Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)
The Safe and Sound Protocol is a non-invasive application of Polyvagal Theory.
The intervention is listening to 5 hours of digitally altered music in conjunction with both therapeutic and parental support.
Dr. Stephen Porges is the neuroscientist who identified the Polyvagal Theory and developed the Safe and Sound Protocol. The basis for the invention comes from a child’s lullaby. The melodic tones of the lullaby and the comfort of the parental voice soothes a child’s activated nervous system. He states, the middle ear, is a portal to the human nervous system. He created the idea of using digitally altered music, delivered through the portal of the ear, as a way to provide a non-intrusive, easy way to calm the nervous system.
In infancy the nervous system is very reactive to stimuli both internally and externally. A loud noise, a hunger pain, a chill, a dirty diaper, can all impact the nervous system to become dysregulated. Although none of these conditions create a life and death scenario (at least not for brief periods) the infant body responds as if it is life and death. The cries of the infant in the middle of the night to an internal gas pain can sound horrifying. The child has yet to develop the capacities to predict an end to the pain, self soothe, or to know that there is a loving adult available for support.
As we love, care for, and create experiences for our children, the brain and nervous system similarly develop such that there is an increased capacity to manage the stress of day-to-day life. However, at times the nervous system can become activated into ancient parts of the system. It may be too challenging to return to the safe and sound part of our system on one’s own. Dr. Porges states that the acoustic intervention of the SSP is a “distilled essence of trust”. It provides the nervous system support to be able to down regulate into the Social Engagement System (SES) and out of activated states of fight, flight, and freeze/collapse (Sympathetic and Dorsal Vagal states).
Once the SSP directs the nervous system into the SES, having the loving, engaged presence of a trusted adult anchors the child’s system into the calm state. The SSP intervention is so effective that as it down regulates the nervous system, then the person needs the co-regulation of supporting and loving people to be able to integrate the intervention. Without that support, the individual would feel too vulnerable and thus will result in an activation back into protective states of Sympathetic and Dorsal Vagal.
As a passive neural exercise to the brain and nervous system all the child has to do is listen. All you need to do is be there to love, cuddle, and send lots of cues of safety to your child.
Who could benefit from SSP?
Everyone! The SSP allows people to more easily shift out of a stress response and into the social engagement system. The day to day stress of life can activate our nervous systems into states of being defensive or protective. The SSP supports people to have a more flexible nervous system such that the shifting of states becomes more accessible and anchoring into the Social Engagement System is more possible.
Although Dr. Porges developed the protocol as an intervention for autism clinical trials have shown it to have benefits for people with:
- Auditory sensitivities
- Social and emotional difficulties
- Anxiety and trauma-related challenges
- Stressors that impact social engagement.
Remote Delivery of the SSP
In an effort to ensure greater accessibility of the SSP recently it has become available for remote delivery. To be able to utilize the SSP you will need to have headphones (not earbuds or noise cancelling headphones) that connect to a mobile device or tablet. Adult availability and support will be required throughout the intervention. The extent of the adult involvement will be dependent on a number of factors such as age and stage of development, child’s unique needs, home environment, and your child’s receptivity to the intervention.
Counselling Support and Costs
During the Intake Session a number of factors will be considered to assess the requirements to optimize the effects of the SSP. Depending on the various considerations it may require one to six hours of counselling support at a rate of $180.00 hourly. These costs may be covered by your insurance provider. If there are financial concerns, we are happy to discuss a rate that suits your household expenses. We are so enthusiastic about the SSP we want to ensure that is available to the most people as is possible.
We are happy to answer any or your questions or help you to decide on next steps.
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For Children and Youth