Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: 
Navigating the Nervous System

webinar time

Tuesday 4 September
9.00am – 10.30am AEST
Duration: 90 minutes


$143 ($130 +GST)

Inclusions: recording of the webinar made available after the session, a certificate of attendance with 1.5 CPD hours, any handouts as provided by the presenter

Webinar outline

We come into the world wired to connect.  Early experiences shape the nervous system.  Trauma interrupts the development of autonomic regulation and sidetracks the process of building the circuitry of safe connection.  Without intervention, adaptive survival responses become habitual autonomic patterns.  Pathways of connection are replaced with patterns of protection.  For many of our clients, states of fight, flight, and collapse are frequent, intense, and prolonged while the state of safety and connection is elusive.  Their autonomic nervous systems now respond in characteristic post-traumatic patterns of hyperarousal, hypervigilance, disconnection, and numbing.  With Polyvagal Theory we have a guide to use ongoing experiences to help our clients re-shape their systems and change the stories that are carried in their autonomic pathways.

The autonomic nervous system is the foundation upon which our lived experience is built.  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 lead our clients out of adaptive survival responses into the autonomically regulated state of safety that is necessary for successful treatment.

The autonomic nervous system powerfully defines our clients’ experiences of safety and influences their capacity for connection.  The way they move through the world—turning toward, backing away, sometimes connecting and other times isolating—is guided by this system.  Operating outside of conscious awareness, autonomic circuits assess safety and risk and initiate actions to navigate the challenges of daily living.

Polyvagal Theory offers a roadmap to help clients navigate their quest for safety and connection.

In this webinar we will:

  • Explore the three organizing principles of Polyvagal Theory and how to use them to guide clients in reshaping their systems.
    1. Hierarchy:  Three pathways of response work in a specific order and respond to challenges in predictable ways.  The three autonomic options are safe and social, mobilized fight or flight, and immobilized collapse, disconnection, dissociation.
    2. Neuroception:  Detection without awareness that happens beneath the cortex and outside of conscious thought.  This inner surveillance system monitors what happens in the body, in the environment, and in relationships with others.
    3. Co-regulation: Connection is a biological imperative - a need that must be met to sustain life.  Through reciprocal regulation we feel safe to move into connection and create relationships.
  • Introduce the “autonomic ladder” as a way for clients to get to know their autonomic states and monitor state shifts.
  • Consider ways clinicians can use individual elements of the social engagement system to send cues of safety
  • Identify practices that support clients in relaxing their habitual patterns of protection.
  • Identify practices that support clients in creating new patterns of connection.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the autonomic hierarchy and associated response patterns
  • Understand client responses through autonomic state and state shifts
  • Track client and clinician states of regulation and dysregulation
  • Identify ways to use co-regulating pathways in clinical sessions

Who should attend

Psychologists, counsellors, psychotherapists, coaches – any professional who is providing services online.




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