09 Aug Clinical Conversations
This summer, I participated in a webinar about the relationship between the body and mind. The presentation, Clinical Conversations: Exploring Polyvagal Theory, Interpersonal Neurobiology, and the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) with Dr. Stephen Porges, author of Polyvagal Theory and creator of the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP), and in conversation with Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, NY Times Best Selling Author, clinician, SSP Provider, and mom to three boys, was a special invitation!
Over the years, as an educator with many roles for support, I have learned the importance of our behaviors and honoring our nervous system. When a student is anxious or distressed, the physical symptoms and behavior patterns often illustrate concern (in many observations) to a teacher, school administrator, other caring adult, or peer. I wanted to engage further in the study of interpersonal neurobiology because I became a Certified Professional Life Coach, and writing my first book was to support the Student Journey.
To understand anyone’s journey, we need to understand what Drs. Porges and Bryson examined the power of neuroception – the neural circuits that allow our bodies to tell us whether an environment is safe or dangerous. As a school learning specialist, we would call this “your spitty sense or inner voice” What is your body telling you right now?
This is powerful as it occurs outside our conscious thought. When do we shift the brain to observe what we feel? What is your body telling you right now? And what tools do you have access to to support your connection to your body? This is creating a foundation of support to engage in a healthy framework and conversation to build effective coping strategies.
The importance of identifying and coaching our students, especially for college readiness and beyond, to be aware of their bodies they may have a sophisticated system to observe, look, see, and tell the truth, then they may use the right tools for them, willing to take authentic action.
As Drs. Portage and Byrson shared; clearly, we can apply any theory or skill when we are safe and sound, emphasizing to the professional community in the webinar.
The brain is adaptable and teachable at any stage in life. If we coach students on how to be aware and listen to their bodies, to communicate with them as a powerful tool, we may have more success toward healing, as it is the function of our health and wellness. This could open the pathway toward transformation, allowing us to create and operate the next set of tools for proper treatment and support.
The Student’s Toolbox for Success is a journey that starts with learning and listening to one’s body as a primary tool for survival. This is perhaps why eating disorders and self-harm has increased significantly in our youth, living in a post-pandemic area with an awareness of the connection between the body and mind. When humans do not have control over their outcomes from psychological suffering, the threat is internalized and our coping tool may be an eating disorder or substance use abuse to reflect what the nervous system is communicating.
After science specifics, Dr. Porges said after a sweet pause, “We don’t know what the world could be like if we were safe enough to be who we are,” this resonated deeply with me. The student’s health and wellness before connection and learning have been the center of my life’s work. As an “educational first responder,” the title I gave myself years ago facing California wildfires and the pandemic of Covid-19 as an educator and parent of two, made it clear to me that the neuroception was essential to our understanding and integrating support for the Student’s Journey.
I am writing and researching my book, Understanding Me A Modern Girl’s Guide to Managing Her Neurodiversity with Grit & Grace, a self-support guide for teens and young adults that is kind, responsible, research-based focused on the Student’s Journey. I wanted to learn more about treatment and its effectiveness, as many students have a variety of access to support for academic, medical, and psychological wellness. Some students have access to many supports, and others have limited access and support for many reasons including financial, personal circumstances, and to family culture or values. Yet, knowing the importance of our body and what is communicated to us about our safety and level of security depends on the roots of our central nervous system.
It is a modern life skill to know how to listen to your body and have self-compassion. To be familiar with when our body signals to us, as it will naturally communicate to us. If we, or your child, do not know how to fully engage toward a respectful path forward, treating our bodies and minds with compassion and care, we can face incredible hardship.
Our body helps us communicate our safety or defense (i.e., illness, surgery, our biology is disrupted), leading to an opening up of our vulnerability (safe to be willing to learn and practice new tools for clarity, focus, ease, and grace), which may create a space for healing, repair, and growth.
We know about the power of trauma-informed treatment supported by the research that we need to be safe enough to be safe in the arms of another to feel and have a human connection as our support system, one of life’s six energies, support. Dr. Porges continued, “We need to support our children to learn how to sit in a safe body and to do that, we need to build awareness.” As a Student Life Coach, and former school learning specialist, building strength-based skills that include awareness and mindfulness is essential to one’s modern-day coping strategies, also known as Modern Life Skills for Teens.
We need to build longevity tools and practice skills to:
- Honor the wisdom of my body.
- Use the power of energy to read my body.
- Be aware that the brain can change throughout the lifespan.
- We need tools that will work across the lifespan.
I could not think of a better way to approach this new college admissions season, for the Class of 2024, my 15th season as an Independent Educational Consultant. In our modern history, bringing the body into psychotherapy was a turning point with a new focus on mindfulness and meditation, developing our spirituality and well-being skills with an emphasis on safety and security. Drs. Porges and Bryson were clear about the lens of interpersonal neurobiology, including the mind, brain, and interpersonal relationships essential to our purpose and desired outcomes.