The S.A.F.E Model2020-09-02T09:07:28+00:00

S.A.F.E Psychotherapy

S.A.F.E is the acronym to remember the moods of:

S Sadness
A Anger
F Fear
E Enjoyment/Happiness/Elation/Euphoria/Joy

This model is designed to help people practically manage stress in their lives.

As a Psychotherapist I have been working with clients for nearly 20 years, helping them to manage their stress and regain the ability to enjoy life again. I, therefore, began to see common patterns emerge in their feelings, thought patterns and behaviours. Over time I realised that these feelings could be condensed into the 4 moods of Sadness, Anger, Fear and Enjoyment.

Another commonality I noticed was that:

Stress is caused by perceived negative changes in our life. Usually, beginnings or ends.
(e.g. Bereavement, Divorce, Redundancy, Bankruptcy, Birth of a Child, World War, Tsunamis, Plague etc.)
COVID-19 has particularly increased stress for the majority of people on Earth, taking us into some form of Sadness, Anger and Fear.

Stress is defined as:

A mixture of Sad, Angry and Fearful feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
i.e. The MORE stressed we are, the LESS enjoyment we experience.

Moods =[creates]=> Feelings and Emotions =[creates]=> Thoughts =[creates]=> Behaviour 

So, if we change our behaviour, we can change the way we think and feel.
In my S.A.F.E MODEL, a Mood is defined as:
A range of feelings, emotions and behaviours.

Changing Self Care Behaviour to Manage Stress

When we are under stress our physical body automatically chemically changes. Our Limbic system, that controls our body, cannot discern the difference between being physically attacked or our Logical Mind perceiving threat with hidden anger and fear thoughts (detailed in the SAFE Model Summary above).

As the Fight – Flight response is activated our Limbic system automatically “turns on” our adrenal glands to produce adrenaline.  In the present moment Adrenaline is very useful as it pushes blood into our muscles ready for action and allows us to move very quickly to survive either by physically fighting with increased strength, or running away very quickly. This response goes back to Caveman days when we did not have logic speech, reason, language or thoughts. It automatically turns off once we are out of danger and can eat again i.e. we have won our battle or run to a place of safety.

The reason being that the physical activity has burned off the adrenaline, so the Limbic System then releases endorphin to calm us down.

However, if the only option was to freeze and wait for the threat to pass the adrenaline floods the system keeping the body on “Red Alert” in case we still needed to go into Flight mode. At this point the appetite would be suppressed as taking on board food would potentially slow the Cave person down. The sleep response would also be put on hold so the Cave Person would Catnap.

Consequently when we are living in Stress (SAFE Mood score 2-5) our self-care routines are normally abandoned.


Self-care: Controlling what we can control to make sure our physical body is the best it can be. In a nutshell this is control of:  Diet, Exercise & Sleep.

When we are not living in Stress (SAFE Mood score 6-8) we have the ability to focus on a healthy diet (3 regular healthy balanced meals per day), maintain a physical activity routine (min of 30 minutes per day aerobic activity) and ensure we are in a regular sleep pattern (8 hours per night).

When we are stressed and in Freeze Mode, we do not reach for a bowl of salad!  We want fat and sugar foods which give our body instant energy but do not turn off the adrenal glands.  When we eat a healthy meal the Limbic System automatically switches to Insulin production to digest the food and it has to turn off the adrenal glands. Therefore, 3 healthy meals a day keeps the body physically calm. If we look at food as fuel, if you have your biggest meals of the day at breakfast and lunch and a light tea/supper, you will sleep more soundly.

In a nutshell, the Behavioural Changes to manage stressful situation are:

  • Be physically active for at least 5 hours per day with a min of 30 minutes high aerobic activity to physically exert yourself. (Within the medical guidelines of your GP)
  • Eat a large healthy breakfast and lunch and a small evening meal.
  • Cut down fat and sugar foods to a minimum. (Sweets, chocolate crisps, fizzy drinks, Cakes – all the things that cause type-II diabetes)
  • Practice a mindfulness breathing exercise such as the SAFE Rule of 7 (min of 2 x Daily)

Doing Mode

Logical Mind (EGO) – Left Brain view of the world = Enjoyment vs Sad

As we evolved and developed thinking speech, logic, reasoning and planning, we started to become more separate from the animal kingdom. We learnt that, if we were under threat, we could defeat larger opponents with the use of plans, strategies and eventually weapons.

