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Neurophysiological Pathways to Safety, Intimacy and Recovery Practical Implications of Polyvagal Theory

An online workshop over 3 afternoon sessions

Speakers: Dr Stephen Porges and Dr Sue Carter

Date: 5 Nov 2020 (Thursday), 6 Nov 2020 (Friday), 7 Nov 2020 (Saturday)
Location: Online streaming only
Times: 1:00pm to 5:00pm on Thursday and Friday and 1:00pm to 4:00pm on Saturday

CPD hours: 11

Online Streaming: online streaming tickets at £205 for the whole workshop (you can watch a live telecast of the event using this ticket plus you get complimentary access to the video recording)

Buy more than one ticket to receive our ‘bring a friend’ 5% discount on your entire order.

Feeling safe is a prerequisite for all individuals – not just for optimal mental health and social behaviour but also for effectively utilising all levels of brain activity. This includes both the higher brain levels for accessing their creative and generative sides and lower brain levels for modulating their physical health, growth and mental restoration. When Dr Stephen Porges postulated the

Polyvagal Theory, he created a framework for explaining how human beings turn off their defences in social interactions creating opportunities to feel safe; and also provided a unique model for understanding how our bodies respond to trauma & stress. The theory underlines the practical ways in which therapists need to focus on the client’s physiological state for monitoring the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions.

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At this intellectually stimulating and practically oriented workshop, conducted over 3 online sessions, Dr Stephen Porges and Dr Sue Carter explain the practical implications of Polyvagal Theory – when we are attempting to therapeutically assist a client in finding safety, interpersonal connectivity, intimacy in relationships and a path to recovery from threat and chronic stress. The Polyvagal Theory provides an innovative model to understand the importance of the client’s physiological state in mediating the effectiveness of clinical treatments. Thus, interventions that target the client’s capacity to feel safe and use the social engagement system to regulate physiological state can be effective enhancements of treatments of mental health disorders that are dependent on defense systems. The workshop will integrate the Polyvagal Theory with current research on the mammalian neuropeptides of oxytocin and vasopressin, which facilitate social behaviors and trust.

Drawing on the bestselling books on Polyvagal Theory and their extensive experiences in the field, Dr Porges and Dr Carter use dialogue, interviews, case studies, video vignettes and audience interactions to explain:

  • Connectedness: A Biological Imperative
    • we discuss how The Polyvagal Theory links the autonomic nervous system to affective experience, providing an explanation for how connectedness gets compromised during stress and is manifest in numerous psychological disorders.
  • Polyvagal Theory: The Adaptive Function of Evolutionary Changes in the Autonomic Nervous System
    • we explore the role of the autonomic nervous system in creating states that facilitate connectedness or defense such as fight/flight, hypervigilance, dissociation, collapse, shutdown, and even syncope
  • The Social Engagement System as a Portal of Co-regulation and Therapy: Harnessing a Neuroception of Safety in Clinical Treatment
    • we discuss features of the social engagement system, how it involves neural pathways regulating the heart, facial expression, vocal intonation, and the extraction of human voice from background sounds. From a clinical perspective this session will emphasize the importance of our face, voice, and heart in negotiating states that enable trust and intimacy
  • Listening as a Therapeutic Portal: Applications of the Safe and Sound Protocol
  • Polyvagal Theory, Oxytocin, and the Neurobiology of Love
  • Oxytocin and Human Evolution: The Role of Oxytocin in Birth, Social Attachment and Affective Relationships and Overcoming Fear and Trauma
    • we will discuss how environmental factors tune the oxytocin receptor and provide an overview of the literature relating oxytocin and vasopressin to specific clinical disorders
  • Oxytocin and Human Evolution: How Do Love and Fear Tune the Oxytocin System – Helping the Mammalian Body to Manage Stress and Trauma?
    • we focus on how oxytocin and vasopressin act as “neuromodulators” within the theoretical context of the Polyvagal Theory

Overall, the workshop highlights how therapeutic interventions that target the capacity to feel safe and use social behaviour to regulate physiological states can be effective in creating a state of psychological well-being and strengthening of defence mechanisms.

About the Speakers

Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland.  He served as president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed 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.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders. He is the author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation (Norton, 2011), The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe, (Norton, 2017) and co-editor of Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies (Norton, 2018).  He is the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol ™ , which currently is used by more than 1400 therapists to improve spontaneous social engagement, to reduce hearing sensitivities, and to improve language processing, state regulation, and spontaneous social engagement.

Sue Carter, PhD is Director of the Kinsey Institute and Rudy Professor of Biology at Indiana University Bloomington and Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she co-directed the Brain-Body Center in the Department of Psychiatry. She formerly held the position of Distinguished University Professor of Biology at the University of Maryland and prior to that was Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Ecology, Ethology and Evolution at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Carter is past president of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society and holds fellow status in that Society and in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

She is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Award. She has authored more than 300 peer-reviewed publications and edited 5 books including Attachment and Bonding: A New Synthesis (MIT Press, 2006). Dr. Carter is the scientist, who discovered the relationship between social behavior and oxytocin.  Her work examines how oxytocin pathways are at the center of physiological systems that enable human sociality.


NScience | Mental Health Seminars
NScience | Mental Health Seminars
NScience | Mental Health Seminars

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