Seeking Safety is a relatively modern evidence-based treatment model that treats co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. Lisa M. Najavits, Ph.D. began developing the Seeking Safety treatment model in the 1990s, with assistance from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She published the research-based Seeking Safety treatment manual in 2002.
Substance Abuse and PTSD
PTSD and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand. After a traumatic experience, many people choose unhealthy coping mechanisms, which may include using substances to escape the pain. In fact, research has shown that exposure to trauma, especially childhood trauma, increases one’s likelihood of developing substance dependence/abuse later on in life. It also increases the chances of developing other mental health issues like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Traumas can include neglect or abuse, including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Car accidents, natural disasters, war, school shootings, terrorist attacks like 9/11 (or even exposure to media coverage of traumatic events) are examples of trauma as well.
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Practical Coping Skills
There are 25 coping skills taught in Seeking Safety. Every skill applies to both trauma and addiction simultaneously. Some categories of skills include: Setting Boundaries in Relationships, Honesty, Compassion, Healing from Anger, and Recovery Thinking. The main aim of these skills is to help patients attain safety in their relationships, thinking, behavior, and emotions.
Seeking Safety therapy occurs in an individual or group setting. Therapists may administer Seeking Safety in both residential treatment (RTC) and outpatient programs (including IOP and PHP).