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Deb Dana, LCSW

Polyvagal Theory In Therapy: Practical Applications For Treating Trauma

August 14th - August 18th, 2023

This course is also available Live-Online!


This course is no longer available.





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15 Hour In-Person & Live-Online Course

Monday - Friday: 9:00a.m. - 12:30p.m. EDT / 30-Minute Break Daily

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Course Description

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

  • 12:45-2:15pm: Clinical Demo Session with Q&A


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

Hear more from 

Deb Dana, LCSW

00:00 / 01:04

What Alumni are Saying...

"Deb is a gifted teacher. She is so skilled at taking complex concepts and making them applicable and real." - 2022 Participant

"Deb is a Master Clinician and a phenomenal teacher who is able to translate and demonstrate complex scientific findings into usable clinical tools." - 2022 Participant

"Deb Dana is an incredible human being! What a treat to have spent the week with her. She so beautifully and fully embodies what she teaches. My favorite CE experience so far!" - 2022 Participant

"I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged I was as an online participant. I believe the breakout rooms helped in addition to Deb’s style and pace of presenting the material." - 2022 Participant

"Fantastic online experience. Smooth transition between speaker and break out rooms and answers to questions." - 2022 Participant

Learn more about the Cape Cod Institute from former participants



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