Polyvagal Teen® at the Oxford Master Series Trauma Conference 2023

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I. Introduction

Dawn had barely broken on the day of the Oxford Master Series Trauma Conference in 2023, and already, a tangible sense of anticipation was in the air. This wasn’t just any conference; it was the largest trauma conference in Europe, a unique gathering of professionals, enthusiasts, and advocates from across the globe. Although each with their own missions and perspectives – united in a common goal. 

As a young company, we couldn’t help but wonder if we were professional enough to be exhibitors at such a significant event. But instead of letting that doubt deter us, we used it as fuel to drive us forward.

II. My Experience with Polyvagal Teen®’s Attendance and Mission

As the founder of the Polyvagal Teen® team, I can attest to the fact that our decision to attend the Oxford Master Series Trauma Conference 2023 was not taken lightly. Despite the physical and mental toll of preparations leading up to such a significant event, our commitment to our cause ran deep, propelling us forward.

Our mission at Polyvagal Teen® is clear: we aim to raise awareness about trauma and its profound impact on young people, parents and families. We believe in the power of knowledge and understanding to effect positive change, prevention of  trauma where possible and offer hope to those affected by trauma. This mission is what fuels our determination, even in the face of self-doubt.

The significance of this event couldn’t be overstated. It was a critical junction for those involved in the field of trauma, a platform like no other for the exchange of ideas, research, and innovations. I was here as part of Polyvagal Teen®, we are a relatively young company dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of trauma and beyond on young people and families.

The conference presented an unparalleled opportunity to voice our message on a global platform. We knew that the attendees were not just professionals or enthusiasts in the field, but also potential advocates who could join us in our mission. It was this understanding that underscored the significance of our presence at the conference.

III. The Importance of Polyvagal Teen®’s Participation at the Conference

Being a part of the Polyvagal Teen® team, and more personally, having my daughter as one of the members, added a profound level of significance to our presence at the Oxford Master Series Trauma Conference 2023.

As carriers of an essential message about the influence of trauma on youth and families our mission was to highlight this issue in a gathering filled with professionals capable of instigating change.

My daughter is the reason I wanted to change and break intergenerational patterns of trauma. The reason I created Polyvagal Teen®. A few years ago, I was deeply moved by Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk’s message – “we must do more to support parents.”

This, coupled with the inspiring Polyvagal Theory by Dr Stephen Porges, served as the foundation for Polyvagal Teen®. To finally meet them in person was an experience that words fail to capture adequately. Ironically, while their work encourages communication and connection, my autonomic nervous system went into freeze mode around them, leaving me unable to speak.

VI. Our Neighbours and Our Stand Visitors

We shared the conference space with several remarkable organisations, each making unique contributions to their fields.

BeeMedic, a firm specializing in neurofeedback, biofeedback, and QEEG, offers solutions aimed at stress management, performance enhancement, and mental health support.

Tabula Rasa Retreat is a center committed to aiding individuals in overcoming addiction and trauma through innovative therapies, including plant medicine.

Script Assist: a data-driven and technology-led group of medical experts passionate about revolutionising the prescribing of medical cannabis

Compassionate Enquiry: a therapeutic method developed by Dr. Gabor Maté, focuses on compassionate, patient-centered care to address the root causes of physical and mental disorders.

The Massage People: Sorry I can’t remember their names .. where complimentary massages were available to attendees. They were awesome! 

The relationships we built with these organisations extended beyond professional ties; they were personal, meaningful, and hold promise for future collaborations and shared growth.

Every attendee who visited our stand and made a purchase, we thank you wholeheartedly. Your support reinforces our dedication and fuels our mission. I am diligently going through the stack of business cards we exchanged, and look forward to further conversations and potential collaborations.

These interactions highlighted the significance of our participation at the conference, strengthening our dedication to our mission, and reminding us of the power of united action.

The presence of my daughter in this journey, and the personal encounters with the luminaries whose work inspired Polyvagal Teen®, made the experience even more special, further igniting our shared commitment to make a difference. 

VI. Polyvagal Teen®’s Message and Future Plans

At the Oxford Master Series Trauma Conference 2023, our message was clear and compelling: trauma significantly impacts young people’s lives, and there is an urgent need for more substantial support systems. We leveraged this platform to amplify our message, sharing resources, spreading knowledge about trauma’s effects on youth, and engaging with attendees.

As we move forward, our aim extends beyond raising awareness. We intend to broaden our reach, share our knowledge with more parents, and offer critical support to more teenagers. Our mission now is not just to be trauma-informed but to work towards trauma prevention.

In September 2023, we launched our school program, having in 2022 launched training for therapists and parents a significant step towards this goal. This initiative’s importance cannot be understated as it introduces Polyvagal Aware Classrooms. These classrooms equip educators and students with tools for understanding and managing trauma response. It’s a bespoke program designed to provide a trauma-informed approach in crisis times.

Why is this crucial? Trauma doesn’t exist in isolation. It impacts the individual and their environment – our teachers, the classroom, the school, and the wider community. By equipping schools with knowledge and tools to understand and address trauma, we cultivate safer, more supportive environments for our youth.

Our program is rooted in the Polyvagal Theory, offering insights into the nervous system’s role in shaping our responses to stress and trauma. By incorporating this theory into our school program, we empower schools to foster environments that positively influence students’ nervous systems, promoting resilience and healing.

In essence, our mission transcends raising awareness about trauma. We’re striving to create lasting, positive changes in young people’s lives through psychoeducation. We aim to prevent trauma before it happens by fostering safety and connection. As we look to the future, we remain committed to propelling this mission forward, one step at a time.

VII. Conclusion

The Oxford Master Series Trauma Conference 2023 was more than an event; it served as a crucial stepping stone in our journey to raise awareness about trauma among young people and families. The experience, although exhausting, was also exhilarating, filled with triumphs, learnings, and moments that reinforced our unwavering dedication to our cause.

I am profoundly grateful for the experiences gained and the connections forged at the conference. I feel a sense of excitement for the future of Polyvagal Teen®. The innovations we witnessed at the conference have inspired us and reinforced our commitment to our mission. We aim to support teens and their families not only in navigating trauma but also in preventing it through psychoeducation and creating safe, supportive environments.

Our journey continues, and each step taken brings us closer to our goal of making a meaningful difference in the lives of young individuals affected by trauma.

I would like to extend a special heartfelt thanks to the organisers of the conference. Araminta from MINT Creative Marketing Limited and her inspiring team deserve particular recognition for their remarkable work in pulling this event together.

Their dedication and expertise were instrumental in its success. Additionally, The Polyvagal Institute, Televagal, Khiron Clinics, Therabundle, and The Trauma Foundation all contributed significantly to this enlightening experience.

Their efforts have pushed our mission forward, contributing to a future where young people and parents are better equipped to handle and overcome trauma.

And we are eagerly looking forward to 2024’s conference!! We will keep you posted 🙂 

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About the author: Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar

With a passion for improving the emotional wellbeing of young people, adults and parents, she is  the founder and creator of Polyvagal Teen®, she has developed an innovative approach to helping teens recognise and manage stress and anxiety through becoming “Polyvagal Aware”. In addition, Yasmin is also the founder of World Let’s Stop Shouting Day, which aims to promote peaceful communication and reduce conflict and aggression in our daily interactions. Neurosloth™ and The Hearts Whisper®

She also runs a small private practice providing counselling and neurofeedback  to young people and adults in North Yorkshire.

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