Polyvagal Theory and its Clinical Applications

led by Jan Winhall, Daniel Siegel, Jonathan Baylin, Deb Dana, Vittorio Gallese, Stephen Porges, Dafna Lender
🪙 26 CPD/CE credits included in the price, no extra fees! 🪙
Whether you practice in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, or any other country, our credits are valid for all the organizations. (Read more). Please note that the CPD/CE credits will be available 15 days after the event has ended.

This all encompassing course will teach you everything you need to know about the Polyvagal theory.  The theory focuses on how trauma disrupts the functioning of the autonomic nervous system. By developing your understanding, you can guide your clients back to the feeling of safety and influence their ability to connect to themselves and others. You will be presented with many techniques to take to your own practice, which you can apply to the treatment plans of both adult and child clients to achieve successful treatment effects.


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Learning Outcomes

Part 1

  • Develop your understanding of attachment, mirror neurons, intersubjectivity and trauma.

Part 2

  • Understand what Polyvagal theory is.
  • Learn a Polyvagal theory explanation of trauma.
  • Learn how to assess the consequences of trauma-related experience by understanding the features of three polyvagal visceral response strategies.
  • Distinguish the contextual features that trigger defence from those that are calming and support spontaneous social engagement.
  • Understand the importance of being safe to optimise maximum potential in clients.
  • Learn treatments which target the capacity of feeling safe.

Part 3

  • Apply the three organizational principles of the Polyvagal Theory to one’s clinical work.
  • Use autonomic mapping during clinical sessions.
  • Use the Social Involvement System as a source of co-regulation during clinical sessions.

Part 4

  • Evaluate the foundational principles and features of the Polyvagal Theory in order to elicit trust in the young clients you work with.
  • Apply the features of the Polyvagal Theory to inform clinical treatment interventions for children.
  • Determine the Social Engagement System and how the brain-face-heart connection evolved.
  • Analyse when a child’s Social Engagement System is compromised by stress and trauma and help to reset it.
  • Construct how a therapy session can be planned and carried out to maximize client safety, social engagement, and regulation.
  • Implement specific techniques for optimizing polyvagal regulation with children.

Part 5

  • Learn how the Polyvagal Model connects to emotion regulation.
  • Understand the difference between automatic and self-guided state shifting.
  • Learn how early life experience affects the development of the polyvagal systems.
  • Strengthen therapists’ ability to activate the ventral vagal social engagement system in themselves and their patients.
  • Learn several different ways to help patients shift from defensive states into openness.
  • Integrate brain-based knowledge into daily clinical practice.

Part 6

  • Describe three concepts in polyvagal theory as they apply to trauma informed embodied psychotherapy.
  • Describe the neurophysiological states of the Felt Sense Polyvagal Model™ for treating trauma and addiction.
  • Explain trauma and addiction through the lens of Polyvagal theory.
  • Name the four avenues into Gendlin’s concept of Felt sense and begin to apply this embodied practice in psychotherapy.
  • Explain the Three Circle Practice and how to apply it with clients.
  • Describe the Embodied Assessment and Treatment Tool™ (EATT) and how it differs from the traditional pathologizing model.
  • Help clients to Identify their autonomic state and strategies to help them heal.
Course Breakdown:

Part 1: Attachment, Mirror Neurons and Intersubjectivity trauma

To introduce the themes of this video course, first immerse yourself into this fascinating discussion between three experts; Stephen Porges, Vittorio Gallese and Daniel Seigel chaired by Giovanna Liotti. They will delve into the subjects of attachment, mirror neurons, intersubjectivity and trauma. They will share their expertise and deepen your understanding of their research fields.

Part 2: Introduction to polyvagal theory by Stephen Porges

Section 1:  The Polyvagal theory: demystifying the body’s response to trauma : This theory uses the principles of hierarchy, neuroception and co-regulation to understand the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and its importance in shaping your clients experience of safety and influencing their capacity for connection. Trauma interrupts the development of autonomic regulation and shapes our systems into patterns for protection rather than connection.  Develop your understanding of the autonomic circuits that underlie behaviours and beliefs to reliably lead your client out of adaptive survival responses and into the autonomically regulated state of safety that is necessary for successful treatment.

