The Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP) is a tool that can turn down the internal volume and promote a sense of calm. SSP helps the system to realize it does not need to be defensive and can relax to do its job, which is to self-regulate. SSP follows the notion of it's not what you say, it's how you say it. We have evolved to pick up reflections of safety from another person's voice, and our level of engagement is dependent on our physiological state. If our system assesses threat, we may become less aware of others around us and unable to read others as a way to self regulate. We internalize another person's nervous system state at the subconscious level, and this informs our body how to react physically. This assessment of safety is called Neuroception.
SSP is a research-based mind/body therapy that enhances social engagement & resilience by reducing stress & auditory sensitivity. The middle ear helps to transfer information so we can make sense of what we are hearing. SSP uses filtered music to train the middle ear muscles to focus on certain frequencies, using the acoustic channel as portal to neural regulation and sense of safety at the autonomic nervous system level. SSP has been shown to benefit clients living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, speech, developmental, or learning difficulties, trauma, anxiety, and social engagement struggles.
Clients listen to music using over the ear headphones either in office or at home, depending on where they are at with therapy and needs. The SSP requires a minimum of 6 sessions which includes an intake and information session and 5 hours of the SSP Core program. There are no negative long term side effects however, some clients experience short term symptoms or worsening of symptoms as their system regulates.
Some clients can only tolerate short sets of music during a session and others can complete a full hour to music in one session. This is sometimes because when the body starts to drop it's defences with the therapy, it can suddenly say to itself "been fooled before, won't be fooled again, must protect and activate the system!". Calm and relaxed may be confused with threat. When this happens, clients may start to feel anxious, notice body sensations, or perhaps they may start to have memories gently float in and out of their thoughts while listening. These are great opportunities to practice self-regulation or to co-regulate with the therapist. In order for the effects to be beneficial, this therapy cannot be rushed.
Between sessions clients may notice shifts in their facial expressions or see or hear others differently. This may feel different but clients are asked to remember that different does not always mean dangerous.
After listening to the music program, clients might have ongoing access to similar music at home for maintenance which can be used as needed. Some clients may need to redo the original program 8-12 weeks after completing the program.
The SSP is not a stand-alone therapy or a quick fix. Changes initiated by the SSP need to be reinforced by continued therapy and supportive social engagement.
Those with the following features might benefit from using the SSP:
Social and emotional difficulties
Auditory and other sensory sensitivities
Auditory processing difficulties
Anxiety and trauma-related challenges
Stressors that impact social engagement
Difficulties in regulating physiological and emotional state
Chronic pain and fatigue
Dr. Porges Explaining the SSP Effects over the 5 Hours