Stephen Porges Polyvagal theory is one of the most important developments in human neurobiology. It provides a comprehensive overview of how our autonomic nervous system is shaped by early relationships and with ongoing life experiences.
Helping clients understand the physiology behind trauma responses such as 'fight or flight' and 'freeze or collapse' can set the stage for introducing the concept of self-regulation and co-regulation. If relationships are experienced as dangerous, it is imperative the therapist provides a safe place of co-regulation to begin the process of autonomic reorganisation. Clients, however, require ongoing practice between sessions to consolidate therapy gains and improve their ability to regulate when stressed or 'triggered'.
The Polyvagal Theory and Trauma Bundle consists of 5 vibrant, easy-to-use client handouts:
Handout 1 explains the concept of Polyvagal Theory and the three survival responses designed to meet the human needs of connection and survival.
Handout 2 addresses the concept of neuroception and how we unconsciously and continuously seek cues of safety or danger. It also demonstrates how disrupted interpersonal connection in early childhood can lead to protection ('fight or flight') or disconnection ('freeze') responses. Furthermore, trauma may cause someone to become stuck in a state of protection and/or disconnection.
Handout 3 further describes the three autonomic states including the impact on one's physiology (great as a visual prompt to be used during session and as a take home reminder).
Handout 4 is a worksheet that aims to bring awareness to the three autonomic states. Without connecting to our bodies and learning to detect shifts in physiology, we remain unconscious and unaware, at the whim of our body's autonomic processes. Making that which is implicit, explicit is a fundamental step in helping clients recognise and navigate the three autonomic states.
Finally, Handout 5 is a worksheet that assists clients to identify 'triggers' and brainstorm activities, or actions required to help them move up the autonomic hierarchy to a calm regulated state.
All handouts are A4 size with 25 sheets. Fantastic for clients to use as take-home prompts, encouraging further practice, contemplation and exploration. The handouts also assist in generating content to discuss in future sessions.
Clients love our resources, and you will too!
Pairs fantastically with the Window of Tolerance Handout Bundle.