SAFE & SOUND PROTOCOL
5 hour listening program
THE SAFE AND SOUND PROTOCOL (SSP)
The Safe and Sound, (SSP) protocol is a 5 hour audio designed by Dr. Stephen Porges that uses specially filtered music that targets your nervous system directly. Combined with other modalities, it can provide an effective way to help those whose minds and bodies are in a chronic state of defense.
Those who have experienced trauma, PTSD, anxiety are well aware how such chronic stress can impair the mind, body and connection with others. Providers have seen promising results with autistic individuals.
Co-Regulation Between Mind and Body
Bottom-Up Therapy and Safety
It’s All Connected
Internalizing safety, being regulated, connecting to others, experiencing inner calm and feeling centered are all a part of being well. This is why cognitive and behavioral interventions that don’t treat the mind and body as connected can fall short in facilitating change beyond surface behaviors. Families with autistic children and those with complex PTSD know all too well the limitations about therapies that target thinking and word choice. You can’t think your way to feeling safe. It is an autonomic state. Since our physiological state affects our thinking, behavior and emotions, top-down interventions are sometimes experienced as putting the cart before the horse.
The thinking part of our brain just doesn’t operate effectively when we don’t feel safe inside. Being in a state of threat limits the usefulness and generalization of scripts and strategies if our body is anticipating danger, perceived or otherwise.
Central to your feeling of safety is your autonomic nervous system in which your vagus nerve plays a key role in the pathways that connect the body and the brain through our motor and sensory pathways. When we are well regulated, our bodies respond to environmental cues with just the right amount of motor response to be effective. The SSP protocol directly targets this nerve in the simplest way possible.
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
According to the Polyvagal Theory, your ability to access cues of safety in your environment and your perception of possible threat affect your internalized sense of safety. This shifts you into various states of vulnerability. Because survival and being safe are the body’s top priority, shifting into states of threat, real or otherwise, come at the expense of other functions such as digestion, socializing and problem-solving, to name a few. Actual danger isn’t the only trigger of a defensive state. Illness, stress, abuse, trauma or neglect can throw us into an ANS survival response.
How Chronic Defensive States Show Up
A dysregulated nervous system, especially in the case of complex PTSD can present as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, GI issues or sleep disorders, to mention the more common. In children, particularly in the case of autism, this can look like aggression, upset or selective eating, not to mention delayed milestones. In fact, children with autism are sometimes misdiagnosed as oppositional, borderline, manic or even schizophrenic when they are actually suffering from sensory overload and chronic stress.
Because our ANS operates below our conscious awareness, interventions that target our functioning outside of our thinking capacity can be more effective in helping us build resilience and attain a more sustained state of regulation.
According to the Polyvagal theory developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, our biological imperative as a species involves not only the survival, but social connection. Key to this imperative is that regulation isn’t about only trying to balance between fight/flight and rest, but navigation through an hierarchy of three physiological states that support connection, well-being as well as survival. Essentially, it posits that we shift between activated, safe and shut down states. There are also “blended” states in which we maintain various degrees of arousal and safety to engage in play, freeze states or intimacy.
For example, in play states we possess some of the arousal energy that might be activated in “fight modes” but this is tempered by “safety” which puts a brake on that arousal energy transforming into aggression. This is the complexity and beauty of regulation that allows for nuances in our responses to facilitate interaction and connection.
WHAT you hear and HOW you hear it, Impacts your Responses
How Does SSP Help?
The filtered music that is an inherent part of SSP is designed to strengthen the muscles of the middle ear. These can become flaccid as a result of stress. By working the muscles of the middle ear, the auditory pathways connected to the ANS are strengthened which communicate to the ANS that it is safe to calm down. Research demonstrates that SSP can significantly increase vagal regulation of the heart, which in turn allows us improved control over our physiological state. Significant results have been demonstrated in the following areas:
- Behavioral outbursts
- Auditory sensitivities
- Emotional dysregulation
- Concentration and focus
- Chronic stress
- Social connection
Our inner ear has evolved to tune into the frequencies of the human voice at tones above that perceived by predators. This facilitates social engagement. Listening is connected to our body’s internal control center (the vagus nerve). The SSP program allows individuals to better filter out background noise and attune the ear to pick up on the inflections of the human voice. This is of particular concern of autistic individuals with sensory issues that affect what they hear (lower frequencies) and what they don’t hear so well (human voice).
SSP operates as a reset For the nervous system
Features of SSP:
- Can be done in-person or remotely from home (or both) with professional monitoring, (two times), by your provider or coach during and in between your audio sessions
- Uses smart phone app
- Requires over the ear headphones (not ear buds)
- Includes an intake session to individualize your program and provide preparation
- Helps with vagus nerve regulation
- Trains auditory pathways to access the frequencies for human speech
- Can be used while engaging in a non-verbal activity such as drawing or painting. Most people simply listen as they rest (but not sleep).
- May be delivered in 60, 30, 15 minute or less segments, depending on needs.
- Parent or caregiver should be available while child listens
- During the intervention, you are prompted to listen at the softest volume at which you can still hear. This helps train your middle ear muscles.
- The impact of SSP is immediate and also cumulative over time
Things to Keep In Mind
SSP may not work for everyone which is why the intervention is preceded by an intake and some history taking. Its effectiveness presumes an environment that is conducive to healing. SSP is not advised in the following situations:
- Your work or home environment is not currently safe
- You are going through transitions or major upheaval
- You have underlying trauma that has not been addressed in therapy
- History of dissociation
- Active substance abuse
- Current self harm
The fees listed below provide only a general guideline regarding available options. Every person is different. There are also options for family based SSP. We will work on a program that best suits your needs. Your plan will be discussed during your intake.
Ready to start?
How it Works
Individuals or families interested in SSP receive digital access to the filtered music for about 15 days. (The amount of time may vary depending on the sensitivity of your nervous system).
Clients are cautioned not to schedule their SSP sessions around stressful life events such as dental procedures, recent loss, examinations, moves or other transitional life changes that might interrupt SSP scheduling.
During their access to the protocol, clients can schedule, at their convenience and comfort, time to access their total of five hours listening time on their headphones (that do not have noise cancellation). Access to the SSP protocol is only available through certified Safe and Sound providers.
Please note the Safe and Sound protocol is not intended to replace therapy. It is designed to be used with other interventions and increase their effectiveness as a result of having primed your body for increased connection and regulation.