Confer - continuing professional development, seminars and conferences for psychotherapists, counsellors and psychologists
The Relational Heart
17.30 Registration
18.00 Introduction to the Conference
Professor David Peters
18.15 The importance of the heart's coherence of signal
Dr Alan Watkins
Because the electrical activity of every muscle cell in the heart has to be coordinated with its neighbour (in order for the heart to contract properly) the heart generates 50 times more electrical power than the brain. In addition to the coherence required between all the individual heart muscle cells, each heart beat must be synchronised with the next beat; when a series of successive heart beats are synchronised the heart generates a coherent electrical signal. When the interval between successive beats is erratic the heart generates a chaotic electrical signal. The heart sends this "coherent" or "chaotic" signal to every cell in the body, influencing their function. We will uncover the science and consider the implications.

19.00 How does the heart display emotional intelligence?
Dr John Armour
The nervous system that controls the heart comprises neurons from the cerebrum to those of the heart. These neurons are in constant communication with one another in matching cardiac output to regional body blood-flow demands. These intrinsic cardiac neurons exhibit behavior that defies easy classification. In this presentation we will explore the function of different groups of neurons (such as cardiac afferent, cholinergic efferent preganglionic, cardiac motor, local circuit neurons) and how these facilitate information processing within the final coordinator of regional cardiac indices - the little brain in the heart.

20.00 The Polyvagal Theory - Part I How neural regulation of brain-face-heart connections mediate affect and social behavior
The polyvagal perspective explores new questions, paradigms, explanations, and conclusions regarding the role that autonomic function has in the regulation of affective states and social behavior. Foremost, the polyvagal perspective emphasizes the importance of phylogenetic changes in the neural structures regulating the heart and how these shifts provide insights into the adaptive function of both physiology and behavior. The theory emphasizes the phylogenetic emergence of two vagal systems: a potentially lethal ancient circuit involved in defensive strategies of immobilization (for example, fainting and dissociative states) and a newer mammalian circuit linking the heart to the face that is involved in both social engagement behaviors and in dampening reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system and the HPA-axis. This presentation will introduce this material.

21.00 Reception
08.30 Social dreaming matrix
with Laurie Slade. Optional.
Social dreaming is a way of working with dreams where we meet to share and associate to dreams and make connections where possible.

09.30 Registration
10.00 Yoga from the Heart: understanding the wisdom of the heart from an ancient perspective
Sue Staziker
The emotional, mental, spiritual and social effects of this ancient discipline are immeasurable. I will explore the heart in relation to the other major energy centres of the Chakra system and explain its importance as the energy transformer within the body. I hope to share some of the gifts Yoga has given me and enable you to experience some simple techniques to open and protect your heart on your journey as a therapist.

10.45 The Emotional Heart in History
Dr Fay Bound Alberti
>The relationship between the heart and emotions, and between the mind and the body, is a contentious one in modern medicine. In popular perception there is a ‘common sense’ model of emotions in which experiences like anger and fear are felt in the heart. And the heart has long functioned as a symbol of extreme emotions, particularly love, as well as of truth, of compassion, and of authenticity. Since the rise of scientific medicine in the West in the 19th century, and until very recently, the sentimentalisation of the heart as an organ has received little credibility. The brain, rather than the heart, became the organ of emotion. Only now, through the emergence of scientific explanations for the link between mind and body, heart and emotions, is the heart beginning to recapture its emotional essence. This paper traces the history of the emotional heart, exploring the language used to discuss emotions, and why it was that the brain, rather than the heart became the organ associated with emotions.It will also ask what the repercussions of that change have been for what we think - or feel - about the heart today.

11.30 Coffee
12.00 Heart rate variability and its implications
Dr Alan Watkins
HRV has been of interest to research scientists for over 30 years and is important because it underpins health, can indicate levels of affect regulation and is easily measured to assess the function of the parasympathetic nervous system. Measurements reflect different aspects of your physiology. For example, the rapid high frequency (HF) changes in your heart rate have been shown to be correlated with your parasympathetic nervous system. In contrast, the lower frequency (LF) changes in your heart rate reflect the sympathetic nervous system or the adrenaline levels in your body. In this presentation, equipment will be used to demonstrate the sensitivity of the heart to emotive stimuli, and ways in which this can be regulated.

13.00 Lunch
14.00 The Polyvagal Theory – Part II: Clinical implications and insights into the role of neural regulation of the heart in mediating vulnerability, resilience, and recovery to both mental and physical health
Dr Stephen Porges
The Polyvagal Theory provides a new conceptualization of the autonomic nervous system that emphasizes how an understanding of neurophysiological mechanisms and phylogenetic shifts in the neural regulation of the heart leads to insights into causes and treatments of mental and physical illness. The Polyvagal Theory provides a plausible explanation of several features that are compromised during stress and observed in several psychiatric disorders. Examples of new methods of biobehavioral assessment and potential strategies for treatment of features associated with autism, auditory hypersensitivities, and trauma will be discussed.

15.00 Tea
15.30 Sensitivity to the heart in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder within a biodynamic therapy
Dr Elya Steinberg
Heart rate variability (HRV) has recently been identified as a biomarker for emotional dysfunction. It was shown that subjects with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in their attempt to survive in the face of environmental challenges, had lost the fine balance in and between the autonomic and motoric nervous systems. They also had an underdeveloped capacity to synchronise oscillatory communication between the sub-cortical and cortical brain, and the organisation in and between left and right brain. This imbalance shows up in loss of HRV and is also associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Relating to the work of Damasio, Porges, Schore and van der Kolk we will explore clinical techniques that re-establish harmonious balanced sychrohnization of the heart with other body systems and within its own neural networks via integration of unconsciously held emotional experience.

16.15 Emotions and the heart
Elizabeth Wilde McCormick
All emotion impacts upon the organ of the heart, but for many people this recognition is frightening and difficult. The result is often a hardening of the heart, defending against both feeling and emotion and shutting off the useful subtleties of the heart’s language. Researchers now have evidence that long term suppressed anger and the depressed response of unmourned loss does cause the heart to break. This presentation will focus on simple practitioner tools for helping patients befriend their fear, release the emotion embedded feelings held within the heart, and restore both homeostasis and connection to the heart’s natural wisdom.

17.00 Panel discussion
17.30 End of conference
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