Safe & Sound Protocol

Regulating the nervous system through music

The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience. This non-invasive intervention involves listening to 5-hours of music that has been processed specifically to retune the nervous system to introduce a sense of safety and the ability to socially engage.

Based on the work of Dr. Stephen Porges, and his Polyvagal Theory, the program is derived from nearly four decades of research on the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and social-emotional processes. It is designed to stimulate nervous system regulation by exercising and systematically challenging the auditory system with specifically processed music.

The prosodic vocal music used has been filtered to train the middle ear muscles to focus in on the frequency envelope of human speech. Once human speech is properly perceived, the portal to social engagement has been opened. You'll find you are better able to interpret not only the meaning, but also the intent in conversations. And the sense of safety that is achieved by better understanding the fluctuations in human voice calms your physiological state. Once your system has been primed and your state is calm, further therapy is enhanced and behavioral regulation is improved.

The SSP is a research-based therapy showing significant results in the following areas:

The SSP uses the auditory system as a portal to the vagus complex, which controls our physiological state. Once physiological state is regulated, we can accelerate or enhance subsequent therapy.

Following successful completion of the intervention, individuals will be better able to focus in school, work, therapy, and everyday life and experience a calmed emotional and physiological state. This is based on studies that suggest that skills such as attention, state regulation and the ability to engage socially will be enhanced.

If you are interested or have any questions, contact me to schedule a free-of-charge consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is this intervention beneficial?

The SSP is conceived as a passive pathway therapy helping to change the client's physiologic state through neuroception and opening the system to further neural change from other active pathway therapies that follow. This means SSP is not a stand alone therapy, but rather a platform for other therapies. So this intervention is best suited for those clients who have other support in place (E.g.: If you are having Somatic Explorations sessions with me or if you are already working with a mentalhealth professional or similar).

The features/symptoms that research and experience show the SSP address best are: Social engagement difficulties, Auditory hypersensitivities, Anxiety, Trauma, PTSD, Depressed mood, Mood dysregulation, Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD, and ADHD, Emotional regulation difficulties, among others.

It is always important to consult with your main health care practitioner and have their support if you're considering doing the SSP.

When should extra caution be exercised?

The SSP is a potent intervention, and should be used with the utmost attention to your sensitivities. While the SSP can be extremely helpful for individuals with a trauma history, in this cases extra support may be needed.

The SSP should be used cautiously when there's a history of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other dissociative disorders. If you are experiencing any of these challenges, then we need to make sure that your mental health provider is aware and on board with the intervention.

If you have a history of seizures, you should be on medication to control the seizures and be seizure-free for at least a year prior to beginning the SSP. In addition, you need to make sure to consult with your supervising neurologist to confirm it is all right to listen to music through headphones.

What ages are suitable for this intervention?

At the moment, I am offering the SSP to individuals over the age of 13. Though many practitioners work with people much younger, with great results.

How is the SSP delivered?

At present, in-person sessions is the format chosen to deliver this protocol. You are invited into my studio, and together we'll create a safe and comfortable environment, making sure that you have all the support required to complete this intervention successfully. We will also go over a few self-regulating practices and guidelines that will support further regulation of your nervous system.

How many sessions will I need? And how often?

The number and frequency of sessions is unique to each person. The intervention is tailored to the functioning of the middle ear muscles. Listening during the intervention may fatigue the middle ear muscles and you may feel exhausted. While some clients choose to do 5 sessions during 5 consecutive days and find great results, some others benefit from shorter listening sessions spread over a longer period of time.

It's important to be attentive to any changes you might be experiencing and adapt the sessions schedule accordingly. It's totally ok to skip a day! We'll simply resume where you left off.

You can also schedule the intervention at different times on each day.

And remember: Less is more. There is no reason to "power through" the protocol.

What activities can I do while listening to the SSP?

There are many activities you might choose to keep yourself calm and content while listening to the SSP. Some of the most common are: Simply enjoying the music, Coloring, Drawing, Puzzles, Focusing on your inhales and exhales. I'll have some activities available for you, and we can also discuss any activities you might want to bring to the session.

Movement can be used, but it's recommended that it be as passive as possible, keeping your heart rate even and avoiding sympathetic arousal.

Can I use ear-buds instead of headphones?

Unfortunately, no. The filtered music is difficult to hear at different times during each session. The volume will appear to decrease and increase as the different frequencies of music are removed and re-added and the ear-cup on the headphone helps to block out environmental noise to help you attend better to the music.

What if I have an ear infection?

If you have an active ear infection, it's best to wait until it's cleared for the intervention to be the most effective. If the intervention was already started, it is best to restart from the beginning once the infection is resolved, since the fluid may have been accumulating before the infection was evident.

When should I repeat the protocol?

You may repeat the protocol after experiencing an illness or if something stressful or traumatic has happened to you, for instance: an intensely stressful experience at school or work, involvement in a car accident, a medical or surgical procedure, etc. You may also repeat the protocol after a period of eight weeks to three months.

Note that changes to the nervous system may continue to become apparent six - eight weeks post-protocol, so we need to make sure we are giving your nervous system at least this amount of time or longer to integrate.

All FAQS based on ‘SSP Delivery Manual - Polyvagal Informed Practices for Delivering the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)’ by Liz Charles, MD