Safe and Sound Protocol
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a five-day auditory intervention developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, a distinguished scientist from the Kinsey Institute, and creator of the Polyvagal Theory. This non-invasive, innovative approach helps people to feel calm and regulated by listening to specially processed music that trains the nervous system to feel safe and present. When people are able to regulate their physiological state to feel emotionally balanced, this creates the possibility of better social engagement and successful therapy.
Clinical research shows that SSP is effective for the following conditions.
Anxiety and trauma
Social and emotional difficulties
The Importance of Social Engagement for Therapy
To provide mindfulness training that makes sense.
Polyvagal theory is based on the notion that our physiological and emotional states determine how we operate in the world. People who have very sensitive nervous systems, such as those who suffer from trauma, anxiety, and hypersensitivity can have a very difficult time feeling attuned and focused in social interactions.
This ability to feel safe with others is mediated by the vagus nerve which is part of the autonomic nervous system. Stephen Porges named this the Social Engagement System (SES) which refers to this part of the nervous system that picks up non-conscious cues about whether a person or situation is safe or not. It is always operating, which is great in the sense that it keeps us alive. On the other hand, it can be exhausting for those whose nervous systems are highly sensitive and are constantly hypervigilant to potential threats, even when they are completely safe.
SSP trains the SES to feel safe and regulated through the auditory system which is a portal to rest of the autonomic nervous system and the ability to feel grounded and present, even when under stress. When clients learn to feel safe, they are able to process human speech, and the nuances of emotional communication. This improves the ability to manage their state, regulate emotions, and engage in interpersonal communication more effectively.
Therapy is based on a safe and attuned relationship with another person but sometimes it can take years of therapy for some people to integrate the ability to feel self regulated in a lasting way. SSP enhances therapy by focusing on the training of physiological state thereby creating a neural platform that improves emotion regulation and accelerates the lasting changes that people seek in therapy.
Each person will respond to the SSP training differently so it is important to work collaboratively with a therapist, especially at the beginning. It can be done at home on one’s own but this must be discussed between you and your therapist. People who have experienced trauma and unresolved grief may have powerful emotional experiences when accessing a relaxed state and will need the support of a therapist to help them decide the pacing of training and to process the meaning of these emotional experiences that can arise.
As providers of SSP we are certified in this modality and are committed to providing it to clients in the most clinically responsible way. We collaborate with leading clinician supervisors from Integrated Listening Systems, the developers of SSP, and receive ongoing guidance and training to meet the specific client needs.
SSP is five hours of specially processed music that must be listened to in sequence. It is important to be in a comfortable and quiet environment so you can fully pay attention to the sounds. Your therapist has leased the dedicated equipment from ILS which can be used in the office (when in person sessions are possible) or rented out for home use.
The original protocol required 5 consecutive days of listening to the music for one hour but it can now be adapted for delivery in shorter segments over a longer period of time depending on the needs and sensitivities of the client.
It is important at the beginning to do the therapy with your therapist present and this can be done with online appointments. This will help determine your response to the music and help you decide on a good protocol that you can follow. You will want to stay in close contact with your therapist if you are doing some of the listening on your own between therapy sessions.
Yes, Integrated Learning Systems has come out with a beta version of a digital platform that allows therapists to connect clients to an SSP app. Currently this is only available by Android and an iOS Apple version iscoming soon.
Please visit the Integrated Learning System website for more information, research, and clinical applications of SSP.