Introduction to Polyvagal Theory: Play Therapy and other Creative Interventions for Exploring and Expanding the Window of Tolerance with Children, Teens, and Adults

Jennifer Hannett, LCSW, RPT

Program Goals:

Clients who have experienced trauma often describe feeling “on edge” or “shut down,” an indication they are functioning outside of their window of tolerance. This training will provide participants with a framework for helping clients understand their window of tolerance through the lenses of arousal states and the polyvagal theory. Participants will have opportunities to engage in expressive therapy interventions to explore their window of tolerance and practice strategies for incorporating polyvagal theory into clinical practice through movement, yoga, breath work, and mind-body exercises that promote Vagus nerve stimulation. This training will be interactive and experiential, allowing participants to engage in a wide range of activities and interventions to deepen knowledge and confidence in applying polyvagal theory in assessment and intervention with children, teens, and adults.


The specific objectives of this course are for participants to gain and demonstrate the following content areas:

  1. Define the window of tolerance that play therapists might encounter in their work, through the lenses of arousal states and the polyvagal theory.
  2. Explain and contextualize the window of tolerance so that play therapists understand how it manifests across the developmental spectrum.
  3. Provide three play-based interventions to explore their own window of tolerance.
  4. Describe a rationale for applying principles of Polyvagal theory so that play therapists and other mental health professionals can support emotional regulation in the playroom.
  5. List 3 techniques play therapists can employ with children and teens to assess vagal nerve tone.
  6. State at least 3 play therapy interventions that can be used with children and teens to stimulate and tone the vagus nerve.

Program Schedule:

This 6-hour workshop will be interactive and hands-on with participants engaging in a wide range of practical exercises and expressive arts to deepen understanding and application of theory to clinical practice. It will include various learning strategies, such as didactic presentations, experiential work, and processing clinical case material.

9:00- 10:30 AM
Presentation introduction, Agenda review, & didactic presentation of a framework for conceptualizing the window of tolerance

10:30-10:45 AM


10:45-11:30 AM

Window of Tolerance Interventions

11:30 -12:30 PM

Expressive experiential activity related to window of tolerance

12:30 -1:00 PM


1:00-2:00 PM

Vagus nerve theory overview and the impact of trauma upon the nervous system

2:15 -2:30 PM


​​2:30-3:45 PM

Vagus nerve interventions

3:45-4:00 PM

Summary/closing exercise/questions & Answers

References (Listing must include at least 4 references from journals from the last 10 years)

Dana, D. (2018). The Polyvagal theory in therapy: engaging the rhythm of regulation (Norton series on interpersonal neurobiology). WW Norton & Company.

Dezelic, M. (2013). Window of tolerance-trauma/anxiety-related responses: widening the comfort zone for increased flexibility.

Finn, H., Warner, E., Price, M., & Spinazzola, J. (2018). The boy who was hit in the face: Somatic regulation and processing of preverbal complex trauma. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 11(3), 277-288.

Fisher, J. (2019). Sensorimotor psychotherapy in the treatment of trauma. Practice Innovations, 4(3), 156.

Levine, P. A. (1997). Waking the tiger: Healing trauma: The innate capacity to transform overwhelming experiences. North Atlantic Books.

Ogden, P., Minton, K., & Pain, C. (2006). Trauma and the body: A sensorimotor approach to psychotherapy (norton series on interpersonal neurobiology). WW Norton & Company.

Porges, S. W., & Dana, D. (2018). Clinical applications of the polyvagal theory: The emergence of polyvagal-informed therapies (Norton series on interpersonal neurobiology). WW Norton & Company.

Porges, S. W. (2017). The pocket guide to the polyvagal theory: The transformative power of feeling safe. WW Norton & Co.

Porges S.W, Doussard-Roosevelt JA, Maiti AK. (1994). Vagal tone and the physiological regulation of emotion. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev,59(2-3):167-86. PMID: 7984159.

Siegel, D. J. (2012). The developing mind: Toward a neurobiology of interpersonal experience, 2nd ed. Guilford Press.

Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2011). The whole-brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child's developing mind. Random House Digital, Inc.

Warner, E., Spinazzola, J., Westcott, A., Gunn, C., & Hodgdon, H. (2014). The body can change the score: Empirical support for somatic regulation in the treatment of traumatized adolescents. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 7(4), 237-246.

Warner, E., Finn, H., Wescott, A., & Cook, A. (2020). Transforming trauma in children and adolescents: An embodied approach to somatic regulation, trauma processing, and attachment-building. North Atlantic Books.

General Course Information

This course is limited to 10 in-person participants and 10 virtual participants (Hybrid Model). It  is designed to facilitate experiential work, group discussion, and processing of clinical material.  Participants will have ample opportunity to discuss their specific needs and clinical questions.  Participant feedback will be sought out throughout the day.

Clinical case discussions will adhere to HIPPA regulations regarding client confidentiality.

Target audience is Mental Health Professionals: Social Workers, Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed marriage and Family Therapists.

The program is Beginning Level

This event is sponsored by Starbright Training Institute.  Starbright Training Institute is approved by the Association for Play Therapy to offer continuing education specific to play therapy (APT Approved Provider No. 96-029).

Myriam Goldin, LCSW; RPT-S, is Director of Starbright Training Institute.  Phone:  703-679-7054.  Email:   Web Page:

Grievance Policy

STI seeks to ensure equitable treatment of every person and to make every attempt to resolve grievances in a fair manner. Please submit a written grievance to: Myriam Goldin, LCSW; RPT-S, Director of Starbright Training Institute.  Phone:  703-980-2886.  Email:   Web Page:

Grievances would receive, to the best of our ability, corrective action in order to prevent further problems.

Accommodations for the Differently Abled

Starbright Training Institute’s training facilities are handicap accessible. Individuals needing special accommodations please contact the Director of Starbright Training Institute. See contact information above.

There is no known commercial support nor conflict of interest for this program.

Course Instructor Contact Information

Name: Emily Prusator & Jennifer Hannett


Email: &

Phone: 703-957-8573 or 703-980-2738


As an APT approved provider of play therapy credit contact hours, Starbright Training Institute is committed to the identification and resolution of potential conflicts of interest in the planning, promotion, delivery, and evaluation of continuing education programs provided by Starbright Training Institute.  Potential conflicts of interest occur when an individual assumes a professional role in the planning, promotion, delivery, or evaluation of the continuing education program where personal, professional, legal, financial, or other interests could reasonably be expected to impair his or her objectivity, competency, or effectiveness.

Starbright Training  Institute requires that professionals participating in the planning and delivery of continuing education identify any potential conflict of interest they may have in the review, selection, development, delivery, and/or evaluation of that program and disclose the conflict to both the owners of Starbright Training  Institute in writing and the conference participants at the start of the conference.

The Presenters, Emily Prusator, LICSW, RPT & Jennifer Hannett, LCSW, RPT are responsible to identify, declare, and resolve potential conflicts of interest that she may have in offering this continuing education program.  In the event of a conflict of interest, the presenters will assume responsibility to resolve the potential conflict and will notify Starbright Training Institute in writing no later than 30 days from the signing of this agreement of any potential conflicts of interest.

If a significant conflict of interest is identified that causes Starbright Training  Institute to believe that the integrity of the program is in question or that it no longer meets the APT provider standards, then Starbright Training  Institute will cancel the workshop.