Polyvagal Theory and Practice for Coaches: The Fundamentals


With Sandra Dunsmore & Paul King


In addition to the full programme description below, you can also watch a 18 minute presentation by Sandra Dunsmore in which she introduces Polyvagal Theory and its relevance to coaching and outlines the programme – watch video here

After watching the video, should you have questions about Polyvagal Theory, its relevance for coaching or the programme itself, we are offering a live Q&A session at 16.00-16.45 BST on 2nd October.  To register please contact Sandra, sldunsmore@gmail.com


Polyvagal Theory and How is it Relevant to Coaching

After living and working in a pandemic world, and now with the ongoing disruption and disturbances from many directions, you may be noticing a sea change in the nature of the challenges that your clients are bringing, and that you may well be experiencing yourself.

Polyvagal Theory is a scientific theory that helps us understand the biological basis of all human social behaviour and provides a lens that can help us, and our clients, navigate these challenges. It is a new frontier in the coaching world.

This 21-hour programme, which brings together theory and experiential practice, has been designed to enable coaches to introduce a Polyvagal lens into their personal and professional lives. It consists of six three-hour modules, a one-hour Q&A and a two-hour integration session.


Working in close collaboration with Stephen Porges, who developed Polyvagal Theory, clinician and author Deb Dana has over the last decade played a pivotal role in bringing applied Polyvagal Theory into a therapeutic context and, in recent years, to a general audience. Aware of the growing interest in the polyvagal approach within the coaching community, Deb Dana invited and encouraged the development of this programme. It is the first course designed explicitly for coaches she has endorsed.


The programme will be facilitated by Sandra Dunsmore with Paul King.

Sandra was trained by Deb Dana and was part of the first cohort of trainers to deliver Deb’s pioneering Foundations of Polyvagal-Informed Practice training. She has been collaborating with Deb Dana for a number of years and is part of an expanding community of people working to advance the use of a polyvagal-informed approach to life and work. Sandra is excited to be sharing this work and her experience with you.

Paul is co-founder of The Beyond Partnership and has trained with Sandra. He specialises in working with the body-mind as a coach and workshop facilitator with individuals and in organisations.


I am pleased to endorse the course Polyvagal Theory and Practice for Coaches: The Fundamentals hosted in collaboration with The Beyond Partnership.  Sandra Dunsmore is a wonderfully gifted practitioner and expert presenter who is bringing my work into the coaching arena with integrity and wisdom.  

As the world presents ever increasing challenges, it is truly a joy to see our Polyvagal community grow. This beautiful offering was originally developed in a collaboration between Sandra Dunsmore and Kerry Cullen. I very much appreciate what they developed and the integrity with which it was created.  I have no doubt that this programme will be of great benefit to coaches, and I wholeheartedly support Sandra in offering this training.

Deb Dana, clinician, educator and author of Anchored, How to Befriend Your Nervous System using Polyvagal Theory


A polyvagal lens has the potential to open the possibility of new ways of being and operating in our personal and professional lives. Experiencing this approach and incorporating it into one’s own life provides a crucial foundation for using it effectively with clients.


The programme is divided into two parts

Part One will focus on understanding and befriending our own nervous system, while

Part Two will focus on an exploration of concrete approaches and practices for integrating this approach into your work with clients


Dates and times:

2023   Part 1 – 26 October, 9 November, 23 November, 7 December (Q&A)

2024   Part 2 – 18 January, 1 February, 15 February, 14 March (Integration)

**Please note the change of date for our integration module which was initially scheduled for 21 March


All sessions will be held live on Thursdays via Zoom. Start times are 9:30 ET/ 14:30 pm BST or GMT/ 15.30 CEST or CET. Each session builds on the previous session, and it is a journey you will make together as a cohort of learners. Sessions will be recorded to allow participants to review the modules, and the recordings will be available until a month after the programme ends.

(Participants from the Americas, please note that the 14 March 2024 session will begin at 10:30 ET due a variation in dates for changes between Standard Time and Daylight Savings Time in Europe and the Americas.) Please see table at the bottom of webpage for start and end times for specific sessions by date and time zone.


Professional Development Credits: For members of the Association for Coaching (AC), please note that continuing professional education credits are available.


Participants: Limited to 22.


