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
"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"