TSM: An Integrated Theory

Source: The Sanctuary Model: An Integrated Theory

What is the Sanctuary Model?

What is the Sanctuary Model? The Sanctuary Model® represents a theory-based, trauma-informed, evidence-supported, whole culture approach that has a clear and structured methodology for creating or changing an organizational culture.

The objective of such a change is to more effectively provide a cohesive context within which healing from psychological and social traumatic experience can be addressed.

As an organizational culture intervention, it is designed to facilitate the development of structures, processes, and behaviors on the part of staff, clients and the community-as-a-whole that can counteract the biological, affective, cognitive, social, and existential wounds suffered by the victims of traumatic experience and extended exposure to adversity.


  • The engagement of cutting-edge research, science, and theological reflection create new opportunities for a confluence of how we experience the world and how we engage these realities as a theological community.
  • There must be some work done to think about how we reinterpret or better lay out what we mean (theologically) by trauma, especially in relationship to theodicy. Theologically, this is where we need to talk about "powers and principalities" as well as larger social-scientific questions (e.g., The International Transformational Resilience Coalition, engaging questions of climate change and trauma) that shape the way we think about the world and our place in it. 
  • There must be some work in a robust anthropology if we are going to engage people in order to "counteract the biological, affective, cognitive, social, and existential wounds suffered by the victims of traumatic experience and extended exposure to adversity." And the details about how this is both the work and telos of more than the clergy, but is in fact part of the missional vocation of the entire community of believers. 
  • Is it better to maintain this language or to acknowledge the insights of this model while crafting an entirely new, more theologically-oriented vocabulary?

I. What is the Sanctuary Mission?

To teach individuals and organizations the necessary skills for creating and sustaining nonviolent lives and nonviolent systems and to keep believing in the unexplored possibilities of peace.


  • How do we articulate shalom as both the current desire and goal of the believing community and as an ultimately eschatological reality without undermining any kind of hope that is produced by this telos, especially for those who have been exposed to or victims of significant trauma and suffering?

II. What Should a Certified Sanctuary Organization Look Like?

  • A Sanctuary program should be a strong, resilient, tolerant, caring, knowledge-seeking, cohesive and nonviolent community where
  • Staff are thriving, people trust each other to do the right thing, and clients are making progress in their own recovery within the context of a truly safe and connected community.
  • Tangible results of a Sanctuary community include decreased staff turnover, decreased use of coercive measures, decreased critical incidents, staff injuries, and client injuries, greater client and staff satisfaction.
  • Such a community is sufficiently knowledgeable that it fully recognizes the ever present possibility of violence and therefore constantly attends to protecting its social immune system against the spread of violence in any form – physical, psychological, social or moral.
  • In such a community, communication is open, direct and honest and people trust that they will find out information that they need to make good decisions.
  • Members of a Sanctuary community are curious about human behavior and do not assume that everyone is motivated in the same way. They are accustomed to listening deeply and to being heard by others.
  • If someone feels that their trust has been betrayed, they are willing to give the other person the “benefit of the doubt”, and find out what happened, rather than leap to the worst conclusions. 
  • A Sanctuary community uses knowledge already attained and is gaining new knowledge all the time in the context of social learning.
  • Within this community, members recognize the importance of democratic decision-making and shared responsibility in problem-solving and conflict resolution all of which serves to minimize abuses of power and enables an organization to deal more competently with the challenges of complexity in the world around us.
  • Every effort is made to include anyone affected by a decision in the decision-making process and as a result people feel free to dissent, to raise troubling concerns, and to support consensus agreements even when they may not fully agree themselves
  • A Sanctuary community is able to have safe and useful conflict as a means of learning and growing. Conflicts are seen as a resource and are generally well-managed with emotional intelligence and open communication.
  • Everyone in a Sanctuary community recognizes that “hurt people hurt people” and that therefore, creating and sustaining a just environment is vital to everyone’s safety and well-being.
  • Because the heart of Sanctuary is community, people in a Sanctuary environment are encouraged and supported in their individual striving but are also expected to maintain an active concern for the “common good” even when that may mean putting aside one’s own individual needs.
  • In full recognition of the vulnerability to loss that everyone experiences, a Sanctuary community honors individual and group losses, while using a vision of the future to prevent stagnation and to promote continued development.
  • Ultimately, people who come into a Sanctuary community are offered an opportunity to have corrective emotional, relational, and environmental experiences.


  • There is certainly a sense in which the community must work to attend to its "social immune system ", but the turn also must be made to Partner/Prophetic Witness in that the community, because of its theological commitments is willing/able to name and confront violence in all its forms outside of the community. This of course also asks questions about the mode of engagement with these systemic and situational events.
  • There must be the development and employment of a tripartite practice of communal discernment: Theology, Practice, and Narratives (both individual and communal).
  • "Social learning " needs to be clearly delineated to include both a theological and pneumatological orientation.
  • A radical egalitarianism is the only sustainable alternative and protection against the eventual return to a hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Immense work must be done here both in reflection and in contextual practice.
  • Alongside the radical egalitarianism is the need for an inclusive polity. It may stretch beyond feasibility (not least in consideration of the nature of spiritual gifts) to have an entirely "flat" leadership. So while their will be structure it will be rooted in gifting, availability, and communal discernment. Therefore someone that may lead for this issue or this time may not fill that same capacity next time. This is a very liminal rooting of leadership that will need to be squared theologically with the "designated leaders" tradition of the New Testament as either a contextual or universal practice.
  • The need for generative conflict must become a core value both in diversity (co-existence) and divergence (where they cannot mutually operate). Postures and practices must be reflected on here.
  • The creation of a "just environment " ... How do you articulate what that will look like (as an eschatological expectation) and then how do you embody that individually and communally?
  • The recognition of loss and the anticipation of the future (whether temporal or eschatological) more than likely needs to contain both liturgical and culturally contextual expressions.