All the practitioners and authors listed below are professionals who currently work with Dr. Porges and adhere to his Polyvagal Theory.
- The Body Keeps Scoreby Bessel Van der Kolk, MD
This is the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of trauma. After searching 30 years for an explanation about what had happened to me and how to find an effective treatment for my own trauma, I finally found this book. It was, in many ways, a difficult book to read, but at the same time, there was finally someone who understood both scientifically and emotionally what I had experienced. I felt in my gut that I found a map that would lead me to the place of peace and safety inside myself that I had been seeking for so long. Not only is Dr. Van der Kolk an excellent writer, but he is also amazingly knowledgeable and compassionate.
(Note, you might want to skip over his unedited case studies because the details can be overwhelming and even triggering to some people.)
His website is also full of great resources:https://besselvanderkolk.net/index.html
- Neurofeedback (NFB)
Also called neurotherapy or neurofeedback, NFB is a type of biofeedback that is used to teach self-regulation of brain function. Typically, sensors are placed on the scalp to measure activity, with measurements and feedback coming from video displays or sound.
In The Body Keeps Score, listed above, Dr. Van der Kolk states that in his whole career he has never seen anything more effective in helping traumatized people recover function and the ability to live a fulfilling life than with the use of neurofeedback. He says this is especially true of patients with developmental trauma.
I discovered his book in 2017, and after reading it, I did an internet search for a practitioner in my area and found Brigitte Essl, European MD, MA, DC in Mill Valley, CA. She uses a form of neurofeedback called the Low Energy Neurofeedback System (LENS).
Dr. Essl recommended that I see her colleague Jeffery Rockwell, DC who practices dermoneuromodulation (DNM). She told me that patients simultaneously treated with both LENS and DNM can experience faster results. After ten months of treatments, I’ve seen improvements in my mental focus, flexibility, organization skill and creativity, and a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
(See resource # 3 for a description of this technique.)
To contact Dr. Essl: http://www.essl.pro/
To contact Dr. Rockwell (831) 454-6924, firstname.lastname@example.org. He practices in Santa Cruz and Mill Valley, CA
To find out more about LENS or to find a therapist in your area:https://www.site.ochslabs.com/
There are many forms of neurofeedback to choose fromhttps://www.eeginfo.com/what-is-neurofeedback.jsp
- Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Calming the Fear-Driven Brainby Sebern F. Fisher, MA
This very readable book explains how neurofeedback works. Ms. Fisher is the practitioner who introduced Dr. Van der Kolk to this method.
- Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve: Self-Help Exercises for Anxiety, Depression, Trauma and Autism by Stanley Rosenberg
This practical guide to understanding the cranial nerves as the key to our psychological and physical well-being builds on Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory. Craniosacral therapist and Rolfer Stanley Rosenberg explores the crucial role that the vagus nerve plays in determining our psychological and emotional states and explains that many common mental and physical symptoms—from anxiety and depression to migraines and back pain—come from a dysfunction of the vagus nerve.
The self-help exercises in this book are simple and easy to apply to your daily life. Before I found this book, I had been doing similar exercises that I learned from Dr. Rockwell. Doing them on a regular basis will enhance your recovery, and I highly recommend using them in conjunction with the other resources I’ve listed here to speed up the engagement of your social nervous system.
To find a practitioner in your area who offers DNM:
- Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Bodyby Peter Levin, PhD
This short, easy to understand book includes exercises that can be done at home so you can start the process of turning on your social nervous system by connecting to and responding to your body sensations.
- The Somatic Experiencing® method
This is the method described in the book listed above. I’ve taken courses on the subject for years for my benefit and the benefit of my clients. I consider the skills of body awareness that are taught by these practitioners to be foundational for anyone who wants to overcome trauma and chronic health issues. For more information or to find a practitioner:
- The Polyvagal Theory in Therapyby Deb Dana
This brand new book is on the cutting edge regarding the application of Dr. Porges’ theory in a therapeutic setting. Dana has worked closely for many years with Dr. Porges to craft this exciting approach. I felt that just reading it made me feel better. This book is not just for therapists—it is very accessible to anyone who would like to know more about how to build up the rhythm of regulation inyour own life. http://www.debdanalcsw.com/publications-and-interviews.php
For a list of therapists who are certified in Dana’s Rhythm of Regulation training:https://www.rhythmofregulation.com/resources/ROR%20Clinician%20List.pdf
- The Safe and Sound Protocol
Developed by Dr. Porges, the SSP is a five-day auditory intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing your social engagement system which will lead to more resilience. It also can speed up the results of other forms of therapy by making your nervous system more able to feel safe. This program resets your neurological perception (neuroception) by toning the muscles in your middle year. Even before I had completed the five-day program, I noticed a significant drop in my anxiety level and an increased ability to stay focused.
