Coming to Terms: Co-Regulation

Coming to Terms: Co-Regulation

by Torri Wright | January 16th, 2019


Coming to Terms are shorter bonus episodes in the See Beyond Behavior podcast series. In the behavior space, we often use unique terms, acronyms, and jargon. For many people, these may be unfamiliar or even misunderstood. So with that in mind, we hope to use our podcast to help define and demystify this language, so we are all on the same page and you are prepared for future conversations (and episodes).

Torri dives into Co-Regulation; a term that came up recently in our conversation with Dr. Henson, discussing trauma-informed care (episode 2). Here’s a bit of background on co-regulation, so you will have a better idea of what it looks like and why it’s important to always keep in mind.

One way to define co-regulation is as the conscious shifting of one's own physical & emotional response in order to support another person who has become dysregulated (e.g., not in control of their emotions or body).

What co-regulation might look like:

  • Reflection of one's energy or calmness, rather than a lack thereof, and how others are responding to you.
  • Being aware and mindful of physiological responses within the body and consciously shifting them. eg. increased heart-rate; incorporate deep breathing to slow heart-rate and anxiety.
  • Awareness of the tone of voice (use of words or sounds) and body language (arms crossed, standing over, stern look on face), as these are all non-verbal cues a person who is dysregulated can pick up on.
  • Understanding the person who is dysregulated may not have the skills or ability to redirect themselves or incorporate calming techniques, therefore as the adult/person supporting, we must calm our own energy/presence as much as possible, helping the other person have a safe space to work through their process without an exchanged (reactive/intense) interaction with another person.

Why co-regulation is important:

  • What is our responsibility to the exchanges and interactions?
  • Are we adding to the increased or prolonged dysregulation with how we are responding/reacting?
  • What can we control and what is our plan when we have been triggered ourselves, to stay in a calm place?
  • How can “we” support or be a positive, calming presence for those who struggle with dysregulation?
  • When another person is there, not involved or wrapped up in the unraveling events, there is grounded energy that person can feel (biochemical) and will eventually connect to that, to help them begin to calm their body as well.
  • The more we can see the dysregulation is not about a conscious desire to create chaos or dysfunction, rather a neurological process that is automatically happening, the better we are able to not get attached and do our job in being a calm presence.

Co-regulation will likely come up again in future episodes, and we may also say things like; reflective, self-aware, personal check-in, how grounded is your energy, or other adults supporting someone who may be dysregulated.

Are there other behavior terms that would be helpful to cover on the podcast? Send your ideas to or on our Twitter feed:

Resource links:

Previous Next