Seeking Safety Treatment

Seeking Safety therapy offers a comprehensive, empowering, and practical approach to recovery for those struggling with PTSD, leading to improved mental health, enhanced coping skills, and a more stable and fulfilling life.

Seeking Safety is a contemporary, research-backed treatment approach designed to simultaneously address PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and substance use disorder (addiction). Developed in the 1990s and supported by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), this model was formalized with the publication of its evidence-based treatment manual in 2002. If you are unfamiliar with this approach to dual diagnosis treatment, read on to discover:

  • What is Seeking Safety therapy?
  • Is the Seeking Safety model evidence-based?
  • How to engage with mental health treatment in California.
an image of people who get help with cognitive behavioral therapy

What is Seeking Safety Treatment?

Seeking Safety therapy is an innovative treatment approach that addresses the unique challenges faced by individuals coping with PTSD and co-occurring substance use disorders. This therapy is grounded in science-backed practices and was developed with a focus on practicality and effectiveness.

an image of people who have been through seeking safety treatment
an image of people who got help with PMDD treatment

At its core, Seeking Safety therapy is structured to provide a safe space where individuals can learn to manage their PTSD symptoms without resorting to self-medication with addictive substances. The treatment emphasizes coping skills, emotion regulation, and resilience-building techniques. It is designed to be highly flexible, making it adaptable to various settings and suitable for a diverse range of clients.

Key aspects of this treatment for co-occurring disorders include:

Integration of treatment

It uniquely combines treatments for PTSD and substance abuse, due to the interconnected nature of these two conditions and the proven superiority of integrated, coordinated treatment over treating each condition separately.

Present-focused therapy

The therapy emphasizes dealing with current issues and behavior, rather than probing past traumatic events. This approach helps in reducing the risk of re-traumatization and maintains a focus on current stability and safety.

Safety as the priority

The primary goal is to establish safety in the person’s thinking, behaviors, relationships, and emotions.

Coping skills

Seeking Safety therapy equips people with practical skills to deal with PTSD symptoms and the cravings associated with substance abuse. These skills are designed to be applicable in everyday life, aiding in long-term recovery and stability – ­ Seeking Safety grounding exercises, for instance.

Flexibility and accessibility

Seeking Safety therapy is structured to be adaptable for different populations, settings, and treatment formats, whether in individual or group therapy settings.

What is the Primary Emphasis in the Seeking Safety Model?

The primary emphasis in the Seeking Safety model is on establishing safety from trauma and substance abuse. This foundational principle – Safe coping skills Seeking Safety ­– is seen as the first step in the healing process for both trauma and substance abuse. 

Seeking Safety groups impart coping techniques to handle PTSD symptoms and substance abuse urges. These skills are practical and can be applied in everyday situations, providing people with tools to manage difficult experiences and triggers without resorting to substance use. 

Rather than delving into traumatic past events, Seeking Safety topics are concentrated on current issues and behaviors. This present-focused approach helps in mitigating the risk of re-traumatization and emphasizes immediate strategies for stability and the pursuit of Safety Seeking behaviors. 

The model seeks to empower people by enhancing self-efficacy. It encourages individuals engaging with treatment to recognize their strengths, develop self-care practices, and build a sense of autonomy in managing their recovery journey.

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If you need help for PTSD or another mental health condition, contact our team today.

Is Seeking Safety an Evidence Based Practice?

Seeking Safety is recognized as an evidence-based practice. The development of the model was based on extensive research.  Many clinical trials and studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the Seeking Safety model. These studies have consistently shown positive outcomes, particularly in helping individuals improve coping skills, reduce symptoms of PTSD and substance abuse, and enhance overall quality of life 

Here’s a brief summary of three of these studies: 

  • In 2016, a study looked at how trauma passed down through generations and substance abuse affected Aboriginal people in Canada. It found that combining traditional healing with Seeking Safety methods improved their health and well-being.
  • A 2017 study tested how well Seeking Safety works alongside a traditional 12-step recovery program. The results showed that it significantly helped clients improve their coping skills.
  • A 2008 study indicated that Seeking Safety might be helpful for homeless women and could be used by caseworkers. That said, it was not clear from this study if the benefits were unique to Seeking Safety or if similar results could be achieved with other psychotherapeutic treatments. 


The model has been featured in various peer-reviewed publications and is widely adopted by mental health and addiction treatment professionals throughout the United States.

an image of someone who has been through seeking safety treatment

Benefits of Seeking Safety Therapy

Seeking Safety therapy offers myriad benefits for anyone grappling with the intertwined challenges of PTSD and substance abuse. This evidence-based approach is tailored to address the specific needs of this population, providing a range of advantages that streamline recovery and improve overall well-being. Key benefits include:

Focus on practical coping skills

The therapy equips people with practical and effective coping strategies to manage PTSD symptoms and substance abuse cravings. These skills are invaluable for navigating daily challenges and reducing the risk of relapse.

Improvement in safety and stability

By prioritizing safety in thoughts, behaviors, relationships, and emotions, people can learn to establish a more stable and secure life. This focus on safety is crucial for individuals who have experienced trauma and addiction.

Empowerment and self-efficacy

Seeking Safety empowers people by enhancing their sense of self-efficacy. It encourages them to recognize their strengths and capabilities, promoting more confidence and independence in managing their recovery independently.

Reduction in symptoms of PTSD

Many studies have shown that individuals who engage with Seeking Safety therapy experience a significant reduction in the symptoms of both PTSD, leading to improved quality of life

Flexibility and adaptability

 The therapy is adaptable to various settings and populations, making it accessible to a wide range of people. It can be implemented in individual or group formats, in outpatient or inpatient settings, and is suitable for diverse demographics.

Enhanced relationship skills

Seeking Safety therapy often includes components that focus on improving relationship skills, which is always beneficial for individuals who have experienced trauma and struggle with interpersonal relationships.

Promotion of healthy lifestyle choices

People are encouraged to adopt healthier lifestyle choices, including self-care practices and grounding techniques. Seeking Safety therapy helps people to maintain long-term mental well-being.

Non-traumatizing approach
  1. As a present-focused therapy, Seeking Safety avoids dwelling on past traumatic events, minimizing the risk of re-traumatization and making it a safer choice for many people.


an image of the beach in southern California, the location of our CBT treatment center

Seeking Safety Treatment at Connections Mental Health

If you need to address issues triggered by PTSD, we can help you with a variety of intensive residential treatment programs at Connections Mental Health in Southern California. 

Our small team of experts can help you improve well-being and restore daily functioning through science-backed mental health treatment that includes Seeking Safety therapy. 

You can address mental health issues at Connections alongside peers with experience of similar challenges. We limit intake to six individuals so as not to compromise the level of individual attention receives.

Call 844-759-0999 and learn how to engage with Seeking Safety treatment in California.

an image of the beach in southern California, the location of our CBT treatment center

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