Volume XV, Issue III - July 2021

From:  David T. Jones, Director
Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery

Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse

Many people who have adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse and neglect turn to alcohol or drugs later in life to help them deal with trauma-related symptoms (e.g., nightmares, shame, anxiety, and hypervigilance). Additionally, people who develop substance use disorders (SUD) are at higher risk of experiencing traumatic events while actively using substances. It is essential that organizations providing SUD treatment understand the correlation between trauma and SUD and adopt trauma-informed practices.

Recently, the Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery (IDHS/SUPR) mailed a new resource, "Seeking Safety-A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse," to each licensed treatment organization that provides a trauma-informed resource to our SUD programs. "Seeking Safety" is an evidence-based counseling model that helps organizations address trauma and SUD. Since the model addresses trauma without requiring patients to relive disturbing trauma memories, organizations can assist an extensive range of patients and implement the model with no difficulty.

Key principles of the model are as follows:

  1. Safety as the overarching goal (helping clients attain safety in their relationships, thinking, behavior, and emotions).
  2. Integrated treatment (concurrently working on both trauma and substance use).
  3. A focus on ideals to counteract the loss of ideals in both trauma and substance use.
  4. Four content areas: cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, and case management.
  5. Attention to clinician processes (clinicians' emotional responses, self-care, etc.).

IDHS/SUPR highly encourages authorized organization representatives (AORs) to share this publication with clinical supervisors/directors to implement this model and make it easily accessible to all clinical staff. Because this is a one-time distribution of the publication, this resource should be considered property of your organization.

To continue supporting the implementation of evidence-based practices for trauma and SUD, during Fiscal Year 2022 IDHS/SUPR is sponsoring "Seeking Safety-A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse," training. More information will be forthcoming about this training. However, please note that your organization can implement the model without formal training.

If your organization is interested in more information about this training or additional technical assistance, please contact Jazelyn Cerda at Jazelyn.Cerda@illinois.gov.

We hope that you find this resource beneficial in the provision of your treatment services.