If you are engaged in or considering therapy, you’ve likely read a lot about the importance of safety and support to facilitate healing. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, your basic needs for safety and security must be met before you can focus on your goals, growth, and development.
Beyond immediate safety, support and connection with caring individuals are a vital part of the healing process.
Navigating your living environment can be one of the most challenging aspects of healing. So, what makes for a safe, supporting living environment? And how can you determine if your environment is appropriate for you?
What Is Safety?
The dictionary states that safety is freedom from harm or danger. You likely already assess your safety on a regular basis without even realizing it. For example, you probably wear a seatbelt in the car, look both ways before crossing the street, and stop at a stoplight if you’re driving. All of these daily tasks lessen your risk of danger and keep you physically safe.
It’s essential to consider your mental and emotional safety, too. Humans typically tend to self-preservation, meaning you want to keep yourself safe from harm to your physical body. Unfortunately, it is much easier to neglect your emotional and mental safety.
When contemplating the safety of your living environment, it might be helpful to ask yourself--do my relationships feel respectful? Do I feel accepted in my environment? Do I feel safe to express myself without judgment or punishment where I live? These answers can provide valuable information about your living environment's role in your overall feelings of safety and well-being.
What Is Support?
Support will look different for everyone based on your relationship dynamics, individual needs, and the circumstances of your healing and recovery. What feels supportive to one person may feel entirely unsupportive for another. Therefore, there is no blanket definition of support.
With that said, support should strike a balance of feeling cared for, respected, listened to, and being held accountable. Of course, the specific circumstances of what that looks like will vary dramatically, so it’s important to be honest with yourself about the type of support you need.
Your living environment should honor your needs for support. For example, do you need more space to talk about your mental health? Do you need more connection with others to feel supported? Do you need harder rules and boundaries?
Assessing Your Needs
Now that you better understand the importance of viewing safety through a well-rounded lens, how can you assess your own safety and support needs?
It is helpful to take an honest look at your needs. What goals are you working on right now? What are your biggest obstacles or challenges? What types of support are you in need of at this moment?
If you are recovering from substance use, you may need to consider a sober living environment to provide additional safety and support in your recovery. In addition, sober living homes can provide structure and a built-in network of people who understand your experience and can provide ongoing and consistent support.
If you are healing from abuse or neglect, assess your options to best support your immediate needs for physical, mental, and emotional safety.
What to Look For
You understand safety and support and have assessed your needs. What now?
According to research from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, stable, safe, and supportive living environments should:
Provide stability: Safe and supportive living environments should provide stability. You should feel that your environment is a place where you can stay emotionally regulated.
Meet your physical, emotional, and psychological needs: You’ve taken stock of your needs and understand what will be most helpful to you. A safe and supportive living environment should meet those needs effectively.
Offer an appropriate level of independence: Respecting autonomy is a hallmark of the counseling and therapy profession. A safe and supportive living environment should support your autonomy and freedom in a way that is appropriate to your unique circumstances and needs.
Be financially feasible: A safe and supportive living environment should respect your financial safety needs as well. This can be challenging. Engage with supportive individuals such as your therapist, friends, or close family members to understand the resources available to you for affordable living.
Final Thoughts About Safe and Supportive Living Environments
No matter what you are recovering or healing from, a safe living environment requires assessing and honoring your needs. Without an honest audit of what you need to feel safe and supported, it is much more difficult to find a living environment that respects where you are in your process.
In addition to assessing and establishing your needs, a safe and supportive living environment should also provide stability, respect your financial boundaries, and offer a level of independence appropriate to your unique circumstances.
At The Mental Health House, we are proud to offer safe, effective environments for people recovering from mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Contact us today to learn more.