Blog post 1

A Neurosequential Approach 

Neurophysiological research informs us how adverse life events (such as abuse or neglect in early childhood) have a huge impact on the neurological, physiological, and emotional development of individuals. The Neurosequential Model (Perry, 2001) is a developmentally-informed approach whichexplains why it is necessary to regulate the lower stress-response networks in the body and brain before proceeding on to interventions which require higher level functioning such as talking therapies. During development the brain organises itself from the least complex (brainstem) up to the most complex (limbic cortical) areas. Our programmes focus first on input for the lower parts of the brain through somatic, physical and sensory activities which increase social engagement.  Once we observe that the lower areas have become regulated, we begin to stimulate the capacity of higher areas of the brain to process information through mindful awareness and reflection.  (Perry, 2001; Shore, 1994; Van der Kolk, 2014).

Polyvagal Theory

Polyvagal Theory provides a understanding of the autonomic nervous system and vagus nerve and how it impacts our survival behaviours in terms of activation of the mobilisation and immobilisation defence systems in the body and mind.  The key to regulation is maintaining activation of the social engagement system, which is why we provide opportunities for shared joy and pleasure through group activities that create autonomic pathways of safety and connection and provide tools and strategies to counteract stress. We build awareness of the autonomic nervous system through guided visualisation and reflection, helping participants increase awareness of their capacities for regulation, and re-pattern their nervous systems.(Porges, 2011)

Sensory Processing

The capacity to modulate and interpret sensory information for survival and engagement purposes. Sensory Integration Theory offers a practical understanding of how sensory processing difficulties contribute to a breakdown in behaviour, and how sensory regulating techniques can be used to facilitate wellbeing. Our Mind Body Balance winterprogramme utilises equipment for sensory circuits and yoga/somatic activities which up-regulate, and down-regulate the sensory systems. Particular awareness is given to each participant’s tolerance levels and we help to develop their own awareness of their own tolerance levels. Our ‘Surf therapy’ summer programmes utilise heavy work surfing equipment, and natural resources such as sand and cold water for the same purpose.

Attachment theory & developmental trauma

Relationship patterns with significant others and outcomes. Early relationships with parents/carers and offers insight into how individuals organise their behaviours in response to others. The type of caregiving an infant receives significantly affects the infant’s capacity to self-regulate. Secure caregiving keeps arousal within manageable bounds. It helps infants develop the capacity to regulate their own arousal. Unpredictable caregiving and insecure attachment impacts the child’s development and activates persistent heightened arousal which leads to chronic anxiety. These Infants seek constant reassurance and attention from their caregiver which gets in the way of playing and exploration. It also leads to problems with peer relationships, a lack of empathy for others, behaviour problems in school. Resilience is dependent on secure attachment and protective factors. Our programmes increase resilience by utilising the key elements of providing consistent, predictable, and holding relationships to offer a secure base and a sense of safety, enabling participants to play and explore at their levels of tolerance. We provide opportunities for shared joy and pleasure and strategies to counteract stress.  We also provide early intervention and support for parents and carers. (Van der Kolk, 2014; Bowlby, 1988; Crittenden, 2016; Sroufe and colleagues, 2005)

Affective neuroscience 

The intensity of arousal that is activated in response to engagement with the environment and others.Professor Jaak Panksepp’s affective (emotional) neuroscience studies confirm the primary-process emotional feelings that are organized in the primitive subcortical regions of the brain. Our programmes monitor progress using an assessment measure that is based on Panksepp’s emotional systems of the brain. It measures each different emotional system in the brain (CARE, SEEKING, PLAY, FEAR, RAGE, PANIC/GRIEF) and several key executive function skills (handling stress, thinking & concentration, confidence & self-esteem, interpersonal skills, and emotional literacy) to give a whole brain picture of the participant’s emotional and mental health and progress on the course. 

Mindful somatic awareness 

We need to be aware of our own attachment and sensory patterns and how these contribute to our interactions. Somatic psychotherapy is an umbrella term for therapies that centre on the mind-body connection. In somatic therapy, the body is the foundational point for healing. Through research in neurophysiology, we now know that trauma and stress have a huge impact on the body and autonomic nervous system, which often reacts faster than our ‘thinking brain’. This concept has long been recognised in Eastern philosophies and medicine. This is why we utilise Yoga and special somatic techniques. Our therapeutic programmes work by addressing the feedback loop that continually runs between the mind and the body. (Levine, Van der Kolk, 2014; Porges, 2011)


Integration and interpretation of sensory information for higher level functioning, for example academic pursuits. Each session has an element of cognitive work through psycho-education. Our curriculum develops participants self-awareness and includes psycho-education on the impact of trauma and toxic stress, and creates a plan for the tools that can be used to help.