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Clinical Applications of Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies

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What happens when a question sparks a search? When a curious mind latches onto a quest to find answers that make sense, not just at a cognitive level but also with a bodily resonance, so it feels right?

Well, if you’re Stephen W. Porges, you end up trying to understand how our physiology is related to our mental and behavioral states and then, with data in hand, you propose the Polyvagal Theory (1994), which links the evolution of the vertebrate autonomic nervous system to the emergence of social behavior.

According to Porges, Polyvagal Theory was generated as an expansive brain-body model that emphasized the bidirectional communication between the brain and the body. He proposed his theory as a structure to generate testable hypotheses and to stimulate research. He never considered clinical applications in terms of mental health; yet, clinicians have flocked to his workshops, his writings. They are drawn to the man and his theory. And at those trainings and webinars, meetings and symposiums, workshops and academic gatherings, repetitive requests resulted in two cohesive themes: make the academics more user-friendly and give us clinical examples—how can we better grasp the Polyvagal Theory and how does it integrate into what we do with our clients?

In response, Dr. Porges (2017) wrote The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: the Transformative Power of Feeling Safe (see our review in the Winter 2018 issue, volume 7, number 3, page 30). The Pocket Guide uses a more conversational approach, revised interviews actually so the text was originally created for therapists listening to Porges rather than reading his content that was original intended for academics and researchers. Addressing the need for clinical examples was not quite as simple. Being an ethical scientist/researcher, comfortable with data and such, Dr. Porges knew his limitations. He was more than able to discuss clinical case presentations, deconstruct said presentations into constructs described by the theory but not being a therapist presented a challenge. So, he reached out to colleagues who were practicing therapists, some originators of their own methodological approaches others immersed in creating weaves of various approaches including a Polyvagal perspective. The result is his newest co-edited anthology, Clinical Applications of Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies.

To read our entire review, please CLICK HERE

To read an excerpt: Excerpted from Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory © 2018 Stephen W. Porges. Used with the permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company.

The following is the chapter: “Polyvagal Theory: A Primer.” CLICK HERE

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