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Kinsey | Sexual Trauma and Polyvagal Theory is a Course

Kinsey | Sexual Trauma and Polyvagal Theory

1 credit

$30 Enroll

Full course description

About the Course

The global impact of trauma, especially sexual abuse, is a hidden epidemic. Trauma tends to be defined by experiencing events such as rape, automobile accident, abandonment, natural disasters, and other life-threatening situations. In contrast to this ‘event focused’ perspective, we will be discussing how an understanding of bodily reactions to life threat transforms the human narrative from a documentary (emphasizing events and objects) to a pragmatic quest for safety with an implicit bodily drive to survive (emphasizing feelings). With this perspective, we can have an informed understanding of the mental and physical health consequences following life threat experiences. By emphasizing the role of the nervous system in supporting survival, the narrative of the survivor moves from being victimized to being heroic. The model is dependent on the Polyvagal Theory, which provides a documented scientific explanation of the adaptive reactions of the autonomic nervous system to life threat. The model explains the range of responses following life threat events and provides insights into treatment models. In our discussion, we will discuss how life threat reactions in response to traumatic events including sexual and physical abuse and medical treatments impact on sexuality, health, and relationships.

The Kinsey Institute is a certified CE sponsor for the American Psychological Association. For questions related to the content in this course, please email Include the name of the course in the subject line of your message.

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe how polyvagal theory leads to an understanding of how the physiological state is related to sexual experience
  • Describe how polyvagal theory provides a bi-directional (bottom-up, top-down) approach to sexual health and sexual trauma recovery
  • Describe the neurobiology of safety and trust as a physiological substrate for sexuality
  • Explain how disruptions of trust in relationships lead to syndromic patterns of autonomic dysregulation in the human nervous system (Polyvagal Syndrome) and dysregulation in sexual function
  • Examine how clinically informed practices of witnessing feelings can help restore the embodiment of trust and enhance resilience
  • Explain how sexuality can serve as a “neural exercise” leading to moments of greater intimacy and trust

About the speakers

Photo of  Stephen W. Porges Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Kinsey Institute 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. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across several disciplines including anesthesiology, biomedical engineering, critical care medicine, ergonomics, exercise physiology, gerontology, neurology, neuroscience, obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, psychometrics, space medicine, and substance abuse.

Photo of Dr. Chris Walling

Dr. Chris Walling, PsyD, MBA is a licensed clinical psychologist, and an active leader in the biobehavioral sciences. His work integrates the developmental, neurobiological, and somatic aspects of the lifespan. Dr. Walling is the President of the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy, the hub of somatic psychology, and Associate-Deputy Editor for the International Body Psychotherapy Journal. His clinical focus in the behavioral sciences has examined the intersections of neuro-psychoanalysis, affect regulation, and body psychotherapy. Dr. Walling is a Clinical Associate at the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, California. He currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University and as Chairman of the Education Advisory Committee for the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation.


Length: 1 hour


Kinsey Institute


Credit: 1 credit


Audience: Public