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Polyvagal Theory in Therapy Navigating the Nervous System

For psychotherapists and other mental health professionals.

Explore Polyvagal Theory by learning the language of the nervous system from the inside out as you map your own autonomic pathways and then apply the theory to clinical work. The autonomic nervous system is at the heart of daily living, powerfully shaping experiences of safety, and influencing our capacity for connection. In response to traumatic experiences, autonomic pathways of connection are replaced with patterns of protection. Polyvagal Theory has revolutionized our understanding of how this system works. We now have a guide to the neurophysiological processes of mobilization, collapse, and social engagement, and can reliably help our clients re-shape their systems and change the stories that are carried in their autonomic pathways.

Adding a Polyvagal lens to your therapy practice begins with helping clients get to know their personal patterns of response and how to mindfully follow changes in autonomic states. From this foundation, the essential clinical questions address how to help clients bring awareness to their adaptive survival responses, interrupt habitual response patterns, and find safety in a state of engagement. With the therapist as a co-regulating resource, neural exercises that bring the right degree of challenge are created to help shape the client’s autonomic nervous system toward safety and connection.

This program brings Polyvagal Theory into practical application as you

  • Learn the organizing principles of Polyvagal Theory
  • Experiment with ways to map autonomic responses
  • Understand client responses through autonomic state and state shifts
  • Track client and clinician states of regulation and dysregulation
  • Practice skills to safely work with patterns of action, disconnection, and engagement
  • Identify ways to use the co-regulating pathways of the social engagement system in clinical sessions.

Return to your practice ready to help clients tune into their autonomic stories, reset their nervous systems, and restore a sense of safety.

Recommended reading Stephen Porges, The Pocket Guide to Polyvagal Theory; Stephen Porges and Deb Dana, Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies; and Deb Dana, The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation.

Download additional Continuing Education Credit information.

“I am several hours into Deb Dana’s book and I’m spellbound. I’ll never see things the same again. Her work enlivens me and excites me. It will transform the practice of psychotherapy and I will continue to seek out more of her wisdom as I go forward.” —Nancy F., MEd, LICSW

Program at a Glance

Yoga Experience
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All Health, Fitness, and Wellness


Deb Dana, LCSW, is a clinician and consultant specializing in working with complex trauma and the coordinator of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute.

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