E.G. Defeating a Sabre-Toothed tiger with a spear. As the logical mind gathered momentum it proved to itself that the more innovative it became, the more powerful and safe it could become.

What started off by a need to survive eventually was mistranslated by the Logical Mind as a need to Dominate and Control.

Survival = The need to dominate and control everything else on the Planet.

Initially, this was focused on the Animal Kingdom but once that domination was established Human beings wanted more. The next logical step was to turn this survival need (now interpreted as domination) on ourselves. Initially, small communities became tribes and each tribe wanted to survive better than another so, rather than share, they began to dominate each other.  Once the War (Fear and Anger) was over peace could be restored.

Unfortunately, the Logical Mind interprets Peace as Enjoyment. However, that definition of happiness is not the same as peace because it is a construct of the Logical Mind or Ego. Consequently, our logical mind always sees itself as potentially under threat.  It perceives that Happiness can be taken away at any moment so we can never get to 100% Happy.  Because Fear and Anger feelings are not necessarily logical, the Logical Mind has re-categorised them as Sadness.  The rationale being that if we are not happy then we must be sad.  This is why the label of depression is very difficult for most of us to understand.  It is also why my SAFE model is so effective when explained to people.

So the Logical Mind defines our feelings that are NOT logical as:


As the SAFE model shows, the Logical mind works very well when it perceives that we are 70% – 90% happy and our stress (perceived threat) levels are only 30% – 10% of what we feel. Unfortunately, when we experience stress and this equation inverts, the logical mind then goes into Catastrophe Mode and causes negative changes to our behaviour.

Sadness and Enjoyment are ONLY constructs of the Logical Mind.

SAD Mood (SAFE Questionnaire Score less than 4)

Sad mood feelings/emotions (the logical mind translates into believable thoughts)

Anxious, betrayed, hurt, inadequate, grief, sorrowful, joyless, depressed, cheerless, impending-disaster/doom, negative, frustrated, miserable, mournful, loneliness, isolation, irritable, rejection, crestfallen, despondent, gloomy, dreary, heavyhearted, low spirited, tearful, tragic, woeful, dejected, hopelessness, out of control, abandonment, rejected, traumatised, unfairness, lack of confidence/self-esteem, desperate, unable to feel peaceful and ultimately suicidal.


Typical Behaviours

  • Tired, lethargic, lack of energy, physical stillness, binge-watching TV porn, comedy.
  • Stopped normal physical exercise routine. E.g. going to the gym, swimming, cycling, running, playing sport, training etc.
  • Social withdrawal, unmotivated to communicate with friends, family, loved ones.
  • Loss of appetite or overeating foods high in fat and sugar. Skipping meals.
  • Drinking excessive amounts of fizzy drinks, tea, coffee, fruit juices and alcohol.
  • Smoking more Tobacco and/or Cannabis.
  • Using recreational drugs.
  • Self-Harming – Cutting yourself – Eating Disorders – Phobias – O.C.D. – Panic Attacks.
  • Trouble with sleep – Insomnia – Oversleeping – Unable to sleep for a min of 7 hours.
  • Over-working (having to work more than 12 hours per day) – No work/life balance.


So how do we manage these negative thoughts which our Catastrophic Logical Mind has created?

I created the Wise Mind Triangle Model after attending a course at the University of Wales called Mindfulness-based CBT in 2012.  It was run by Professor Mark Williams and, after attending his course, it prompted me to read and study his book:

Mindfulness – A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

Basically, this book gives practical advice as to how to bring our Logical Mind (EGO) into the present moment.

In short, it is a practical guide on how to meditate and bring the Logical Mind into the “Here and Now”.  If we practice these techniques, we can learn to stop the “negative chatter” of our thoughts and quieten the mind to the point of finding peace in our present moment.  So, I realised this would be very useful to client’s who are suffering from anxiety.

