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Treating Trauma and Addiction with the Felt Sense Polyvagal Model: A Bottom-Up Approach
Jan Winhall
Routledge / Softcover / Jun 2021
9780367408121 (ISBN-10: 0367408120)
Trauma / Addiction
price: $60.95
240 pages
In Stock (Ships within one business day)

In sharp contrast with the current top-down medicalized method to treating addiction, this book presents the Felt Sense Polyvagal Model (FSPM), a paradigm-shifting, bottom-up approach that considers addiction as an adaptive attempt to regulate emotional states and trauma.

The Felt Sense Polyvagal Model draws from the Polyvagal Theory, Embodied Situated Cognition/The Felt Sense, and the Lewis Learning Model of Addiction to offer a graphically illustrated and deeply embodied way of conceptualizing and treating addiction through supporting autonomic regulation. This model de-pathologizes addiction as it teaches embodied practices through tapping into the felt sense, the body’s inner wisdom. Chapters first present a theoretical framework and demonstrate the graphic model in both clinician and client versions and then teach the clinician how to use the model in practice by providing detailed treatment strategies.

This text’s informed, compassionate approach to understanding and treating trauma and addiction is adaptable to any school of psychotherapy and will appeal to addiction experts, trauma specialists, and clinicians in all mental health fields.


"Reframing addiction and its treatment through the lens of Experiential Psychotherapy, Polyvagal Theory, Interpersonal Neurobiology and Imago Relationship Therapy, Jan Winhall has produced a brilliant synthesis and expansion of addiction theory and treatment that should be read by all therapists, not just addiction specialists."
—Harville Hendrix, PhD, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, authors of Doing Imago Relationship Therapy in the Space Between

"In this insightful volume Jan Winhall brings together the essence of groundbreaking modern therapeutic practices with her own decades of hard-won clinical experience to fashion a new, deeply humane and promising model of addiction treatment, illustrated by poignant clinical vignettes."
—Gabor Maté, MD, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

"In Treating Trauma and Addiction with the Felt Sense Polyvagal Model Jan Winhall introduces a new strategy to treat addiction that brilliantly integrates Gendlin’s classic concept of a felt sense with Polyvagal Theory. The author shares her intellectual journey in which unique insights transform two disparate perspectives into obvious complements leading to a powerful treatment model. As Polyvagal Theory gives the language of neuroscience to Gendlin’s felt sense, the phenomenological world of Gendlin becomes transformed by Polyvagal Theory into observable shifts in autonomic state. The product of this creative journey is an integrated therapeutic strategy with the potential to decode the wisdom of the body with its full repertoire of survival reactions into positive outcomes that promote optimal mental and physical health. These successes are highlighted by new abilities to co-regulate with others that lead to successful trusting relationships."
—Stephen W. Porges, PhD, Distinguished University Scientist, founding director, Traumatic Stress Research Consortium, Kinsey Institute, Indiana University Bloomington; professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Brave and revolutionary in her thinking, Jan Winhall has written a compelling book on addiction—a must-read for both clinicians and the general public alike. Compassionate, wise and profound, this book will leave its mark for years to come."
—Ann Dowsett Johnson, award-winning journalist, and newly trained trauma psychotherapist, and bestselling author of Drink, A Woman’s Intimate Journey with Alcohol

"Jan Winhall has developed a powerful healing model that integrates polyvagal theory and felt sense experience. The model comes to life in this beautifully written book. It engages you in a process of discovery that helps you make it your own from the inside out. "
—Serge Prengel, LMHC, psychotherapist trained in Focusing, Core Energetics and Somatic Experiencing; co-editor of Defining Moments For Therapists and the editor of the Relational Implicit & Somatic Psychotherapy podcast

"This is an inspiring book that invites therapists to see addiction freshly, not as a disease but as a way of regulating the nervous system to adapt to the person’s social context. Jan combines Porges’ polyvagal theory with Gendlin’s Focusing-oriented therapy in a creative manner that embraces both theory and practice. Her models for understanding and working with addiction are brought to life with case examples, personal sharing, and invitations to the reader to explore their own experience and understanding of the subject."
—Peter Afford, author of Therapy in the Age of Neuroscience.

"Jan Winhall’s book is wise, emotionally compelling and hopeful. I highly recommend it to any clinician who wants to expand their therapeutic toolkit for addressing addictive behaviour."
—Andrew Tatarsksy, PhD, founder and director, The Center for Optimal Living

"Jan Winhall blends Gendlinian bottom-up process of felt sensing with Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory. Her book is both broad and deep and a remarkable contribution to the Field of Addiction. Jan’s wise and heartfelt human presence is fully embodied throughout the book as she takes us on her own journey over 40 years as a psychotherapist. Clinicians will be able to easily take in these fresh clinical avenues, perspectives and practical clinical treatment methods. I will continue to savor this book as a theoretical resource and as a clinician’s handbook for treating Addictions."
—Karen Whalen, PhD,

"This book is a powerful illustration of Eugene Gendlin’s ‘Thinking at the Edge’ methodology for working with the Felt Sense. The integration of Porges Polyvagal theory with the author’s bodily knowing creates a brilliant model for working with trauma and addiction. Her courage to challenge the disease model benefits all who are impacted by addiction. The writing is elegant, comprehensive, and touching in a transformative way."
—Dr. Evelyn Fendler-Lee,

"Based on Porges' biologically-based theory of trauma, this book shows how addiction is a brilliantly adaptive way to ‘bear the unbearable’ rather than a sickness. Integrating this framework with her intuitive grasp of body-centered therapy, Winhall helps us both reinterpret and treat this most formidable of habits."
—Marc Lewis, PhD, author of The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease

Table of Contents:

A Prologue: My Women’s Group

Chapter 1. Early Days: The Initiation of a Trauma Therapist

Chapter 2. Finding Focusing and Thinking at the Edge

Chapter 3. Thinking about Thinking about Addiction: Integrating Top-down and Bottom-up

Chapter 4. Addiction: A Very Bad Habit

Chapter 5. Facing the Truth About Addiction

Chapter 6. Bringing Body to Mind: The Emerging Field of Interpersonal Neurobiology

Chapter 7. Creating A Safe Nest

Chapter 8. Bringing Polyvagal Theory into the World of Addiction

Chapter 9. Experiential Psychotherapy and Gendlin’s Felt Sense: The Whole of a Situation

Chapter 10. Bringing the Model to Life: Going Deep and Thinking Big

Chapter 11. Nuts and Bolts: Embodied Assessment and Treatment Tool (EATT) and Focusing-Oriented Therapy Strategies

Chapter 12. An Embodied Experiential Assessment: The Margaritas

Chapter 13. Hailstorms and Turtles: The Felt Sense Polyvagal Dialogue (FSPD)

Chapter 14. Lily and Lucas


About the Author:

Jan Winhall is an author, teacher and psychotherapist. She is an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Social Work, University of Toronto. She is director of Focusing on Borden , a psychotherapy and training center. Jan presents internationally on trauma and addiction.

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