Long before the formation of Shalamar Children, our founding directors read a book. This book was written by Dr Dan Hughes, a clinical psychologist with a specialised focus on children with trauma. As they were fostering at the time, our directors tried out some of the ideas and were amazed at how effective they were. They became instant fans of Dr Dan and have been following his work ever since.

30 years later, those ideas now form the backbone of our approach to care at Shalamar Children. This approach focuses on the child’s ability to establish a secure attachment with their caregivers. Developmental attachment theory and research is the primary model for relationship development and trauma resolution. It encompasses a wide range of techniques including strategic and structural (pseudo-)family therapy, Ericksonian hypnotherapy (utilization principle), psychodynamic principles, psychodrama, interventions congruent with Theraplay, and narrative work.

Dr Dan

Altogether, this has been condensed and simplified into the PACE Model, which can be broken down into 4 characteristics that are important to have for anybody in the position of caring for a child:

  • Playfullness
  • Acceptance
  • Curiosity
  • Empathy

Actively communicating empathy and acceptance of the individual child while providing them with comforting and containment allows them to feel safe enough to explore and resolve past trauma and shame-related experiences.  At the same time, the caregiver is actively facilitating the child’s ability to form positive, reciprocal relationships with their caregivers.  Within the safety of these relationships, the child is able to finally face and resolve their past traumas.  As the child gradually develops a secure attachment with caregivers, they also develop a positive and integrated sense of self.

Diagram showing the key features of PACE

While the jargon might sound quite complex, this diagram breaks the approach down into very simple elements. All our staff are trained in the PACE model and implement it in their work every day, in combination with the rest of our methods. It’s thanks to this that we believe young people with trauma are better off at Shalamar than at other children’s homes. Even those without trauma can benefit substantially from this approach.

We believe in connection over correction. It’s no good masking symptoms of trauma – the trauma itself must be resolved, and that follows establishing secure attachments. PACE is a clinically proven way of doing this.

For a more detailed read on the subject, we have a PDF available below. It goes over all aspects of the approach and offers some practical examples to illustrate.

Get it here