Using the polyvagal model for therapy begins with helping your clients to map their autonomic profiles and track their movement along the autonomic hierarchy. The essential clinical question addresses how to help clients interrupt habitual response patterns and find safety in a state of engagement. Polyvagal theory will guide you to becoming a regulated and co-regulated resource for clients to ultimately help them experience a feeling of safety. Working with this theory you will find practical ways to effectively help clients identify and interrupt familiar response patterns and strategies to shape their ANS towards safety and connection.

The polyvagal theory provides a plausible explanation of how trauma and chronic abuse disrupt homeostatic psychological processes and social behaviour and how clinical treatments might be designed to remediate these problems. It also explains why trauma distorts perception and displaces spontaneous social behaviours with defensive reactions. In this presentation you will focus on the restorative power of understanding the adaptive function of stress. By deconstructing the biobehavioural features of stress reactions, both you and your client are better informed in your client’s journey to success. You will also learn the role of neuroception, the process in which the nervous system evaluates risk in the environment without awareness and often independent from cognitive narrative. Learn how to assess the consequences of trauma-related experience by understanding the features of three polyvagal visceral response strategies.

Section 2: The connectedness as a biological imperative – understanding the consequences of trauma through the lens of polyvagal theory: Polyvagal theory incorporates a developmental perspective to explain how maturation of the ANS forms the neural ‘platform’ upon which social behaviour and development of trusted relationships are based. The theory explains how reactions to danger, life-threat, experiences of abuse and trauma may retune our nervous system making us respond to friends, caregivers, and teachers as if they were predators. This presentation will help you be able to distinguish the contextual features that trigger defence from those that are calming and support spontaneous social engagement.

Section 3:  The transformative power of feeling safe: Feeling safe is critical in enabling humans to optimise their potential. The neurophysiological processes associated with feeling safe are a prerequisite for accessing the higher brain structures that enable humans to be creative and the lower brain structures involved in health, growth and restoration. The polyvagal theory 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 behaviour to regulate physiological state can be effective in treating psychological disorders that are dependent on defence systems.

Part 3: Creating a security story – a polyvalent guide to connection by Deb Dana

The ANS plays a crucial role in our experience of safety and ability to connect. Trauma blocks the development of autonomic regulation and affects the nervous systems by inhibiting its ability to connect and determine the development of protective patterns. For many of your clients, states of attachment/ escape and collapse are frequent, intense, and prolonged while the state of safety and connectedness is elusive. Using an updated map of the ANS we can help our clients abandon their survival oriented adaptive response and access the state of safety. A polyvagal theory approach to therapy offers you a set of strategies to identify and interrupt protective patterns and facilitate the development of skills that allows your client to fully experience and savour safety related experiences. If you can speak the language of the nervous system, you can help your client safely tune into their autonomic states, reshape their nervous system, and rewrite the traumatic history they each carry within their autonomic pathways.

Part 4: The polyvagal theory for children – practical application to build safety, create attachment and develop connection by Dafna Lender

Do you know therapists who seem to have “the magic touch” when it comes to getting children to trust and connect with them? What if there are actual behaviours that you can learn and incorporate into your way of being with children that can solicit openness, relaxation, and trust? Join Dafna Lender, LCSW, for this compelling 2-part webinar, as she walks you through the complexities of using polyvagal theory with your young clients. Using your own social engagement system and tuning into the child’s physiological state you’ll learn: Regulating and calming techniques for more curiosity, openness & connection. How sending safety messages to brains of mistrusting kids will make them more open to new relational experiences. To use voice, rhythm, facial expressions, and touch to elicit trust. To surprise the brain of a defensive child with novel responses to grab attention, interrupt their automatic defensiveness, and generate curiosity. Exercises and activities to make shut down, guarded or angry clients feel more relaxed, open, and ready to connect.