Registration Options: Participants are invited to sign up for the whole programme now or have the option of completing for the first half of the programme before deciding if they want to register for the second half.  Completion of the first half of the programme is a prerequisite for participation in the second half.


Investment: Part One £ 499 (plus 20% VAT); Part Two £ 499 (plus 20% VAT)
(VAT is not chargeable on bookings from businesses registered and situated outside the UK)

Savings of 10 percent are available if you register and pay by 21 September

We are open to considering bursaries if you are keen to join this programme and are currently under financial pressure with a low family income. Please email  info@thebeyondpartnership.co.uk


Booking: To book, please email info@thebeyondpartnership.co.uk with your name and invoice address, as well as your business registration number if you have a registered business outside the UK. We will send you an invoice for payment to secure your place. Please specify if you are registering for the whole programme, or just Part One.


When clients—and coaches—deeply understand how their nervous systems work and impact their lives on a daily, and even minute-to-minute basis, huge insights and changes follow.

“When I discovered Polyvagal Theory, I felt as if I had found a piece of the puzzle I had been searching for my whole life.
Sandra Dunsmore

 “Polyvagal Theory is foundational and its refined practices and application have significantly enhanced my work, as well my own wellbeing.” 
Paul King


Here are some comments from participants on our 2022/23 programme.

“A wonderfully thought-provoking course that will have a lasting impact on my way of being both personally and professionally. My leadership coaching practice has definitely been enriched by its new Polyvagal lens.”
Chris Wood, Leadership Coach

“It has been I think one of the very best, perhaps the best, training that I have ever attended, (and I have attended a lot of training)…… All of the theory seems to resonate so quickly and so powerfully, for me, for other participants, for coaching clients.  It brings us home to something that on some level(s) we already know.  It gives us a language and it provides opportunities to live more easefully, more fully and in more satisfying ways in our relationships and in our world.  Clients are already finding it invaluable.”
Carolyn Mumby, Coach-Therapist, Supervisor

“I appreciated being within a deeply enriching, supportive, easeful learning experience – with active participation – and space to process.  The first, incredibly valuable, aspect for me was ‘being present’ – actually arriving and ‘landing on the mat’. Creating space and time for my own learning. I learned by experiencing: the content, the group and your collective enabling presence. I enjoyed the basic format, rhythm of the programme, as well as the content and dynamic within each session. I find it hard to express in words the incredible benefit I have gained from this learning experience. I also know (,whilst I beat myself up on the practice side’) that this is just a beginning. The real immersion in the possibilities is to come.”
Hannah Carney, Coach, Consultant, Facilitator


You can also see some comments here in response to one LinkedIn posting

and listen to 2022-23 participant’s radio interview on emotional intelligence and polyvagal theory


Programme Design

This immersive programme is designed to deepen your capacity to be present with clients (a coaching core competency) and provide you with additional means for supporting your clients in achieving positive and sustainable change (a central premise of coaching).

It incorporates presentations, demos, exercises, reflection, and opportunities for participants to share their experience. Deb Dana’s The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy is the reference text for the course. There will be some additional recommended reading for those who wish to go deeper.


The overall programme has been created and carefully curated to bring polyvagal theory alive by supporting you to:

  • Learn about the science that governs your capacity to self-regulate and co-regulate
  • Explore how to achieve better results with your clients
  • Increase your awareness of how shifts in physiological state affect perception and behaviour
  • Experiment with simple practices to help you and your clients navigate and reshape the nervous system
  • Deepen your practice by incorporating new approaches and tools
  • Reflect on how you want to integrate this work into your practice


The fundamentals of this approach are applicable to you as a coach, as well as to your clients. Understanding and getting to know one’s nervous system helps you: 

  • Become more adept at noticing and naming which part of the nervous system (physiological state) is running the show
  • Track state shifts and notice more rapidly when triggered into a defensive reaction and no longer in the present moment
  • Work more effectively with shame by shifting the focus away from “what’s wrong with me” to “how can I respond differently”
  • Identify personalized regulating resources to support return to a centred state
  • Increase resourcefulness and resilience in the face of challenge


In the words of Viktor E. Frankl,
“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Polyvagal Theory lights the path towards increasing our capacity for conscious choice, and in this way provides a useful foundation for all coaching modalities.