I would strongly recommend that when under stress, you change your behaviour and do my Rule of 7 breathing exercise (explained below) at least once a day before bedtime.

My SAFE Wise Mind Triangle Model below gives a quick visual explanation of everything that I have written above.

We all have a WISE MIND.  It is our inner knowing – a sense of right or wrong. A moral compass, if you wish, that transcends what we have been taught in our family/peer-groups on our journey into adulthood.

In fact, it shows us why we need to learn how to meditate and eventually be able to get our logical mind into a state of balance, stillness and peace.  (Spirituality not religion)

If our SAFE mood score is 7 but not above 9.5 (9.5–10 can be as bad as a 0.5 -1!), we do not need our Wise Mind. Our Logical Mind (EGO) perceives no threat and is, therefore, making good decisions that keep us safe, calm joyful and peaceful.

I will soon be doing an online video to explain these mindfulness concepts in more detail.

Rule of 7 Breathing Exercise 

This is probably the easiest most effective way of calming down the logical mind of relaxing your body.  It is as follows:

  • Breath in slowly through your nose for 7 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds. (Use your fingers to count holding your breath)
  • Breath out slowly for 7 seconds.
  • Repeat the process 7 times.

The reason why this helps us feel calmer will be explained in further Mindfulness videos but for now, this behavioural addition will help you manage stress and improve your sleep pattern.

If I ever have a night when I cannot sleep, I use this technique and I have never got to 7 cycles of seven without falling back to sleep.

Copyright 2012-2017 Jonathan Stubbs, Apollo Supervision and Psychotherapy. The S.A.F.E Psychotherapy Model has been created by Jonathan Stubbs.
No part of this S.A.F.E Model may be reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of the author, Jonathan Stubbs.

Being Mode

Emotional Mind – Right Brain view of the world = Peace VS Fear

As Primates or Cavemen, we did not have access to speech or Logical Thought. We were therefore highly dependent on our Right Brain (Emotional Mind). For Cavemen, the moods of Fear and Anger told them there was something wrong with their environment. They did not have the moods of Sadness or Happiness because they had not yet been created by their Logical Mind, Thoughts or Ego.

With no thoughts to bother them, or the need to make meaning of things, Cavemen were just at peace in harmony with their environment and the planet.  If they became fearful there was a reason for it as they would perceive a threat and would have to act quickly. At this point, their bodies would chemically change and the adrenal glands would fire up pushing blood into the muscles of the body ready for action.  Simultaneously their primal survival instinct kicked in and they would either fight the threat, flee from the threat or if neither of these options would help them survive, they would freeze.

Our Emotional Mind is only in the present moment, therefore, defines survival as:

Being at PEACE or Sensing FEAR in the PRESENT MOMENT.

To this day, as Human Beings, our chemical wiring has not changed. However, our Logical mind always has to make meaning of a threat situation and it overrides our instinctual responses. This is why our thoughts and behaviours change when we perceive a threat.

The Fear response is always the cause of The Anger response.


A caveman would not get angry unless the fear response had been triggered.  To this day, human behaviour is triggered by fear. An angry person is always living in fear of something or someone.

When under threat we only have 3 choices for survival:  Do we fight? Do we flee? If the answer is no to both then we freeze and do nothing and hope the threat passes. There are times in life when all we need to do is nothing and our feelings will change of their own accord.

However, our logical mind tells us that it is wrong to do nothing. Doing nothing and having no thoughts was actually what Cavemen experienced as peace. This is where Mindfulness Meditation techniques help us to still the Logical Mind which processes on average 60,000 thoughts a day

Therefore, the Emotional mind has only 2 states of being:


Copyright 2012-2017 Jonathan Stubbs, Apollo Supervision and Psychotherapy. The S.A.F.E Psychotherapy Model has been created by Jonathan Stubbs.
No part of this S.A.F.E Model may be reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of the author, Jonathan Stubbs.

Take our SAFE Stress Questionnaire

Are you unsure if you need counselling? Take our online questionnaire to gain your SAFE score and help in understanding your mood.

Give me a call on 07836 355 900 or email me at
if you would like any further information

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