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Integrative Psychiatry

Childhood Regulation and Neuroscience by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

By September 14, 2020November 18th, 2020No Comments

Anything that happens before the age of five is very important in terms of laying down a foundation or template or an imprint into the nervous system as 90% of a child’s brain develops by the age five.

In the first few years of life, children primarily encode information through the right brain. Having a more sense-felt of experience instead of a cognitive mental experience.

If we do not delve and engage in the implicit memory of the child, we might miss the root of where some of the mental health issue became planted in to the system.

Dorsal children often present as the “perfect child”. They often come in pairs in the family system where in one gravitates more in the sympathetic arousal and another in the dorsal response.

Calm is a potential bi-product of regulation but it doesn’t mean that it is regulation. A moment of regulation is a moment of mindfulness which is different from experiencing self-control.

Children needs help in developing their regulatory system. We as the adult plays a role in developing the child’s autonomic nervous system to help integrate the dysregulated state in their nervous system.


I was so critical about this topic is that everything that applies to kids also applies to adults because we were all once children.

90% of a child’s brain develops by the age of five, which means that what happens before the age of five is a really big deal in terms of laying down a foundation or a template, or an imprint into the nervous system. In the first few years of life, children primarily encode information through the right brain. What that really means is that they’re having a felt sense experience of whatever it is that they are experiencing. They’re not approaching the experience from a cognitive mental place, it’s very much in the here and now might be the language we could use is very present in their bodies, very present centered. If we are going to work with children clinically, and we are not going to engage the semantics in the child, or we’re not going to delve into implicit memory, or missing potentially the root of where some of these issues first became planted, you might say into the system. So, we’re talking about body-based memory, not cognitive memory as we tend to think of memory which is called explicit memory.

The dorsal child often presents as the perfect child. The dorsal child is often the people pleaser. Is often the quiet one. Is often the one that doesn’t cause a fuss. They often come in pairs in a family system. It is not uncommon in a family system to have two children, where one tends to activate more towards sympathetic arousal, and one tends to activate more towards a dorsal response. Or in the system, if you’ve got two parents that tend to specialize in sympathetic activation, there’s a high probability that one of the children in the system is going to specialize in dorsal activation.

Regulation does not mean calm. Calm, is a potential byproduct of regulation but it doesn’t mean regulation. The number of times that I hear, ”just calm down, just calm down, just calm down, you’ve got to be calm, you’ve got to be calm,” that’s different than connect. So that’s the new language I’m going to offer you. regulation means connect. A moment of regulation is a moment of mindfulness. It’s a moment when you attach to the self. Many issues that children are struggling with or regulation issues and here’s another really big one, self-regulation is not the same thing as self-control. I can take breath in the midst of feeling angry, I can connect to myself in the midst of feeling sad, or overwhelmed or anxious, or disorganized internally.

Every single child still needs help in the development of their regulatory system.  The need for an external regulator, the mother is literally a regulator of the crescendos and decrescendos of the baby’s developing autonomic nervous system. In order to help repattern a child’s nervous system, the child first needs an external regulator to help integrate the dysregulated state in their nervous system. Integrating intensity must first start with the adult. Sometimes we put it on the child, rather than expecting or understanding that it needs to start here first. And then when the child is in our office and they’re having a hard time, it’s not about hey, how do I make you calm down? It’s how do I begin to work with myself in the moment to be able to breathe, activate my own ventral response, get grounded, because there’s a baby in front of me who’s crying.

Frederick Barrett is a cognitive neuroscientist with training in behavioral pharmacology, and the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Dr. Barrett has been conducting psychedelic research at Johns Hopkins University since 2013, and his research in healthy participants and in patients with mood and substance use disorders focuses on the psychological and neurological mechanisms underlying the enduring therapeutic and other effects of psychedelic drugs. In 2017, he received an NIH “R03” grant as Principal Investigator to investigate biological mechanisms of psilocybin effects, the first federally funded research since the 1970s administering a classic psychedelic to people with psychedelic effects as the primary focus. He has developed measures of subjective effects of psychedelic drugs, and has also published first-in-human studies characterizing the acute and enduring effects of psilocybin on the brain. He is currently leading clinical trials to investigate the use of psilocybin to treat patients with major depressive disorder and co-occurring alcohol use disorder, and he is leading a number of ongoing studies aimed at better understanding the psychological, biological, and neural mechanisms underlying therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic drugs.

Will Van Derveer, MD is co-founder of Integrative Psychiatry Institute (IPI), along with friend and colleague Keith Kurlander, MA. He co-created IPI as an expression of what he stands for. First, that anyone can heal, and second that we medical providers must embrace our own healing journeys in order to fully command our potency as healers.

Dr. Van Derveer spent the last 20 years innovating and testing a comprehensive approach to addressing psychiatric challenges which transcends the conventional model he learned in medical school at Vanderbilt University and residency at University of Colorado, while deeply engaging his own healing path.

He founded the Integrative Psychiatric Healing Center in in 2001 in Boulder, CO, where he currently practices. Dr. Van Derveer regards unresolved emotional trauma as the most significant root cause of psychiatric symptoms in integrative psychiatry practice, along with gut issues, hormone imbalances, inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and other functional medicine challenges. He is trained in Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, Internal Family Systems, and other psychotherapy techniques. His current clinical passion is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, which he mentors interested doctors in providing. An avid meditator, he has been a meditation instructor since 2004.

For the past several years Dr. Van Derveer has taught psychiatrists and other psychiatric providers integrative psychiatry in a number of settings, including course directing the CU psychiatry residents’ course as well as with Scott Shannon and Janet Settle at the Psychiatry MasterClass. In addition to his clinical work and teaching, he was co-investigator in 2016 a Phase II randomized clinical trial, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He continues to support this protocol, now in a Phase III clinical trial under break-through designation by FDA.

Dr. Van Derveer is a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine (ABoIHM) since 2013, and he was board certified in the first wave of diplomates of the new American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABIM) in 2016.