The Safe and Sound Protocol is available through my Corte Madera, CA, practice as of November 2018.https://westgatetherapy.com/
The following resources, although not directly connected to Dr. Porges’ work, are excellent resources for building and repairing the social nervous system:
- The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Class. This class was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to help people become more self-regulated and reduce unhealthy levels of stress. This class is taught all over the United States and is available in many hospitals. Some individuals with trauma may have trouble tolerating this level of self-awareness without first working with a therapist. https://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/mindfulness-based-programs/
Jon Kabat-Zinn also wrote the book, Full Catastrophe Living, which serves as a textbook for his course. It’s an excellent primer for the practice and benefits of mindfulness practice for health and happiness.
- Oren Jay Sofer is a meditation teacher based in San Francisco. He is the only meditation teacher I’ve worked with who understands how to integrate mindfulness with trauma and illness. I would recommend studying with him in person whenever possible, but his recorded talks are well worth your time.
These are some of his talks on pain and illness:https://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/248/?search=pain
His class on emotional resilience, found on the “10 percent happier” app, is the best meditation practice of its kind that I’ve ever studied.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that result from disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that with use of EMDR therapy people can more quickly experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to show effect.
When I was in my 20s, I worked with a therapist who utilized EMDR. After five two-hour sessions, my feelings of anxiety and depression almost completely disappeared and were replaced by a deep sense of ease. My ability to focus and my capacity to learn also improved dramatically.
Unfortunately, the results didn’t last. I didn’t understand why until I read The Body Keeps Score(resource #1 at the beginning of this resource list under Additional Valuable Resources). Dr. van der Kolk explains that EMDR works well for people who are traumatized, as adults but have no prior history with it. Forpeople like myself who have experienced developmental trauma, Neurofeedback Therapy is much more effective. http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/
- Why Isn’t My Brain Workingby Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC This book and the online course created from the book, Save Your Brain, completely turned my health around. After 30 years of searching, this book helped me understand why I kept hitting so many dead ends in my search for vibrant health. The book is also an excellent reference guide, but it’s the course that will teach you how to make it a part of your daily life.
I learned from Dr. Kharrazian that my brain, and the rest of my nervous system, was inflamed. When this happens, it disrupts the nerve cells from doing their job effectively. I took this online course two and a half years ago, and I firmly believe it set me up for faster and more sustainable results for every other therapy and approach that I’ve added since then.
This is especially true for people with an autoimmune disease. Learning how to protect your brain from inflammation and the tragic long-term consequences of brain decline, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, is why I recommend this program to everyone, even those of you who don’t have current cognitive challenges. https://brainhealthbook.com/
Dr. Kharrazian’s Save Your Brain course
- How to Change Your Mindby Michael Pollan Before I read this book, I thought that anyone considering the use of psychedelics for healing was looking for an excuse to screw off. Michael Pollan’s book helped me realize that my old view on these substances was bias based on government-driven hysteria and propaganda bolstered by the association I had formed due to my hippie parents who used these drugs recreationally when I was a child.
Also, before I read this book, I heard that the teaching hospital at San Francisco UCSF was conducting studies on the use of micro-doses of LSD in combination with psychotherapy to help people with PTSD and that the preliminary results are very promising. It astonished me that before LSD and psilocybin were made illegal in the United States, they were being studied in universities and used by thousands of psychotherapist and physiologists all over the world. They were treating mental illness, addiction, and trauma, with most reporting impressive results.
It may not be too long before psychedelics are legally prescribed under the supervision of a therapist or psychologist.