Trauma and Addiction with Jan Winhall

When: Wednesday, April 20 - 10:00 AM

Duration: 2 hours

Location: Zoom

Event Details:

During this important training, we heard about The Felt Sense Polyvagal Model™ (FSPM) and how it shifts the current pathologizing paradigm to a strength-based approach. Through the lens of Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal theory, addiction is seen as an adaptive stress response in our autonomic nervous system. Addictive behaviors are the body's attempt to emotionally regulate by acting as propellers that facilitate neurophysiological shifts in our nervous system. The model integrates Porges Polyvagal theory  and Gendlin’s Felt Sense Focusing Oriented Psychotherapy enabling us to appreciate trauma/addictive behaviors as adaptive responses in maladaptive environments. The FSPM provides a generic framework that can support any therapeutic modality.

The webinar presented an introduction to Jan's book Treating Trauma and Addiction with the Felt Sense Polyvagal Model, Routledge, 2021. Included is a description of the FSPM theoretical framework including a description of basic concepts in polyvagal theory. There is a brief introduction to The Embodied Assessment and Treatment Tool™ and we will use Carnes Three Circle Practice, a tool for working with addiction. Participants learn about Gendlin’s Focusing/Felt Sense practice. A mixture of didactic information, experiential practices, and case examples will guide the clinician in applying the model. This course is informative for those new to the field of trauma/addiction as well as seasoned practitioners.

Participants will learn :

  • A basic overview of polyvagal theory with description of the six states in the autonomic nervous system 
  • An introduction to The six steps of Focusing and how to apply it with clients.  
  • How to explain addiction through a polyvagal lens
  • How to apply the FSPM™ with children and families, engaging children with exercises that include Body Cards and a colourful basic model of the nervous system. 

About the Presenter:

Jan Winhall, MSW, RSW, FOT

Jan Winhall, MSW, RSW, FOT, began her career as a social worker and psychotherapist 40 years ago. She is the director of Focusing on Borden, a psychotherapy and training center, where she creates spaces and relationships built on  focusing-oriented practices to offer healing experiences for her clients. In addition, Jan teaches as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Toronto in the Department of Social  Work. 

During her career, Jan has observed the ways in which individuals utilize self-harming behaviors to seemingly escape intolerable emotional states. As a clinician encountering clients with compulsive, self-harming, and addictive behaviors in increasing numbers, Jan has focused her therapy on attempting to appeal to the addicted person, using the Polyvagal lens Theory. She has integrated the Polyvagal lens Theory to create a more sophisticated way of understanding emotional regulation, where addictive behavior is an embodied response to emotional dysregulation. In her book Treating Addiction with The Felt Sense Polyvagal Model: A Bottom Up Approach, Jan discusses assessing peoples’ capacity to self-regulate and co-regulate their physiological state with others. 

Other events in this series:

Fri, Mar 18 2022

Conversations with Dr. Tony featuring Jan Winhall- Trauma and Addiction

Location: Zoom


Addiction is often viewed as a disease that includes self-harming behavior.  However, addictive tendencies are often learned responses to escape trauma or emotional distress.