The Programme in Detail

The experiential programme incorporates information sharing, embodied personal experience, and opportunities to practice within and between modules. Although it is not obligatory, we will strongly encourage participants to take advantage of the opportunities that will be offered to practice with their fellow participants between modules.  While the concepts and theory are fascinating in and of themselves, the transformative potential of this approach is unlocked through personal experience and practice.


PART ONE   2023

Modules 1 – 3 are three-hour sessions (26 October, 9 November, 23 November), followed by a one-hour Q&A (7 December). Please see table at the bottom of webpage for specific start and end times by date and time zone.


Part one of the programme will focus on how to increase your ability to become a more proactive operator of your own nervous system, as opposed to a passive follower of unconscious patterns.


We will cover the following:

  • The role of the nervous system in building capacity for performance, health and overall well-being
  • The core principals of Polyvagal Theory – hierarchy, neuroception, and co-regulation
  • The safety/danger equation – how humans signal safety and danger
  • Guided exercises to get to know your own nervous system through mapping (personal autonomic profile, individual triggers, and identification of specific activities that help you come back into regulation)
  • How to identify and develop regulating resources (part 1)


Q&A session: For one hour on 7 December 2023 .


PART TWO   2024

Modules 4-6 are three-hour sessions (18 January, 1 February, and 15 February), followed by a two-hour integration session (14 March). Please see table at the bottom of webpage for specific start and end times by date and time zone.


Part two of the programme will focus on integrating a polyvagal-informed approach into your work with clients, and in particular, an exploration of concrete approaches and practices.


We will cover the following:

  • How to introduce Polyvagal Theory to clients and get buy-in to do the mapping exercises
  • Tips for guiding mapping
  • How to identify and develop regulating resources (part 2)
  • Techniques for supporting clients to develop and deepen their awareness of which part of their nervous system is in control at any one time
  • How to support clients in expanding the resources available to them to come back into a place where they feel centred and capable
  • The importance of developing routines and practices to support your ability to be centred, present and resourced
  • Where to from here? The further integration of Polyvagal Theory into your practice


The final session (14 March) will allow you to further integrate what you have learned by sharing your experience, hearing about the experiences of others, as well as providing an opportunity to raise questions.


Your questions during the programme: If you have any questions that you were not able to raise during any of the 3-hour modules, Sandra and Paul will stay on at the end of each session for an additional 15 minutes to address them. Questions can also be emailed to them between modules.


Readiness & Reading

We suggest that participants purchase Deb Dana’s ground-breaking book The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy prior to the start of the course.  Although written with therapists in mind, the content and tools are applicable to coaching. The book can be used as pre-course reading for those participants who would like to do advance work. It will also serve as an excellent resource to deepen your understanding after the programme ends.


Finding out more about Polyvagal Theory

If you would like to find out more about this approach, here are some resources we recommend:

Befriending Your Nervous System – One-hour interview with Deb Dana by Sounds True founder Tami Simons, June 29, 2020

Polyvagal Theory with Dr. Stephen Porges – 50-minute interview by Rick and Forrest Hanson from the fall of 2019.


If you have any questions to help you decide whether to join this innovative programme, please feel free to email info@thebeyondpartnership.co.uk


Schedule of Programme

Part 1  2023

Date Module Start End
26 October Module 1 09:30 EDT

14:30 BT

15:30 CET

12:30 EDT

17:30 BT

18:30 CET

09 November Module 2 9:30 ET

14:30 GMT

15:30 CET

12:30 ET

17:30 GMT

18:30 CET

23 November Module 3 9:30 ET

14:30 GMT

15:30 CET

12:30 ET

17:30 GMT

18:30 CET

07 December Q &A 9:30 ET

14:30 GMT

15:30 CET

10:30 ET

15:30 GMT

16:30 CET


Part 2  2024

Date Module Start End
18 January Module 4 9:30 ET

14:30 GMT

15:30 CET

12:30 ET

17:30 GMT

18:30 CET

1 February Module 5 9:30 ET

14:30 GMT

15:30 CET

12:30 ET

17:30 GMT

18:30 CET

15 February Module 6 9:30 ET

14:30 GMT

15:30 CET

12:30 ET

17:30 GMT

18:30 CET

14 March Integration 10:30 ET

14:30 GMT

15:30 CET

12:30 ET

16:30 GMT

17:30 CET