WHAT IS THE SSP?
Developed by neuroscientist, Dr. Stephen Porges, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a five-hour auditory intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience. The SSP is based on over 40 years’ research into the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and social-emotional processes.
Dr. Porges is also the author of the Polyvagal Theory. The SSP uses the auditory system as a portal to the vagus complex, which controls our physiological state. Once your physiological state is regulated, we can accelerate or enhance subsequent therapy.
Check out this video of Dr, Porges giving a summary of the SSP.
This non-invasive intervention involves listening to music that has been processed specifically to retune the nervous system to introduce a sense of safety and the ability to socially engage. This allows the client to better interpret not only human speech, but, importantly, the emotional meaning of language. Once interpersonal interactions improve, spontaneous social behaviors and an enhanced ability to learn, self-regulate and engage are often observed.
While the protocol was designed to be delivered over five consecutive days, I don’t often suggest this. Using a trauma informed lens means that I will adjust the protocol to best suit your needs. if you have experienced trauma or have other sensitivities, we will likely slow it down to a few minutes of listening per session, or weekly sessions, or some other format that best supports your nervous system. Typically for adults, a few minutes or up to one hour of the listening happens on a once weekly basis.
Benefits of SSP and what issues it can address
Stephen Porges first began using the SSP with children with autism, resulting in sometimes remarkable changes. Now we know that SSP can also benefit individuals with:
- Auditory sensitivity
- Chronic anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Relationship difficulties
- Social anxiety
- Separation anxiety
- Sleep problems (due to worry and ruminating)
- Self medicating (overeating, shopping, gambling)
The protocol is meant to be used in conjunction with other psychotherapy approaches. So far, the SSP is showing significant results in just five hours in the following areas:
- Social and emotional difficulties
- Auditory sensitivities
- Anxiety and trauma related challenges
- Stressors that impact social engagement
Prospective clients often ask why the Safe and Sound Protocol is so different from other auditory integration programs. In a nutshell:
The SSP is the only auditory intervention that directly retunes and regulates autonomic state, moving a person out of fight/flight/freeze and into a rest and digest/parasympathetic state.
Still curious? Here’s more good stuff to know:
Can the SSP help me with trauma? Anxiety?
Sometimes, a person is not functioning well enough to start processing traumatic events right away. In these situations, it helps to have another intervention to support therapy. For some people, this may be a medication that reduces symptoms so they can begin therapy. SSP can help in the same way for people dealing with trauma or anxiety.
SSP can “prime” the client’s central nervous system for successful treatment.
Trauma and anxiety can feel like a switch in your nervous system is permanently left on. Safe and Sound Protocol can be the final piece of the puzzle to help you get help with anxiety and trauma.
What happens in an SSP session?
WE recommend that you come into the office to do the listening protocol. During the intake appointment, you and I will explore if the SSP is an appropriate intervention. Once this is determined, I will discuss how the technology works, expectations and logistics.
You may choose to simply sit quietly and listen to the music or engage in a quiet activity like drawing or doing a puzzle. I offer guidance and co-regulation support during the entire process. I am there to check in and offer support and settling for your nervous system as needed.
Once you have completed the listening portion of the session, together we will process anything that came up for you.
What do I need for the Safe and Sound Protocol?
An account will be set up for you through an app that you’ll download for your device (phone or tablet) using Android 5 or above or iOS 13 or above. Once the app is downloaded and activated, you will also need to download the SSP Playlist.
To listen to the playlist, you must wear circumaural (over ear) headphones. If you already own a pair of over ear headphones that have noise cancelling, you must be able to turn off the noise cancelling function while listening to the SSP.
Why can’t I just listen to the protocol at home by myself?
During the session, shifts happen within the autonomic nervous system and the vagal nerve complex while you listen. Sometimes the shifts are subtle and other times, big changes occur. Not every change is comfortable at first. This is why having a nervous system specialist like myself as a support through the process is so important. I will give as many details of the shifts that can occur during and as a result of the SSP.
Not every client is a candidate for remote delivery of the Safe and Sound Protocol. Some clients, especially adults with trauma history, would need a personal presence of a therapist for safety and best results. Additionally, SSP supports readiness of other treatment approaches so it is recommended that clients continue with psychotherapy after completion of the protocol.
Trauma Informed Support
As a certified Safe and Sound Practitioner, I offer a trauma informed lens that supports the safest delivery of the Safe and Sound protocol. This is especially important for people who are carrying trauma in their nervous system. I provide the SSP to adults and we work together in person in my office or as is appropriate, via a secure video platform.
My understanding of the nervous system and the powerful potential of the SSP determines my method of being present with clients while they listen. I feel that this is the best way to keep clients safe and make sure that their nervous system and body are not overwhelmed by the process.
In tandem with the Safe and Sound Protocol, I offer something called the Mosaic Journey. The Mosaic Journey was created by Ana doValle who works closely with Dr. Porges. It combines SSP with art, yoga movements, personal narratives, and soul-exploration to bring transformation in a person’s narrative and a regulated nervous system.
The Mosaic Journey is a 7-day intervention which includes the 5-day SSP listening. This intervention provides a portal for increased depth and richness in the therapeutic work between you and myself. It enhances the SSP by bridging connection between body, mind, and soul. Through Mosaic Journey, increased flexibility within the nervous system, greater sense of embodiment, and increased resilience to stress is created.
Through the use of the Mosaic Journey, you may notice growth in the following ways: improved social engagement, decreased anxiety within social interaction, easier management of stressors, increased capacity to manage distress, decreased auditory sensitivities, and a more regulated nervous system.
Get back to your best self
The Safe and Sound Protocol helps the brain and body connection get more organized so that you’re better able to process the world around you and inside you so that you can feel more confident, happy and engaged. The SSP promotes an experience of safety which will help you have richer connections and relationships.
If you’re interested in learning more and/or scheduling a session please reach out! We look forward to serving you.
There’s so much love for you here.