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Riding Polyvagal Waves to Wellness

The Pointe Malibu is the First to Complete the Polyvagal Informed Certificate for Organizations

In January of 2024 The Pointe Malibu announced that they are the first to complete the Polyvagal Informed Certificate for Organizations through the Polyvagal Institute. This approach focuses on helping individuals feel safe and connected in a way that calms the nervous system, allowing for long-term healing.

Fully Committed to individualized treatment

The Polyvagal Theory, which was created by Dr. Stephen Porges, has been used to treat depression and anxiety, but has just received approval for treating patients dealing with addiction. By integrating this awareness of the nervous system to more traditional therapeutic techniques, it is proving to be a powerful combination that leads to better overall outcomes. “The Pointe Malibu being certified as a provider of Polyvagal services is monumental,” says Mel Pohl, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the Pointe Malibu. “I’ve worked in the addiction field for over 40 years and I’ve never worked at a place that’s so fully committed to what we call individualized treatment. Our staff are skilled in these new and innovative clinical techniques that really impact people’s ability to recover.”

The Pointe Malibu's Safe and Connected Road to Recovery

Polyvagal Theory describes that the autonomic nervous system has 3 states:

  • Ventral Vagal or socially connected and safe state
  • Sympathetic also known as the fight-or-flight state
  • Dorsal or shut down and defensive state

By helping patients understand these various states and learn techniques to get themselves to a ventral vagal or connected state more often, they can feel less lonely, which is a huge issue for those dealing with addiction.

Healing Happens with connection

 “There’s no healing that can happen without connection,” says Jenell Maze, Chief Clinical Officer and Executive Director of the Pointe Malibu. “We need our basic needs met…and a felt sense of safety. We can’t really allow the other interventions of evidence based practices to really integrate into our system until we feel anchored and safe.”

Safety Enables Connection

According to the National Institutes of Health, “10 percent of U.S. adults have drug use disorder at some point in their lives.” Since this affects more than 30 million Americans, there need to be innovative therapeutic options for patients and family members focused on finding a path to recovery.

The Pointe Malibu’s Polyvagal certification shows their commitment to using the latest therapeutic approaches. By helping them embrace their nervous systems and learn coping skills, they can more likely sustain their overall sense of safety and have a more successful road to sobriety.

A Therapeutic example

“A client I worked with couldn’t live without opioids, “ describes Mel Pohl, MD, Senior Medical Consultant in the Pain Recovery Program of the Pointe Malibu. “He was depressed and had trouble working because of his disabling condition. He needed internist-supported withdrawal for ten days., which was a difficult journey but along the way we made him feel safe. He curiously noticed his foot didn’t hurt and it fueled him to try more help, which included a sound bath. His intense withdrawal from interacting with others was lifted and he started having conversations with his estranged daughter. These tools are all polyvagal treatment methods. Changing the nervous system changes everything. As treatment continued, my client began to open up and smile and interact with several other people. He now walks around like he has no pain, has relationships with his two daughters, and has come full circle from a place of fear and addiction to a place of acceptance.

A resilient body Builds a resilient recovery

By getting in touch with what is going on with your nervous system you can tap into what is motivating you, holding you back or leading you towards destructive habits. Learning to tap into this calm, connected, curious space within your nervous system is the key to riding the waves of resiliency in your body.

The Pointe Malibu is a leading addiction recovery center located along the beautiful cliffs of Malibu, California. We offer concierge-style service that is evidence-based and also holistic to help nourish the mind, body and spirit. We align five key Pointes (pictured left) with Polyvagal Theory, nurturing a holistic approach to enhance your felt safety and overall health,.

The Polyvagal Surf Program

There are few experiences more exhilarating than surfing in the ocean on a warm, beautiful day. And for us… there is also no better way to get in touch with your nervous system. The gentle ebb and flow of the ocean helps you to be present, mindful and connected with how you are reacting in the moment. Are you feeling anxious and like you want to leave the situation? Are you feeling scared to the point of being frozen and unable to move? Or are you in the zone of connection, safety and openness to pursue something new? These questions are at the heart of our Polyvagal Surf Program and has been transformative for many of the patients who have chosen to be part of it.

“By putting clients in this stimulating surf experience there are many emotions that can arise,” says Kiley McGill, Primary Therapist at the Pointe Malibu. “You may feel out of your comfort zone or self conscious from trying something you aren’t very good at. This can trigger lots of reactions within someone’s nervous system. Our skilled surf therapists are well trained to help you not only ride the waves, but also understand how your nervous system reactions may be guiding you towards certain life experiences of being closed off or unable to be in a happy, connected state.”

