I have recently added the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) as a complimentary resource for therapy. This is not a stand-alone therapy. It is most successful when accompanied with other therapies. It helps to stabilize and prepare the nervous system so that the hard work of therapy can happen.
What is the Safe and Sound Protocol?
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) was developed by Dr. Stephen Porges and is a non-invasive application of Polyvagal Theory. The SSP uses the auditory system and its connection to the nervous system to establish the brain and body’s ability to find states of calm, safety, and regulation. The SSP functions as an acoustic vagal nerve stimulator. It is a research-based intervention that can give significant results in reducing stress and anxiety and improve the well-being of people of all ages.
More details about SSP
Created with specially filtered music, it resets the subconscious nervous system connecting the brain and body, encouraging a shift out of its defensive survival responses of fight, flight and freeze.
You will listen using over-ear headphones which gradually expose the auditory system to different sound frequencies of the human voice. The special filtering of the music encourages better function of the tiny muscles in the middle ear. This then sends different nerve impulses through to the vagus nerve which gently helps the brain-body connection move out of defensive ‘fight, flight, and freeze’ response, and into a calmer healthier ‘rest and digest’ state. This allows the opportunity to develop improved concentration and better connection with others.
In highly aroused states, with feelings such as agitation or anxiety, SSP can reactivate the gentle vagal brake to the brain and body systems which relieves pressure from the fight/flight accelerator being pushed down too far for too long. For low energy states, with feelings of being overwhelmed or shutdown, it can help release the freeze handbrake, so the natural accelerator can work more effectively and be better balanced with the vagal brake.
When our vagus nerve is working well, we can regulate our thinking and feeling, and soften our sensations of stress, overwhelm and anxiety. However, when our vagus nerve is out of sorts, our body can’t regulate and we can experience dysregulation through negative emotions, misread cues, and have heightened experiences of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. Our vagus nerve is responsible for our body’s rest and digest function and it links the body to the brain.
Benefits of SSP
Evidence about the benefits of SSP continues to grow and includes those relating to the following difficulties and challenges:
- Social and emotional difficulties
- Auditory sensitivity
- Auditory processing difficulties
- Trauma related challenges
- Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- School /exam anxiety
- Work related anxiety
To read about the extensive trials taking place on the effects of SSP around the world visit
How It Works
The SSP consist of 5 hours of listening to filtered music. It is a non-invasive treatment to help one regulate their nervous system, improve social engagement, as well as physical and emotional regulation. With the use of filtered music that exercises and challenges the middle ear muscles, it reduces stress and anxiety
Over 10 or more days, you will listen to the filtered music either in my office or via the Unyte-ILS app. This is done in as little as 5 to10 minute increments, or to a maximum of 30 minutes a day. The length of time depends on how your nervous system is managing the music. You will be using over the ear headphones (not noise canceling, or if they are you have the option of turning that feature off). You can stretch, do yoga, color, crafting, or work on a puzzle while listening. You can engage in an activity that relaxes and engages you but does not require a lot of focus and attention.
It is suggested that this is done over 10 consecutive days, but sometimes that isn’t possible and so the ‘less is more’ policy applies. You may have other obligations or you just feel like you need a break from it, or you may notice that in the beginning you are a little agitated afterwards. So you can go slower if needed.
This is a Safe before Sound protocol and it’s important that you feel grounded before and throughout your session. We will start in office when possible and determine ways to maintain a regulated and calm state. Once we have established a level of comfort and ability to check in and self regulate, you may choose to do some listening on your own, or we can continue to listen in office.
The SSP also uses three different pathways to connect to a person’s nervous system: Connect, Core and Balance.
“SSP Connect is unfiltered music. This is offered as an introduction to clients so that they can familiarize themselves with the SSP protocol music.
This is the original SSP that was released in March 2017. This filtered music program reduces stress and auditory sensitivity by restoring connections to the nervous system.
“SSP Balance was developed as a follow-up up to the SSP Core to offer an opportunity to return to music as a calming and grounding experience with a less strenuous neural workout. The music in SSP Balance uses the same playlists as SSP Core but is treated to present the frequency envelope of the human voice with a narrower and less dynamic modulation around this range. It should feel like less of an exercise program than SSP Core and more of a re-experiencing of the cues of safety your client will remember from SSP Core.” (Unyte-iLs, 2021)
What is the app?
The Unyte-iLs app is free and easily downloadable. You will receive an invite to register with access to the program that is the best fit for you.
Are there risks or negative side effects?
It can take 2-7 weeks for all the improvements to show up. It is possible that you will notice a heightened sense of dysregulation in the beginning, this is why the “less is more” approach is very helpful. Using an assessment we will determine how slow we want to proceed. This will likely lessen any discomfort as a result of the protocol.
How much does it cost?
If you are interested in utilizing the SSP only, the cost is $550. This allows you to have access to the 5 hours of the SSP Core and SSP Balance.
This price includes:
- 3 full hours of therapeutic in office or video assistance, broken into four 30-45 minutes sessions in the beginning of the treatment. The remainder of the listening will be done on your own with a supportive person.
- Subscription for 30 days of the SSP Unyte-iLs app, which will allow you to listen at home.
- You will also have access to Balance during that time.
- Once the listening is completed, we will also have one session to complete the evaluation and final assessment (as well as a plan for going forward).
(There is the option of just having the SSP be part of our ongoing therapy sessions. If you prefer to do a few minutes (usually 5 to 15 minutes of listening time during in office therapy sessions. This will just be part of our session at no extra fee. This will however increase the length of time needed to complete the 5 hours of listening.)
What is involved in getting started?
Please reach out for a consultation. I can go into more detail about the SSP and we can complete an assessment to see if it is right for you.
More Information on Polyvagal Theory: