The Polyvagal Theory

Stephen W Porges, PhD is Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He served as president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award.

Dr Porges has been studying the relation between the nervous system and behavior for over 30 years and has made great contributions to the fields of brain development as well as Autonomic Nervous System function. 

How Heart Rate Figures into Chronic Stress and Trauma Treatments

June 15, 2012
By Ruth Buczynski, PhD, President, NICABM

How can the body and its natural processes be tools for treating trauma?

The Polyvagal Theory helps us answer this question by explaining how people process their environment and how the body regulates itself in the face of stress and trauma. In the video below, Dr Porges, creator of the Polyvagal Theory, shares one way to apply the Polyvagal Theory when working with the body’s responses to traumatic triggers and stressful events.

As in Unified Therapy™, Dr Porges discusses using the mind-body connection to treat trauma, how the nervous system makes adjustments in the body in response to stress and the importance of Vagal regulation.


1:56 minutes

The Polyvagal Theory – Looking at Trauma through a New Lens

April 26, 2013
By Ruth Buczynski, PhD, President, NICABM

Can trauma haunt the body the same way it haunts memories?

According to Stephen Porges, PhD, not only does the body remember a traumatic experience, but it can actually get stuck in the trauma response mode.

So even when life becomes safe, the body still perceives danger and its defenses stay engaged.

Why does this happen and what can we do about it? Dr Porges shares a little background along with his own personal experience with this phenomenon – check it out, it’s less than 4 minutes.

3:34 minutes

In 1994, Dr Porges proposed The Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders.

For more information, please visit his website.