By getting in touch with what is going on with your nervous system you can tap into what is motivating you, holding you back or leading you towards destructive habits. Learning to tap into this calm, connected, curious space within your nervous system is the key to riding the waves of resiliency in your body.

Frequently Asked Questions

You probably have a few uncertainties and many questions. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked.

“We’re going to provide you with an opportunity to feel safe. From the moment you walk in the door, and then we’re going to get to work. So it’s not going to just be an easy ride. Because if you need to shake things up in order to get better, then you need to peel the onion back and get deep into what’s underneath. But in the process, we’re gonna make sure that you ground in a sense of safety. Because that’s the most important thing that we can do for you, is to help you feel safe. We’re also going to have breath work, stretching, visualization, and a variety of different things that people will do from the first day. So it’s really helping people implement clinical techniques into their daily lives, because that’s what causes change.” Mel Pohl, MD, Senior Medical Consultant, Pain Recovery Program, The Pointe Malibu.

“The most important part about The Pointe is it is very attuned to each individual. We are going to create a program just for you. We are going to give you the team of clinicians that have the specialties and the backgrounds in what you need. It’s not just one size fits all. And that is the best part about it. Because how could you expect somebody to heal and grow and change if you’re giving them the same things as someone else, who hasn’t gone through the same things. It is a very concierge approach. Let us see you for who you are and work with you.”

Kiley McGill, Primary Therapist, The Pointe Malibu

“The Pointe Malibu being certified as a provider of Polyvagal services is monumental, in my opinion. I’ve worked in the addiction field for over 40 years and I’ve never worked at a place that’s so committed to what we call individualized treatment. And our staff are skilled in these new and innovative clinical techniques that really impact people’s ability to recover.” Mel Pohl, MD, Senior Medical Consultant, Pain Recovery Program, The Pointe Malibu
“I think people are a lot of times using substances to seek safety. And that makes sense, right? It makes sense that drinking or whatever it might be my give this moment of a reprieve from this state that is essentially overbearing and toxic to your well being. It’s been over utilized. And so what we’re doing is we’re, we’re rewiring the neural pathways to reexamine or to perceive safety in a new way. And in that, hopefully expand the one’s experience outside of that sympathetic or dorsal state. So by expanding a sober experience in the ventral vagal state, can ideally reduce one’s dependence on that reprieve that substances give them.” Ben Perkins, Clinical Therapist, The Pointe Malibu
“The holistic part of the program starts with the option to do yoga in the morning, attend a soundbath or Qigong, and then we go off site to a place called the Mindry, a meditation center in Malibu. The clients love going there. We don’t do highly vigorous activities with folks. But it’s very important to get people moving. Encouraging people to move is a big part of the program. They also get massage, so it’s both a physical working on the body and also being touched is substantial. Usually that’s something that’s been absent. And then we go on beach walks and they can go surfing. We have a young woman who was in bed for six years of her life in pain, and now she’s surfing. It feels like a miracle. It does to her, does to me and it does to her family.” Mel Pohl, MD, Senior Medical Consultant, Pain Recovery Program, The Pointe Malibu
“There’s a lot of research that shows that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is really the strongest indicator of a successful outcome. That completely gels with Polyvagal Theory in that we’re trying to encourage this ventral vagal state. And if someone is unable to connect with another person, they’re going to have a hard time getting anything out of therapy, especially if they’re defensive.” Sam Sachnoff, Primary Therapist, The Pointe Malibu
“There’s a lot of research that shows that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is really the strongest indicator of a successful outcome. That completely gels with Polyvagal Theory in that we’re trying to encourage this ventral vagal state. And if someone is unable to connect with another person, they’re going to have a hard time getting anything out of therapy, especially if they’re defensive.” Sam Sachnoff, Primary Therapist, The Pointe Malibu

“The Point Malibu Recovery Center offers a beautiful location in the Malibu hills and oceanfront property. But what’s really important about being here is the people who are anchored in their why. We have people with lived experiences, who are attuned towards their own nervous system and are here to navigate well-being together. I see a huge commitment from our team and a lot of great flexibility in terms of meeting people where they’re at and joining them in this process. We feel very privileged to just be able to witness and connect with one another. So that’s one of the big reasons why I think The Pointe Malibu is special. We have attracted a team that is committed to befriending their own nervous system, connecting with others and not afraid to do so.”

Jennell Maze, Chief Clinical Officer and Executive Director, The Pointe Malibu