Part 5: Applying the polyvagal model to increase patients’ emotional self-regulation by Jonathan Baylin

Section 1:  Understanding how the polyvagal model connects to emotion regulation and state shifting: Here, you will grasp a brain-based explanation of the polyvagal model and how it helps our understanding of a wide range of clinical problems, all of which share difficulties with regulating strong affect, and staying in “the window of self-regulation”. Dr. Baylin believes that therapists can incorporate knowledge about the polyvagal model into their daily practice more effectively when they first have a good working knowledge of these processes. He will discuss the difference between automatic, “bottom up” and “top down” state shifting to lay the foundation for Part Two when we will focus on how to strengthen our ability to use the top-down intentional processes to manage polyvagal state changes.  The top-down mode of state shifting arises from humans’ unique ability to regulate the state shifting process rather than being at the mercy of the automated process that can create chronic problems with emotion regulation. Dr. Baylin will also discuss how individual differences in the functioning of the polyvagal systems arise from a combination of genetic differences and the effects of life experiences on the development of the polyvagal systems, with an emphasis on the effects of early life experience on the development of the polyvagal systems.

Section 2:  Applying the polyvagal model: Building on the brain-based model of state shifting described in Part One, Dr. Baylin will then discuss a number of different ways to promote intentional, mindful regulation of internal state shifting to support improved emotion regulation. Dr. Baylin will apply Porges’ concept of “neural exercises” to help you learn how to access the ventral vagal system that supports healthy emotion regulation and social engagement.  He will explain a number of different pathways or “portals” into the ventral vagal system that we can use to promote more effective emotion regulation and state shifting in ourselves and in our patients. Furthermore, Dr. Baylin will discuss the role of the therapist as a “social buffering”, coregulating, “brain whispering” partner in the process of helping patients’ shift from chronic self-defensiveness into the state of open engagement.

Part 6: Revolutionising trauma and addiction treatment with the felt sense polyvagal model™ (FSPM)  by Jan Winhall

Section 1: The felt sense polyvagal model™: The FSPM is a strength bases approach which integrates Porges’ Polyvagal theory and Grendlin’s Felt Sense Focusing Oriented psychotherapy. It allows us to understand trauma/ addiction behaviours as adaptive responses to maladaptive environments. In this presentation will you be given a detailed description of the integrative theoretical framework of the model which was developed over four decades of work with trauma survivors. You will learn how to apply the model with demonstrations.

Section 2: Treatment strategies: In this section of the course, you will be taught techniques you can use in your own practice. You will be introduced to the embodied Assessment and Treatment Tool. This provides a semantic assessment of your clients capacity to regulate their ANS and integrate embodied experience. As this is developed over time it becomes an organised treatment plan which can be stored online as a clinical record. will also learn about Carnes three circle practice; a tool for addiction that you will be able to implement right away. Finally, you will learn about Gendlin’s focusing/ felt sense method of psychotherapy and how to guide clients into connection with their bodies. Through experimental practice, demonstrations and case examples you will be guided into how you can apply these models.

Stephen Porges

Creator of the Polyvagal Theory, Stephen W. Porges, PhD, is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium within the Kinsey Institute. He holds the position of Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina and Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He has published approximately 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers across several disciplines including anesthesiology, biomedical engineering, critical care medicine, ergonomics, exercise physiology, gerontology, neurology, neuroscience, obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, psychometrics, space medicine, and substance abuse. His research has been cited in approximately 40,000 peer-review publications.

