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Sanctuary in the Home: Embracing the commitment of nonviolence

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sanctuary-piechart-kidspeaceThis is Part 1 in a series of posts regarding implementing the Sanctuary Model in the home.


By Denise Morganthall


The Sanctuary Model originated in Philadelphia in the early 1980s and was created by a team of clinicians working in a small inpatient adult hospital unit. Sandra Bloom led the team, tasked with devising a trauma-informed program. After 20 years of adaptation, the Sanctuary Model today reaches across the human services system, being utilized in homeless shelters, residential treatment centers, hospitals and juvenile justice facilities. KidsPeace is just one facility that has embraced Sanctuary as a model of care and organizational change that provides a safe, therapeutic environment for everyone. But can the Sanctuary Model also work for families?


Sanctuary essentially means a place where you can go and feel safe. In the medieval times, people on the run from the law could seek sanctuary in churches. We want our children to feel safe, so it just makes sense to foster that feeling first at home. Sanctuary revolves around seven commitments: nonviolence, emotional intelligence, social learning, social responsibility, shared governance, open communication and growth and change. In this segment, we will explore the commitment to nonviolence. Nonviolence means everyone must feel safe physically, emotionally, socially, and morally. 

  • Physical safety means knowing you will not be physically hurt by yourself or the people around you. It translates into not fighting with family members, setting clear boundaries about physical contact and keeping the home relatively clean and clutter-free.
  • Psychological, or emotional, safety comes from knowing it is OK to express emotions, whether happy, sad, angry or scared. It means feeling safe within your own mind and not hurting others’ feelings. It is demonstrated in the way you talk to yourself as well as your family.
  • Social safety is about being around people you can trust. It is talking rather than fighting, working through rough times together safely and knowing you will not be judged for your feelings, but will feel supported and included by others.

  • Moral safety means making good choices, respecting others and having family values everyone strives to live up to each day. It means feeling safe enough to do the right thing, even if it involves telling the truth to protect another family member who might be thinking of harming himself.


Making small changes to embrace nonviolence in your family is the first step toward making your home a true sanctuary.


Denise has been in the mental health profession for 15 years. She is a mother of 4 and an advocate of Sanctuary. She is a Sanctuary representative for KidsPeace and member of the Sanctuary Institute. Denise is also a life coach and is pursuing a career in freelance writing.

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