Polyvagal Informed Coaching & Counseling
Polyvagal Informed work takes into account the body's reaction to stress. In sessions where polyvagal approaches are used, you will learn how to manage your nervous system responses – shut down, fight or flight and safety – by becoming more aware of what it feels like to shift between states in response to your environment.
You will learn not only to notice your shifts, but to take ownership of them and be able to influence how and where you are on the Polyvagal Ladder.
There are a number of exercises and activities that can be used in or outside of session to empower you to befriend your states so that you have more control over your responses to things that used to trigger automatic reactions from you. By understanding the influence of polyvagal theory on our nervous system responses and learning how to recognize and shift states you will experience dramatic improvements in both your mood and your ability to function.
How is Polyvagal Informed work different than talk therapy?
Polyvagal informed work acknowledges that you aren't feeling the way you are in a vacuum. There is usually something in your environment that your body recognizes is not safe. Polyvagal theory teaches us how to appropriately interpret cues from our environment and react accordingly. Understanding polyvagal theory can have a positive impact on your response to treatment by offering you further understanding of how your body has adapted to learn to survive. Polyvagal approaches can be used in conjunction with other forms of coaching and counseling.
And unlike many talk therapies, it's not suggesting that you can change how you feel by simply "thinking better." Polyvagal Informed work acknowledges the very real stresses and dangers around you that make it difficult to feel connected, relaxed, and safe and gives you the tools to address them or better manage them.
By recognising what state you are in at any given moment, and understanding how you shift between states, you can change your state so you can feel connected and safer more of the time. You can feel less hopeless when you’re in the dorsal vagal shut down state, as you’ll know ways to help yourself out of it. You can also more easily enlist the help of others in this, since as mammals we need connection with others to feel safe.
This work is especially relevant for those with trauma in their background. A trauma history often creates a hyper- or hypo-vigilant state, where either one is scanning for safety all of the time, and one can interpret neutral events or interactions as threatening ones, or one is shut down and depressed. This is a natural result of trauma as our nervous systems have had to protect us against danger, and have now got used to that protection mode. The good news is that through positive connections (and possibly some therapy) we can help retrain the nervous system to be able to relax and feel safe.
Korenna integrates embodied polyvagal into her sessions whenever applicable, helping you to regulate your nervous system states to give you more space and more choice in how you perceive and respond to the world around you.
What happens in a Polyvagal Theory session?
Using polyvagal therapy, the therapist and client will initially explore the reasons that the client reached out for help. Typically, before the sessions focus on physiology or neural systems, the client will talk about their backgrounds, symptoms, and mental health goals. This includes sharing any traumatic experiences such as toxic relationships, abuse, accidents, complicated medical situations, and more. Gathering this information not only helps the therapist better plan for treatment, but also offers an opportunity for bonding between the therapist and client. This will come into play when the client practices activating the body system related to social interaction.
Clients learn how to become aware of their body’s reactions. They’ll monitor how they feel throughout their daily routines, reporting back to their therapist any instances of activation. This could look like elevated heart rate or sweaty palms.
Therapists will also watch for these cues that their clients feel stress, such as watching facial expressions or body language. These signs indicate that the body’s fight, flight, or freeze response has been triggered.
Clients will also learn breathing techniques that help in times of stress. As they process through painful memories of their trauma, therapists will encourage them to use these techniques to calm down the body. Therapists also engage the client in positive feelings of connection to help them break free from their “frozen” state.