The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies: Harnessing the Neuroception of Safety in Clinical Treatment – Stephen Porges
withStephen Porges
Recordings of the course available without time limits
Available in Italian (simultaneous translation), English


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In this course, participants will learn about Polyvagal Theory from its author, Dr. Stephen W. Porges. Dr. Porges will dive into clinical applications of the theory to help you understand different psychiatric diagnoses (e.g., PTSD, autism, depression, and anxiety disorders). He will explain how neuroception, perception beyond conscious awareness, constantly scans the environment for cues of safety or threat which leads to a psychological response of calm and connected, mobilized and defensive, or immobilized and disassociated.

Another key component to understanding Polyvagal Theory is the Social Engagement System. Dr. Porges will break down this face-heart connection to show how bodily feelings are linked with facial expression, prosody, and other gestures. The Social Engagement System is integral on the path of healing and social connection and, without it being regulated, many behavioral and psychiatric disorders can present. 

Polyvagal Theory has many implications in a clinical practice and in the daily lives of our clients. Dr. Porges will discuss common mental and physical health symptoms and how understanding Polyvgal Theory can help explain these comorbidities.

What will you learn?

At the conclusion of this activity, participants should be able to: 

  1. Apply Polyvagal Theory to demystify several clinical symptoms related to psychiatric diagnoses (e.g., PTSD, autism, depression, and anxiety disorders).
  2. Describe how specific circuits in the autonomic nervous system are related to social and defensive behaviors. 
  3. Describe how a neural process, neuroception, evaluates risk in the environment and triggers adaptive neural circuits to promote either social interactions or defensive behaviors 
  4. To understand the face-heart connection, which defines a social engagement system linking bodily feelings with facial expression, vocal intonation, and gesture. 
  5. To understand the importance of the social engagement system as a biobehavioral portal of healing and social connection.
  6. Explain how deficits in the regulation of the Social Engagement System relate to the core features of several behavioral and psychiatric disorders.
  7. To understand how the Polyvagal Theory can explain the frequent comorbidity among mental and physical health symptoms
Stephen Porges
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. Dr. Porges served as president of both 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 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. In 1994 Dr. Porges 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), co-editor of Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies (Norton, 2018), and Polyvagal Safety (Norton, 2021). Dr. Porges is also the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol™, which currently is used by more than 2000 therapists to improve spontaneous social engagement, to reduce hearing sensitivities, and to improve language processing, state regulation, and spontaneous social engagement.


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