Addiction from the Bottom Up: A Felt Sense Polyvagal Model of Addiction

Reaching beyond the western, post Descartes view of mind/body duality as distorted and harmful, I have explored alternative ways of experiencing and conceptualizing the body. I think this is critical when working with addiction because our current understanding and treatment of addiction reflect this disembodied view—addiction is seen as a malfunctioning of our computer-like brains. But the current brain disease model is failing us. Rates are soaring. People are dying in the streets. We can and must do better than this. To approach addiction from a new perspective, I created a model to conceptualize and treat addiction: The Felt Sense Polyvagal Model (FSPM).


Take a Tool and Run with Dr. Heather Corwin

TR 13: In this March 2020 “Take a Tool and Run!”, we explore sensations to increase awareness, an emotional cuing tool. Body sensations have a direct relationship with emotions, so beginning with basic noticing is a terrific beginning for many of our clients to identify sensations. This can grow to then investigate how those sensations translate into emotions. There is debate about whether emotional mapping originates from cognitive or psychophysiological (Keysers & Gazzola, 2009), but the somatic marker theory contends the sensations become how we map our emotions (Bechara, H. Damasio, & A. R. Damasio, 2000; Damasio, 1994). In 2014, Nummenmaa, Glerean, Hari, & Hietanen conducted a cross-cultural study that identified areas of the body hold sensations that translate to specific emotions, which tells us that this sensation to emotion understanding is a human way of being. Let’s help our clients explore their inner world through sensation to translate and make more clear their individual experience.

-Dr. Heather Corwin More can be found at

Dr. Heather Corwin’s Take a Tool and Run is a monthly vlog that offers quick and effective tools to share somatic centering practices.



Michael Ostrolenk is a licensed psychotherapist who completed his MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at John F. Kennedy University and did post-graduate studies in somatic psychology at the California Institute for Integral Studies .  He is certified in Spiral Dynamics and Wade Mindsets.  Michael is Head Instructor  for SEALFIT’s Unbeatable Mind Academy as well as a personal development coach. Michael is also the host of #ORadio , a podcast which explores individual and social transformation.

Ostrolenk speaks with Dr. Amber Elizabeth Lynn Gray, an award winning dance movement therapist and a somatic/human rights psychotherapist. Dr. Gray has worked for many years with people who have survived human rights abuses, war, and torture. Dr. Gray details how various educational and career experiences, and ultimately her time in Rwanda, drove her decision to pursue her degree in Somatic Psychology and Dance/Movement Therapy. Dr. Gray details her creation of Restorative Movement Psychotherapy, a clinical counterpart of the Poto Mitan IHaitian Creole for “Center Post/Place) Trauma and Resiliency framework, and how her experiences have evolved her view of the body politic and the ways in which we dehumanize the body. The intersection of spirituality and science, of humans and the Earth, and humans and animals are a few of the spaces in which Dr. Gray is increasing her work. To learn more about Dr. Gray, and her numerous programs, visit her website and visit her on facebook at


The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last

Oncologist Azra Raza’s The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last presents an innovative perspective on the ongoing war on cancer. Drawing from both personal narrative and cutting-edge research, Dr. Raza underlines the importance of early detection and lends an empowering voice to the suffering of cancer patients.

Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes that Stick

Wendy Wood’s Good Habits, Bad Habits reflects her explanation of the subject of habit formation. Integrating her own research along with other scientific studies, Wood attempts to explain why bad habits are so hard to break and why good habits are so hard to sustain. Wood provides readers with an understanding of both the evolution of research regarding behavior change along with a look into how they can implement habit changing strategies in their own lives.

In the Bleak Mid Winter

My Mum recently asked my partner and I what we were doing for Christmas. I was slightly surprised to find myself announcing that I was cancelling Christmas this year. Here we were, together in late summer, celebrating my stepdad’s 70th birthday. I was more than happy to get together, to mark midwinter, to mark the passing year, maybe, but I had no desire to mark the 25th December.

A Somatic Strategy for the Holiday Season

Our ideas of how the holidays should go can be a sticky combination of tradition, experience, marketing, and . . . fiction. Year after year I see my clients reflect the stresses of the season as old issues surface and old patterns take hold. Just around the corner from Halloween, the body starts to brace for the inevitable and resiliency disappears. Conflicting feelings of anticipation and anxiety show up in the body as a tangle of shoulder-neck-jaw tension, low back pain, random injuries, and general uptightness. In order to extend the good work beyond our ninety- minute session, I’ve developed a simple somatic strategy to change the holiday dynamic.

