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Using the Polyvagal Theory to Foster Safety, Play, and Intimacy

  • Friday, May 15, 2020
  • 10:00 AM - 1:30 PM
  • Online ZOOM Webinar
  • 41


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Category 1. CEUs: 3.0 -- Participant certificates will qualify for Category I and will reflect the event was a live, real-time, interactive webinar

Presenter: Robert S. Seiler, Jr.


This presentation will provide an introduction to the Polyvagal Theory and present a simple, powerful exercise that therapists and clients can use to feel safer and connect more easily. We will explore how mammals assess and respond to risk, the parts of the autonomic nervous system that support our responses, and how our responses manifest in emotions and clinical symptoms. We will also explore Stanley Rosenberg’s Basic Exercise, a Polyvagal-informed, body-based approach to rebalancing the autonomic nervous system that fosters safety, play, and intimacy. Clinical uses of the exercise with individuals and couples will be presented. The material is suitable for clinicians of all levels of experience. At no charge, an optional, 1-hour, follow-up session will be offered to explore how participants are using the exercise with their clients.

Learning objectives:

  1. Name mammals' three responses to the perception of danger and life threat
  2. Name the parts of the autonomic nervous system activated with each response
  3. Describe the "felt sense" of activation of each system in language clients can use
  4. Describe how each system is activated when we experience anxiety, depression, dissociation, play, and intimacy
  5. Define "safety cues" and explain their role in fostering social engagement
  6. Demonstrate Stanley Rosenberg’s Basic Exercise
  7. Describe three effects of the Basic Exercise
  8. Describe several clinical uses of the Basic Exercise


  • 10:00-10:15 Introduction
  • 10:15-10:30 Neuroception: automatic, unconscious assessment of risk
  • 10:30-10:45 Three parts of the autonomic nervous system
  • 10:45-11:00 Three responses to assessed risk
  • 11:00-11:15 Hybrid states: play and intimacy
  • 11:15-11:30 Framing therapy in Polyvagal terms
  • 11:30-12:00 Break
  • 12:00-12:30 Stanley Rosenberg's Basic Exercise and its effects
  • 12:30-01:00 Clinical uses of the exercise
  • 01:00-01:30 Discussion and closing


Dana, Deb., The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy (Norton, 2018).

Porges, Stephen W., The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory (Norton, 2017).

Porges, Stephen W., and Deb Dana, eds., Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory (Norton, 2018).

Rosenberg, Stanley, Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve: Self-Help Exercises for Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, and Autism (North Atlantic Books, 2017).
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