Stephen Porges, Ph.D., is Distinguished University Scientist, Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. He is professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. He is professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he directed the Brain-Body Center, George McCloskeyand at the University of Maryland, where he chaired the Department of Human Development and directed the Institute for Child Study. His 200+ peer-reviewed articles cross many disciplines, from anesthesiology to ergonomics, from neurology to space medicine. A former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, he is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award. His Polyvagal Theory links the evolution of the vertebrate autonomic nervous system to the emergence of social behavior.  Dr. Porges lectures throughout the world about the Polyvagal Theory and its clinical applications. He is the author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-Regulation (Norton, 2011) and is currently writing a book on the topic of this workshop.

Approved for 15 General hours by NJ ASWB

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Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe
July 31-August 4, 2017

Safety is critical in enabling humans to optimize their potential. The neurophysiological processes associated with feeling safe are a prerequisite not only for social behavior but also for accessing both the higher brain structures that enable humans to be creative and generative and the lower brain structures involved in regulating health, growth, and restoration.  The Polyvagal Theory explains how social behavior turns off defenses and promotes opportunities to feel safe.  It provides an innovative model to understand bodily responses to trauma and stress and the importance of the client’s physiological state in mediating the effectiveness of clinical treatments. From a Polyvagal perspective, interventions that target the capacity to feel safe and use social behavior to regulate physiological state can be effective in treating psychological disorders that are dependent on defense systems. 

In this workshop, through presentations, experiential exercises, and class discussion, we will learn the principles and features of the Polyvagal Theory and how to apply it in a clinical setting We will cover how the Polyvagal Theory can demystify several features related to stress-related illnesses and psychiatric disorders such as PTSD, autism, depression, and anxiety. Time will be spent on what the Social Engagement System is and how the brain-face-heart connection evolved. We will discuss how deficits in the regulation of the Social Engagement System relate to the core features of several psychiatric disorders. We will learn how neural process evaluates risk in the environment and triggers adaptive neural circuits which promote either social interactions or defensive behaviors and how the Social Engagement System is compromised by stress and trauma and how to reset it.

The Polyvagal Theory

  • Evolutionary changes and adaptive functions in the autonomic nervous system
  • Humans retain a phylogenetically ordered response hierarchy to challenges
  • The discovery of the three neural platforms that provide the neurophysiological bases for social engagement, fight/flight, and shutdown behaviors

Social Engagement System and Psychiatric and Behavioral Disorders

  • A description of the “face-heart” connection that forms a functional social engagement system
  • How our facial expressions, vocalizations, and gestures are regulated by neural mechanisms that are involved in regulating our autonomic nervous system

Neuroception: Detecting and Evaluating Risk

  • How our social and physical environment triggers changes in physiological state
  • Understanding that adaptive physiological reactions may result in maladaptive behaviors
  • Immobilization without fear
  • Play as a neural exercise
  • Listening as a neural exercise

Demystifying Biobehavioral Responses to Trauma and Abuse

  • Fight/flight and immobilization defense strategies
  • Adaptive function of immobilization and the associated clinical difficulties
  • How the stresses and challenges of life distort social awareness and displace spontaneous social engagement behaviors with defensive reactions

Applying the Polyvagal Theory in Clinical Settings

  • Understanding auditory hypersensitivities
  • State regulation as a core feature of psychiatric disorders
  • Deconstructing features of autism and PTSD
  • Strategies to explain disruption and repair of symbiotic regulation
  • Identifying social cues that disrupt or repair defensive reactions

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What our alumni are saying:

"Stephen Porges is a phenomenal presenter"

"Dr. Porges! Brilliant and charming!"

"Dr. Porges was an excellent instructor with deep knowledge of physiological processes linked to physical and mental health"

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