Life Notes: Always Home for the Holidays

“When I was a child, Christmas happened on Christmas Eve. Mom, dad, sister, and I piled into the car and drove around the empty streets looking for Rudolf’s nose. I remember the silence illuminated by twinkling Christmas trees in windows and the slow, steady headlamps of whatever Chrysler dad was driving that year. But we were looking for the special light. The red one. Since we lived beneath the flightpath of the San Jose airport, it was not hard to find red blinking lights in the sky. Every year the question remained, “Which one is Rudolf’s nose?” It didn’t matter. My sister, Jenny, and I usually pointed one out and exclaimed, "There it is!" Mom and dad always answered with, “Let’s drive around a bit more, look at the neighborhood Christmas lights to give Santa time to bring your presents.” We did not complain because we knew that gifts were waiting under the tree when we returned home. It was like magic.

Open the Gift of Mindful Awareness

It’s already starting. Holiday decorations are showing up at the stores, music is playing at the mall, pumpkin lattes abound. The cultural and familial buildup to this season is magnified every year and, for many people, becomes totally overwhelming. The experience of “too much” can replicate traumatic overwhelm in our nervous system, creating a whole season of nervous system dysregulation. This dysregulation then creates heightened emotions and reactivity (“What!? They didn’t make a vegan pumpkin pie??!”), depression and anxiety (“They don’t like my gift or I have to get the perfect gift”) and often a desire to literally escape the season’s events (fleeing by not going to the party) or a desire to dissociate (fleeing by leaving your body - I’ll just be on my phone for the whole dinner). How can we assist our clients and ourselves in navigating this extended stressful season?


RSS Relational Implicit: Conversations on Psychotherapy

  • Volunteer to help people support each other in this crisis April 1, 2020
    With the pandemic, people have to avoid unnecessary contact. Social distancing dramatically affects people’s ability to find comfort in connection. We cannot directly give emotional support to all who need it. But we can teach people simple tools they can use to support each other. See what you can do about it below the video. […]
    Relational Implicit
  • Stephen Porges: Countering the effects of social distancing March 18, 2020
    Social distancing and separation are a big part of what is needed to deal with the pandemic. In this short conversation, we talk about how to counter their effects: we still need to be sensitive to our nervous system’s need to socially engage and connect. Below the video, you will find a transcript. You can […]
    Relational Implicit

Relational Mindfulness with Serge Prengel

Embodied Spirituality

In my work, I am accustomed to thinking in terms of embodied experience. That is, mind and body are not separate entities. I think of the mind as an emerging property of the human organism. Where does the notion of spirituality fit with this kind of outlook? The word "spirituality" refers to "spirit". Traditionally, spirit is seen as immaterial, the opposite of flesh and blood. It is what animates the body, gives it life. In many traditions, it is something that leaves the body after death, and continues to live on its own once disembodied. So, essentially, the word "spirit" evokes the very opposite of "embodiment." There is such a chasm between these two notions that it makes it hard to conceive that they could be integrated. Indeed, if you only contemplate these two propositions as logical statements, you simply cannot find a way to reconcile them.


Book Reviews

Understanding Domestic Violence: Theories, Challenges, and Remedies

Images flash when we talk about domestic violence—stereotypical scenes of minority women bearing brutal slaps falling on their fragile bodies. However, these images only represent one of many forms of domestic violence and its victims. The content of ‘violence’ exceeds what we might imagine. Aiming to give readers a more holistic understanding of domestic violence as well as suggestions for professional interventions, Herron and Javier define domestic violence comprehensively, offer models of aggression, and include accurate data and truthful narrative stories to back up their arguments. With a clear four-part structure, the book starts with an understanding of the fundamental models behind the phenomena of domestic violence then progresses to the limitations of interventions.

On the Brink of Being: Talking about Miscarriage

he Brink of Being begins with a tragic look back into Bueno’s personal ordeal with miscarriage and the agony that she went through. Her writing is pain ridden and emphatic, taking the reader down the vortex of her deeply bruised emotions. It is almost impossible to put the book down once you start reading it; it feels disdainful to do so. Bueno explains the lack of resources available to women struggling as she did and the vigor with which she wanted to build a network to support these women.

On the Mystery of Being: Contemporary Insights on The Convergence of Science and Spirituality

What makes us, us? Is our essence of being reflected through the words we put on the blank spaces after the “I AM” statements? Or, are the “I AM” statements already ample enough to give us an answer to the above? On the Mystery of Being offers a collection of insights towards the above question about the essence of beings. In the form of anthology, the authors put forth their main arguments. By bringing spirit with matter, spirituality with science, non-dualistic with dualistic together, we reflect on a more holistic insight into being—to live in the moment. Moreover, in our journey to find the meaning of our beings, the authors advise us to emphasize “I” instead of paying too much attention to the experiences we have been through. Unlike conventional images in which life is a blank canvas awaiting our experiences to paint them colorful, the book informs us that we are not born empty but filled with potentials and completeness.