Vittorio Gallese

Vittorio Gallese is a Professor of Physiology at the Dept. of Neuroscience of the University of Parma, Adjunct Senior Research Scholar at the Dept. of Art History and Archeology, Columbia University, New York, USA and Professor in Experimental Aesthetics at the Institute of Philosophy of the University of London, U.K. He is the coordinator of the Ph.D. Program in Neuroscience and Director of the Doctoral School of Medicine of the University of Parma. Among his main scientific contributions, is the discovery of mirror neurons, and the proposal of a new model of intersubjectivity: embodied simulation theory. He did research and taught at the Universities of Lausanne, Tokyo, Berkeley, and Berlin. He is the author of more than 230 scientific articles published in international journals and books.

Daniel Siegel

Dr. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. An award-winning educator, he is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and recipient of several honorary fellowships. Dr. Siegel is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, an educational organization, which offers online learning and in-person seminars that focus on how the development of mindsight in individuals, families and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes. He received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at UCLA with training in paediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry.

Deb Dana

Deb Dana LCSW, is a clinician, consultant, author and speaker specializing in complex trauma and uses the lens of Polyvagal Theory (PVT) to understand and resolve cases of trauma. She has written many books which explain the theory. She is a certified trainer and has worked internationally with fellow clinicians and clients. Dana’s work delves into the intricacies of how we can all use an understanding of the organizing principles of PVT to change the ways we navigate our daily lives. Dana is well known for translating PVT into a language and application that is both clear and accessible – and for her significant contribution, pioneering Rhythm of Regulation® methodology, tools, techniques and practices which continue to open up the power of PVT for professionals and curious people from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life.

Dafna Lender

Dafna Lender, LCSW, is an international trainer and supervisor for practitioners who work with children and families. She is a certified trainer and supervisor/consultant in both Theraplay and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP). Dafna’s expertise is drawn from 25 years of working with families with attachment in many settings: at-risk after school programs, therapeutic foster care, in-home crisis stabilization, residential care and private practice. Dafna’s style, whether as a therapist or teacher, is combining the light-hearted with the profound by bringing a playful, intense and passionate presence to every encounter. Dafna is the co-author of Theraplay the Practitioner’s Guide (2020). She teaches and supervises clinicians in 15 countries in 4 languages: English, Hebrew, French and Spanish.

Jonathan Baylin

Dr. Jonathan Baylin received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1981. For the past twenty years, while continuing his clinical practice, he has immersed himself in the study of neuroscience and in teaching mental health practitioners about the brain. He has given numerous workshops for mental health professionals on “Putting the Brain in Therapy” and has delivered keynote addresses internationally at conferences on childhood trauma and attachment. Several years ago, Dr. Baylin began a collaborative relationship with Daniel Hughes, a leader in the field of attachment-focused therapy. His first book, Brain Based Parenting, was released by Norton Press in 2012. In 2016, his second book, The Neurobiology of Attachment-focused Therapy, was released by Norton. Both books are part of the Norton series on Interpersonal Neurobiology.

Jan Winhall

Jan Winhall, M.S.W. F.O.T. is an author, teacher and seasoned trauma and addiction psychotherapist. She started her career as a social worker/ psychotherapist 40 years ago. She is now an Educational Partner and Course Developer with the Polyvagal Institute where she teaches a certification course based on her book Treating Trauma and Addiction with the Felt Sense Polyvagal Model, Routledge 2021. She is an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Toronto and a Certifying Co-Ordinator with the International Focusing Institute. Jan is Co-Director of the Borden Street Clinic where she supervises graduate students. She enjoys teaching all over the world. Her work focuses on a bottom-up approach to addiction.

🎁 Receive a FREE Janina Fisher video course 🎁
buying now Polyvagal Theory and its Clinical Applications
🪙 26 CPD/CE credits included in the price, no extra fees! 🪙
Whether you practice in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, or any other country, our credits are valid for all the organizations. (Read more).


Please note that all on-demand courses will be available for online viewing as often as you like from our portal. Downloading of files is not permitted for copyright reasons…

Polyvagal Theory and its Clinical Applications

From the knowledge of a multitude of experts, learn about the Polyvagal theory in great depth. Discover how you can use it in a clinical setting to help your clients to overcome trauma and addiction related issues.


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