12 Sep Safety in Numbers
Co-founder of South Pacific Private (SPP), the late Lorraine Wood, was often heard to say…
“SPP is a safe place for people who do not feel safe”
As human beings, “safety” is so fundamental to our wellbeing that Maslow ranked it as a ‘basic’ human need, marginally ahead of the physiological needs that keep us alive. If our safety comes under direct threat, our sympathetic nervous systems activates the acute stress response of fight or flight (recently augmented with freeze and fawn). The stress response can be activated in response to both physical and mental threats, and can be triggered in response to events that are real, imagined or remembered. Events that threatened our safety may have occurred in childhood. As adults, while we may be physically safe from harm, we may not “feel safe” and may or may not have awareness around why. If we don’t know why we are activated in this way, it can have alarming and debilitating consequences arising from maladaptive behaviours that are an attempt to avoid feeling fear or other emotions.
South Pacific Private is licensed with the NSW Department of Health and has been registered as an acute care psychiatric hospital and fully accredited for over 25 years. As one of the first hospitals to achieve accreditation in 2019 for the new National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards and the Mental Health Standards, it goes without saying that SPP offers clients the highest safety standards.
But how does SPP help clients “feel” safe when we know that many of them have either been in crisis or have been heading along a pathway to crisis, with deep and underlying childhood trauma?
The answer is with a holistic approach to treatment that includes respect of client confidentiality, the therapeutic community, group psychotherapy and the cohesive structure of the SPP program…
In the manner of the 12-step programs, anonymity and confidentiality enable clients to open up with honesty -without fear of any relational or social repercussions, which brings a sense of safety. Confidentiality also enables fellow clients to collaborate in group therapy without prejudice or judgement.
SPP is a hospital, so it’s not strictly a therapeutic community, however some of the principles of the TC in use at SPP help clients to quickly take responsibility for the impact of their behaviour. The three pillars of our program ‘Follow the rules, Trust the Process and ‘Work the Program’ helps provide a framework and guidelines for clients to follow to provide a safe community.
Group Therapy is compulsory at SPP and involves intensive group psychotherapy. This intimate environment is conducive to building rapport and trust amongst group members and therapist thus creating a strong therapeutic alliance. Group therapy offers clients the opportunity to realise they are not alone, and their issue is not necessarily unique. Where they may once have felt isolated, they now have safety in a shared experience and authentic human connection
SPP was the first treatment centre in Australia to introduce the ground-breaking trauma-informed framework developed by Pia Mellody in the US known as “the model of developmental immaturity”. This framework is based on the premise that any treatment we receive as a child that is “less than nurturing” can lead to impairment of our emotional growth.
Via psychiatric care, medication review, 24 hour nursing care, and a comprehensive group psychotherapy and psycho-education program, South Pacific Private gently guides clients towards emotional regulation, safety and ultimately, recovery.