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

Emily Prusator, LCSW, LICSW, 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.

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 Break
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 Lunch
1:00-2:00 PM Vagus nerve theory overview and the impact of trauma upon the nervous system
2:00-2:15 PM Vagus nerve in assessment
2:15 -2:30 PM Break
2:30-3:45 PM Vagus nerve interventions
3:45-4:00 PM Summary/closing exercise/questions & Answers

Course Objectives

  • Define the window of tolerance that play therapists might encounter in their work, through the lenses of arousal states and the polyvagal theory.
  • Explain and contextualize the window of tolerance so that play therapists understand how it manifests across the developmental spectrum.
  • Provide three play-based interventions to explore their own window of tolerance.
  • 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.
  • List 3 techniques play therapists can employ with children and teens to assess vagal nerve tone.
  • State at least 3 play therapy interventions that can be used with children and teens to stimulate and tone the vagus nerve.

General Course Information

This course is limited to 10 in-person participants and 10 virtual participants. 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 workshop. 

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 Beginner Level

This event is sponsored by Starbright Training Institute.  (APT Provider No. 96-029).  

Myriam Goldin, LCSW; RPT-S, is Director of Starbright Training Institute.  Phone:  703-980-2886.  Email:   Web Page:


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. 

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

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

Course Instructor Contact Information

Name: Emily Prusator & Jennifer Hannett



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

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

Starbright Training Institute

8626 Lee Highway

Suite 200

Fairfax, VA   22031