Polyvagal Theory Informed Therapy

Polyvagal theory in psychotherapy offers co-regulation as an interactive process that engages the social nervous systems of both therapist and client. Social engagement provides experiences of mutuality and reciprocity in which we are open to receiving another person, as they are. For the client who was rejected in childhood, this moment of being received can be profoundly reparative.

Before offering any interventions aimed toward regulation, develop your understanding of the client’s current experience within the context of their developmental, social, and cultural history. For example, if they are angry, firmly validate why this anger makes sense in the context of their experiences in the world. Explore how it feels to nonjudgmentally accept them and yourself just as you are.

“The goal of regulating emotions is not to make feelings go away. Rather, the aim is to help clients build their capacity to ride the waves of big emotions and sensations. Initially, this occurs because they know that we are willing to join them in these difficult moments. In time, this process helps them learn that temporary experiences of contraction can resolve into a natural expansion of positive emotions such as relief, gratitude, empowerment, or joy.”

Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Source: Dr. Arielle Schwartz