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Continuing Education

[Online] Applying Polyvagal Work to Intercultural Skills and Decreasing Polarization

Date: 9:00am PST January 30, 2021 Location: Online


Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges is often referred to as the neuroscience of safety and connection, and a core component of trauma work. Neuroscience in trauma therapy has exploded in the past twenty years, helping us to better understand our experiences, emotions, relationships, communication, and ability to cope in more nuanced ways. However, when the brain and the nervous system do not agree, the nervous system will win every time (Dana, 2020). Therefore, studying our nervous system as an access point tends to increase our ability to be effective during challenging life circumstances.

But what if we applied the concepts of Polyvagal theory to intercultural work? Could it help decrease the “us versus them” attitudes of polarization? Could it help us in difficult conversations about difference? Could it help us with key intercultural skills? Learning a Polyvagal approach can support our ability to connect across differences, which is essential for diversity work. It is challenging to do effective intercultural and social justice work without a more embodied approach to self-awareness; it should be seen as foundational.

In this online workshop, we will review essential Polyvagal concepts and then apply them to intercultural work, decreasing polarization, and difficult conversations. There will be demonstrations of coping strategies to regulate our specific nervous system state and a self-awareness exercise, as well as practice applying the concepts.

The online workshop will include a mixture of presentation, demonstrations, experiential exercises, and small group discussions.

Following this workshop, participants will have the ability to:

  • Describe the three levels of the Polyvagal ladder by Deb Dana
  • Demonstrate at least five strategies to regulate your specific nervous system state
  • Discuss why the nervous system is an especially effective access point for resourcing and emotion regulation
  • Describe the most important intercultural skill’s connection to Polyvagal theory
  • Apply Polyvagal work to polarization and difficult conversations
  • Discuss how Polyvagal theory may relate to at least two other intercultural skills or concepts

Workshop Details & Registration

Date: Saturday, January 30, 2021, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Instructor: Cheryl Forster, PsyD

Cost: $60, includes 3 CEUs or PDUs. Lewis & Clark Alumni, Adjunct Faculty and Lewis & Clark School-based Mentors and Supervisors save 20%. Free for Lewis & Clark Clinical Supervisors. $30 student rate.

Online registration for this workshop will close Friday, January 22nd

Register now

  • We are committed to making our events accessible to all needs and abilities. When registering, let us know your access needs. Please contact us at 503-768-6040 or with questions.

    Please note: Discounted ‘Student Rate’ registrations are for current students only and do not include continuing education credit (CEU/PDUs)


About the Presenter

As a psychologist and an Asian-American woman, Cheryl Forster brings a strong and unique set of skills to her work as an intercultural trainer. Her subject matter expertise, love of learning, and warmth come across in her workshops. Cheryl graduated from Tufts University with her master’s in applied developmental psychology, and earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from Pacific University. Some of her post-graduate study highlights include an Intercultural Practitioner Certificate from the highly respected Intercultural Communication Institute, becoming a Certified Advanced Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Facilitator (all-in-all, she has completed over 650 hours of training in intercultural communication with many of the leaders in the field), and completing specialized training in EMDR, interpersonal neurobiology, Polyvagal theory, and asylum immigration assessments. Since 2004, she has worked at Portland State University’s (PSU) Center for Student Health and Counseling, where she is the Coordinator of Diversity and Psychology Programs. She is a former Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies’ (ACCTA) Diversity Scholar, and served on the ACCTA Board of Directors (2017 to 2019). Moreover, she taught a class at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in 2018, and is a contributing author in The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence (2015). Her commitment to the learning process led her to establish her professional intercultural training and development business, called Bookmark Connections.


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