Human responses to trauma and abuse are devastating and compromise subsequent social behavior and emotion regulation. Understanding the mechanisms underlying the “hardwired” response to life threat, may demystify these debilitating consequences. The Polyvagal Theory provides a plausible explanation of how trauma experiences and chronic abuse disrupt homeostatic physiological processes and social behavior and how clinical treatments might be designed to remediate these problems when trauma distorts perception and displaces spontaneous social behaviors with defensive reactions.
This presentation will focus on the restorative power of understanding the adaptive function of stress reactions as an important adjunct to treatment. By deconstructing the biobehavioral features of stress reactions, both client and therapist are better informed in their journey to a successful outcome. The presentation will emphasize the role of “neuroception,” a neurophysiological process through which our nervous system evaluates risk in the environment, without awareness and often independent of a cognitive narrative. Trauma may reset neuroception to protect us from others when there is no “real” danger. The presentation will inform the therapist about how to assess the deleterious consequences of trauma-related experiences by understanding the adaptive psychological, behavioral, and health features of each of the three “Polyvagal” visceral response strategies (i.e., social engagement, mobilization, and immobilization ) and how successful therapeutic interventions promote a neuroception of safety with the consequential improvements in mental and physical health by enabling mobilization and immobilization to occur without fear.
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, and is a founder of the Polyvagal Institute. 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 400 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 more than 50,000 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), Polyvagal Safety (Norton, 2021), co-author with Seth Porges of Our Body Polyvagal World (Norton, 2023), and co-editor with Deb Dana of Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies (Norton, 2018). Dr. Porges is also the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol™, which currently is used by approximately 3,000 therapists to improve spontaneous social engagement, to reduce hearing sensitivities, and to improve language processing, state regulation, and spontaneous social engagement.
Financial: Dr. Stephen Porges has employment relationships with Indiana University Bloomington and the University of North Carolina. He receives royalties as a published author. Dr. Porges receives a speaking honorarium, book royalties, and recording royalties from PESI, Inc. He is a scientific advisor to Integrated Learning Systems/Unyte and receives a royalty. All relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations have been mitigated.
Non-financial: Dr. Stephen Porges is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for Psychophysiological Research. He holds a patent on Televagal equipment.
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