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Social Resilience Model - Institute for Justice and Opportunity

Social Resilience Model

Among PRI’s work is the teaching and training of a method called the Social Resilience Model (SRM), a neuroscience-based approach to dealing with stress, distress, and trauma. SRM was designed by clinical psychologist Dr. Laurie Leitch and Army Brigadier General and psychiatrist Dr. Loree Sutton, and has been implemented in various settings since 2005. The SRM skills have been used nationally and internationally following catastrophic trauma such as earthquakes and tsunamis as well as in diverse settings such as schools, military, prisons, hospitals, and refugee camps. Having hosted Dr. Leitch to train nearly 50 social service professionals in the use of this model, PRI believes the practice of SRM has significant potential to improve the health and wellbeing of social service professionals across disciplines, including case managers, social workers, and correctional officers, and the lives of the people they work with and care for.

SRM is a skills-based approach to harnessing the power of neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to wire and re-wire itself based on experience. In the past two decades, burgeoning research in the field of neuroscience has demonstrated the amazing capacity of the “mind-body system” to learn and be resilient in its response to stress, distress, and trauma. We now know that the human mind has the ability to change disabling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, regulating the body’s stress response. This response, which is designed to protect us in threatening situations, can actually harm us – through lowered capacity for executive functioning as well as compromised immune system function – if it is activated too frequently or for too long. The SRM skills help bring awareness to patterns of stress response activation in the mind-body system, and enable responsiveness and problem solving rather than reactivity. With decreased reactivity come improved cognitive processes, such as memory and concentration, and better emotional stability. SRM is ideal for use in fast-changing, under-resourced, and stress-filled work environments, because the skills require no special equipment and can employed silently in moments of high stress or during crisis situations. It is also powerful in that it can be used as a self-care tool or administered peer-to-peer.

The Social Resilience Model (SRM) skills teach people to redirect and sustain attention in particular ways that build nervous system balance. People can learn to assess the state of their nervous system and direct their attention using skills that promote self-regulation and deepen resilience.

The underlying process of training attention using SRM has several steps:

1) learning to pay attention to sensations in the body,

2) learning to intensify sensations that bring calmness, joy or gratitude,

3) learning to notice “negative” sensations and to titrate them by consciously directing attention and

4) learning to shift away from negative/activation to a place in the body that is neutral or positive and maintain that attention until activation decreases and balance returns.

The process of teaching SRM starts with basic neuro-education which is inherently useful and can inform peoples’ professional and personal lives. Understanding the Autonomic Nervous System “de-pathologizes” what’s happening to people when we are negatively affected by stress and trauma. Because SRM is not being employed as a clinical intervention, it does not require that people talk about what is happening to them, or has happened to them in the past. It is focused on development of people’s attention to what is happening to them physiologically in the moment and to the practice of them restoring themselves to the resilient zone. It is not visible that someone is using the SRM techniques, nor does it require any equipment to practice.