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2019-Deb Dana

Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Practical Applications for Treating Trauma, a 2019 Cape Cod Institute workshop led by Deb Dana July 8-12, 2019

Deb Dana

Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Practical Applications for Treating Trauma
July 8-12, 2019

The autonomic nervous system is at the heart of daily living powerfully shaping experiences of safety and influencing the capacity for connection.  Operating outside of conscious awareness, autonomic circuits assess safety and initiate actions to help us navigate the challenges of daily living.  Polyvagal Theory, through the organizing principles of hierarchy, neuroception, and co-regulation, has revolutionized our understanding of how this system works. We now know that trauma interrupts the development of autonomic regulation and shapes the system away from connection into patterns of protection. With an updated map of the autonomic circuits that underlie behaviors and beliefs, we can reliably lead our clients out of adaptive survival responses into the autonomically regulated state of safety that is necessary for successful treatment.

A Polyvagal Theory guided approach to therapy begins with helping clients map their autonomic profiles and track their moment to moment movement along the autonomic hierarchy. With this foundation, the essential clinical questions address how to help clients interrupt habitual response patterns and find safety in a state of engagement. Polyvagal Theory gives therapists a guide to becoming a co-regulating resource and concrete ways to help clients find, and savor, experiences of safety. Working from a foundation of Polyvagal Theory, therapists have practical ways to effectively help clients identify and interrupt their familiar response patterns and strategies to shape their autonomic nervous systems toward safety and connection.

In this experiential workshop participants will first learn the basics of Polyvagal Theory and then work with practices designed to bring the power of Polyvagal Theory directly into clinical work.Working individually and in dyads, participants will experiment with multiple ways to map autonomic responses, skills to safely explore patterns of action, disconnection, and engagement, and techniques to build autonomic regulation and resilience. The workshop will bring Polyvagal Theory into practical application with a roadmap to help clients safely tune into their autonomic states, reshape their nervous systems, and rewrite the trauma stories that are carried in their autonomic pathways.

The Science of Connection

  • Understanding the organizing principles of Polyvagal Theory

  • The neurophysiology of safety and survival

  • How the nervous system shapes physical and psychological experience  

  • The challenge to “notice and name”:  An introduction to autonomic mapping

  • Creating a personal profile map

Patterns of Connection and Protection

  • Neuroception and how it guides us

  • Evolution of the Social Engagement System

  • Sending cues of safety

  • Tracking autonomic state shifts 

  • Identifying Triggers and Glimmers

Navigating Autonomic Pathways

  • Anchoring in the ventral vagal system

  • Recovering from dorsal vagal collapse

  • Safely moving through sympathetic mobilization

  • SIFTing and Savoring

  • Building co-regulating skills


Resetting the Nervous System

  • Regulation through the Social Engagement System  

  • Exercising the vagal brake

  • Autonomic portals of intervention: breath, movement, touch, sound

  • Rupture and repair through the lens of the autonomic nervous system

  • Exploring the autonomic challenges of play and intimacy  

The Power of a Polyvagal Perspective 

  • Nuts and bolts of a Polyvagal informed therapy session: Demonstration and discussion

  • Getting comfortable teaching Polyvagal Theory to clients

  • From micro to macro: Polyvagal Theory across multiple domains

  • How does Polyvagal Theory change the way you practice? The responsibilities of a polyvagal-informed therapist

Deb Dana

Deb Dana

Deb Dana, LCSW, is a clinician and consultant specializing in working with complex trauma and is Coordinator of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute. She developed the Rhythm of Regulation Clinical Training Series and lectures internationally on ways in which Polyvagal Theory informs work with trauma survivors. Deb is the author of The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation and co-edited, with Stephen Porges, Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies.

See / Hear Deb Dana

What our alumni are saying:

“Deb is a great teacher; the week flew by. She is so intelligent and has a great teaching style, I loved the active learning component”

“Deb’s approach and respect of the group enabled real learning, I loved every aspect of this course, in particular, that I was able to learn and self-care at the same time.”

“I am very grateful for the new awareness, this new lens, I plan to continue my studies in PVT.”

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Harville Hendrix & Helen Hunt July 22-26
IMAGO: Helping Couples Differentiate and Connect

Amy Weintraub and Angela Huebner August 19-23
Internal Family Systems Therapy™ Goes to the Mat with LifeForce Yoga: A Week of Healing and Learning

NJ Social Workers:

This course has been approved by the ASWB NJ CE Approval Program for 15 Clinical Social Work Practice credits.

For all other CE information:

Please visit our CE page and search by discipline.