Workshops for Therapists

Fear and the Therapist

A workshop exploring the activation of the Fear System and how we learn to regulate this in ourselves and in our clients in order to enable therapeutic change

Facilitator:  Michael Guilding

Venue:   17 Wetherby Road, York, YO26 5BS

Date:  Saturday 12 October 2019 (further dates to be arranged)

Time: 10.00am to 4.30pm 

Cost:  £70 including a light lunch

One of the key factors in our ability as a therapist to help our clients achieve transformative change, is our awareness of our own Fear System responses, and our capacity to regulate these, and thus create a context of safety for our clients. 1

In this workshop we will look at the biology of the Fear System, starting with an understanding of the Polyvagal Theory of Stephen Porges 2 which will be linked to video examples of the Fear System in action in the wild between prey and predator.   Then, using the concept of the “Fear Cascade” 3 as a starting point, we will examine the distinctive biological states that make up our fear responses – Alert, Flight/Fight, Freeze, Fright (Panic) and the varying degrees of Collapse that constitute the body’s metabolic shutdown in the face of threat.

Throughout the workshop we will be interweaving theory with exploration of our own experiences of each of these fear responses. We will then be looking at practical ways in which we can regulate ourselves and our clients so that our work remains within the “window of tolerance” 4 where we, and our clients, can stay curious and exploratory rather than becoming rigid and defensive.

Training workshops can stimulate high levels of anxiety (especially a workshop with this subject matter), but training and learning require exactly the same sense of being in a safe place as therapy does.  With this in mind, each workshop will be limited to 6 participants and facilitated in a manner based on the McCluskey model of working 5 which prioritises the creation of a sense of safety within the group.   

To book, or to enquire about further dates please contact

Michael Guilding is a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor in independent practice who is now moving into training therapists in understanding and managing fear.  He has previously worked in the NHS as a GP practice counsellor, and a service manager for primary care counselling and primary care mental health.   His work was supervised for many years by Una McCluskey who introduced him to Dorothy Heard and Brian Lake’s “Dynamics of Attachment in Adults” which first sparked his interest in the Fear System.  He was a member of one of Una McCluskey’s first training groups in Exploratory Goal-Corrected Psychotherapy,6 and now collaborates with Dzmitry Karpuk within the UK Complex Trauma Therapists’ Network 7 exploring the central role of the Fear System in complex trauma.


  1. Una McCluskey (2005) To be met as a Person
  2. Stephen Porges  (2011) The Polyvagal Theory
  3. Maggie Schauer & Thomas Elbert (2010) “Dissociation Following Traumatic Stress”, Journal of Psychology Vol 218(2):109-127
  4. Daniel Siegel (2012) The Developing Mind
  5. Dorothy Heard, Brian Lake and Una McCluskey (2009) Attachment Therapy with Adolescents and Adults, Chapter 15