I Feel Safe, Don't You?

Definitions of safety can be different for people receiving services and those providing services. Take a look at just how different these definitions can be, and why it’s important for you to consider safety from all perspectives.

A trauma-informed environment begins with creating a safe and open emotional and physical environment. As illustrated below, the definition of safety can often create tension between the people who are providing services and those receiving them. Providing opportunities to discuss the term “safety” allows staff and clients to revisit how agency policies are developed, and to assess their flexibility in responding to client’s needs.

Conflicting Definitions of Safety

People Receiving Services: Safety = minimizing loss of control over their lives
➢    Maximizing choice
➢    Developing authentic relationships
➢    Exploring limits
➢    Defining self
➢    Defining experiences without judgment
➢    Receiving consistent information ahead of time
➢    Being free from force, coercion, threats, punishment and harm
➢    Owning and expressing feelings without fear   

People Providing Services: Safety = minimizing loss of control over the environment
➢    Maximizing routine and predictability
➢    Assigning staff based on availability
➢    Setting limits 
➢    Defining client problems (diagnosing)
➢    Judging experiences to determine competence and “appropriateness” of services
➢    Providing information as time allows
➢    Threatening force to de-escalate a situation (calling police and/or ambulance, to hospitalize or arrest someone). In medical settings, using medication, restraint, seclusion to de-escalate
➢    Reducing expressions of strong emotion

Source: Prescott, L., (1998). Safety in Conflict Table: A Life of My Own Training Curriculum. In A. Blanch & L. Prescott, (December 2002) Managing Conflict Cooperatively: Making a Commitment to Nonviolence and Recovery in Mental Health Treatment Settings. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) and the National Technical Assistance Center for State Mental Health Planning (NTAC), p. 12.

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