Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)

What is the SSP?

Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a five-day auditory intervention based on nearly 4 decades of neurological research on the relationship between our autonomic nervous system and our social-emotional processes. It is designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience. Based on Dr. Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, by calming the physiological and emotional state, the door is opened for improved communication and more successful therapy.

Dr Porges discovered that we are able to calm our nervous system by exercising and rehabilitating our middle ear and auditory system.

The calming of our nervous system is achieved by focusing our attention on a very special type of processed music.  The intervention consists of listening  to 1 hour of this music through headphones for a treatment course of 5 consecutive days.  Some clients respond in a very dramatic manner after a single sequence.  Others experience a more subtle progression over time. 

Some client need only a single treatment sequence and others may need to subscribed to periodic treatments.  Each applied protocol can have a building and strengthening effect on the middle ear and its positive effects.

The SSP has been found to be helpful for the following:

Social Anxieties and Communication
Anger and Mood
Mild TBI
Autism Spectrum
Sensory Processing Issues
Overall Well-Being
and others

The SSP also acts in a supportive role by enhances the potentials of many subsequent therapy modalities.  And is effective for Adults, children, adolescents, seniors, couples, and families.

How does the SSP Work?

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.

Based on Dr. Porges’ 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 music trains the auditory pathways by focusing on the frequency envelope of human speech. As the client learns to process these speech-related frequencies, they improve the functioning of two cranial nerves that are important for promoting overall social behavior. Cranial Nerve VII (Facial Nerve) helps clients focus on human voice and tune out irrelevant frequencies. Cranial Nerve X (Vagus Nerve) enables self-soothing and autonomic regulation.

Following successful completion of the intervention, individuals will be better able to focus in school, 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.

The SSP and Other Therapies

Changes from the SSP can be cumulative and will be enhanced by the social support the client receives and the learning opportunities they are presented. While you may notice some very positive changes while using the SSP, and can be a stand-alone treatment, it is not meant to be used in isolation. The changes you see can potentiate neuroplasticity and functional change from psychotherapy and or other subsequent therapy modalities.

Is the SSP Right for You?

Rather than using diagnoses to determine if the SSP is right for a particular person, we have instead referred to the features that the intervention addresses. Broadly, these can be categorized into: Social Communication; Physiological State; and Sound Sensitivity.

Social Communication
The SSP is a portal to the Social Engagement System and it can have powerful effects on how a client interacts with the world. Examples are: better eye contact and facial expressivity; improved understanding of speech; better emotional control; more reciprocal interactions; and increased emotional expressivity among others.

Physiological State
Just like the brain, the Autonomic Nervous System is plastic and can “learn” to stay more activated than necessary. Being in a state of chronic defensiveness, as in some psychiatric and behavioral disorders, compromises the social engagement system and the related neural networks “learn” to engage less.

By improving the ability to assess safety in social situations, the SSP helps clients to activate a parasympathetic state. Improving state promotes behavioral regulation.

Sound Sensitivities
Sensitivity to sounds is a prevalent symptom in a number of disorders. People who experience sound sensitivity may: respond negatively to unexpected or loud noises; become distracted or disturbed when there is a lot of or continuous background noise; and/or find it difficult to extract the frequencies of human speech from background noise. With the SSP, we have seen significant improvements on the SCAN-3 (a measure of auditory processing) specifically on the Filtered Words and Competing Words subtests. These respectively assess the ability to decipher human speech from background sounds and to hear equally from both ears.

What to Expect Scheduling your Protocol

The Protocol consists of:
An Intake Session
5 consecutive daily 1 hour Listening Sessions
A Follow-up Session

The Listening Sessions consist of sitting in a quiet space and then bringing your full attention to listening to the specialized music through headphones that are connected to a walkman.

The music genre is not what is healing.  Its how the music is processed that makes the listening curative.

The Listening Sessions take place in my office setting or in the comfort of your home

To schedule your appointment contact

LauraWiley, LCSW
96 Harlow Street, Suite 224 Bangor, ME 04401
cell/text 207/945-9754

SSP Certified
nearly 30 years of clinical experience