The Sanctuary Model of Trauma-Informed care is built on four important pillars


Pillar 1: Trauma Theory

The experiences of trauma can be identified along a wide continuum that includes both discrete events and ongoing cumulative trauma like racism and poverty. Simply stated, trauma is defined as an experience in which a person’s internal resources are not adequate to cope with the external stressors. Many of the behavioral systems that we see in students are a direct result of coping with adverse experiences. What we identify as negative behaviors are really misapplied survival skills. Individuals who have experienced trauma are extremely resilient. Addressing their trauma can help them move past basic survival skills.



Pillar 2: The Seven Sanctuary Commitments

A way to help move past these survival skills is to practice these seven commitments.

Commitment to Nonviolence – Feeling safe is essential when confronting the challenges our schools and communities face. By ensuring that all stakeholders are safe outside (physically), inside (emotionally), with others (socially) and to do the right thing (morally) we keep people engaged in the difficult work of change.

Commitment to Emotional Intelligence – Ensuring that we manage our own feelings will keep us from hurting others or ourselves. Emotional intelligence allows us to provide facilitation throughout the most challenging situations.

Commitment to Social Learning – We can only engage in community shaping conversations by respecting and sharing the ideas of all who join us.

Commitment to Democracy – Shared decision making is critical when building strong collaborations. Shared decision making empowers individuals to embrace change even when it is difficult.

Commitment to Open Communication – Creating the space to say what we mean but remembering not be mean when we say it. We keep people engaged in our work through consistent communication that is both kind and helpful – even when it is critical.

Commitment to Social Responsibility – We strongly believe that we can only accomplish our vision when everyone contributes.

Commitment to Growth & Change – Our commitment to growth and change is rooted in creating hope for our partners as well as ourselves. One important way we accomplish this is through impact measurement and continuous quality improvement. Seeing the small strides and celebrating success is critical for us to keep moving forward.


Pillar 3: The SELF Framework

We know that as social service providers and educators we often speak in terms that are not clear to each other or the people we hope to serve. The SELF framework is the organizing framework CISPAC uses for school, student and family support planning, community conversations and collaborative decision-making. It helps us to focus on the most important aspects of helping people heal from trauma in a simple and accessible way. The SELF Framework stand for:

SAFETY: Since many of the behaviors we see are survival skills its important to understand all of the safety concerns a person may be facing in any given situation. We address all forms of safety (physical, psychological, social and moral).

EMOTION MANAGEMENT: recognizing and dealing with feelings without hurting yourself or others.

LOSS: All change is loss. Acknowledging and grieving past losses or traumas and committing to work against getting stuck in the past.

FUTURE: Re-establishing the capacity for choice and engaging in new behaviors rather than repeating old patterns.


Pillar 4: The Sanctuary Tool Kit

This is our set of practical and simple interventions that reinforce the Sanctuary model within our work. These tools help us to create a trauma informed culture.

For more information on The Sanctuary Model®, please visit www.sanctuaryweb.com


For more information on CISPAC’s Trauma-Informed Student Services, please contact: Bridget Clement, Executive Director at bclement@cispac.org or 412-361-4945, ext.# 201.


Family and Educators Trauma Informed Resources

Helping Children Cope After a Traumatic Event

Healing Childhood Trauma in Adults

Treatment – Teen Trauma

Understanding Child Traumatic Stress

Parenting a Child Who Has Experience Trauma

Basic Information about Trauma