What is Safe and Sound protocol?

Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is an auditory intervention 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.

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

  • Social and emotional difficulties
  • Auditory sensitivities
  • Anxiety and trauma related challenges
  • Inattention
  • Stressors that impact social engagement

One SSP, 3 Pathways: Connect, Core, Balance

The complete SSP program comprises 3 main pathways. Each of the SSP pathways is composed of different filtered, unfiltered and calming 5-hour music playlists for either children or adults.

The SSP pathways are designed to help the nervous system to better receive, process and respond to the cues and signals from the world around us. This helps us learn how to more easily and consistently feel better regulated in the face of life’s challenges.

Listening is connected with the vagus nerve, the body’s internal control center for processing and responding to cues and signals from the world around us.  The SSP uses specially-filtered music to train the neural network associated with listening to focus on the frequency range of the human voice. What you hear, and how you hear it, influences how your body responds.

It’s not what you say – it’s how you say it. We look, speak and listen with the same system. When the voice changes, the body responds. Think of how a baby or a pet responds to your voice.  As we learn to focus on the sound frequencies of human speech through the SSP program, the vagus nerve becomes stimulated and the state of feeling more safe and calm becomes accessible.

The proof is in the playlists. Specially treated music playlists are part of the SSP program and all help ‘prime’ the nervous system by exposing it to different sound frequencies. Listening to these playlists through over the ear headphones helps the nervous system to more readily achieve balance, or “homeostasis.”

Feel better

(+)Feel more safe, calm, grounded and resilient.

(-) Feel less irritable, anxious and overwhelmed.

Think better

(+)Think more clearly, attentively, and creatively.

(-)Think less rigidly, disorganized and distractible.

Connect better

(+) Connect more openly, genuinely and wholly.
(-) Connect less guardedly, distantly and oppositionally.

SSP Connect

SSP Connect contains music that is either completely unprocessed or just lightly processed.

If used as an entry point for SSP Core, SSP Connect is an invitation or warm up to the SSP for those who would benefit from a slower and gentler introduction. It can help develop familiarity with the music and listening process, thereby providing a sense of comfort and safety to experience the music, and set up a sense of expectancy for what is to come. This familiarity helps to provide the ‘safe’ before the ‘sound’.

All of the music in SSP Connect is either completely unprocessed or just lightly processed. In the original research on the SSP (then called The Listening Project Protocol), some participants listened to the same music without any filtration or modulation – just like the unfiltered SSP Connect playlists.  Although auditory hypersensitivities and behavior organization were not improved, these participants still showed significant improvements in spontaneous speech and listening; a finding consistent with the frequent reports of the regulating effects of music without filtration. This is supported by an ever growing body of research on the positive effects of music on brain function and behavior.

Both SSP Connect playlists may be used:

  • as a soothing and settling experience for those who feel anxious or tense;
  • as a time to gain insight into appropriate pacing/titration for the client;
  • as a preparatory program before SSP Core or SSP Balance; or
  • on an ad hoc basis if one is experiencing difficulty or distress.

SSP CONNECT PLAYLIST DESCRIPTIONS: SSP Connect includes three 5-hour playlists

SSP Connect Classical

The SSP Connect Classical playlist consists of five hours of full spectrum, lightly treated classical music. This is suggested as a first step for clients who need to adjust to the experience of listening to music via headphones, especially vocal music.  The classical music here has been curated to be calming and grounding, with a soothing tempo and without abrupt changes. Once acclimated, the vocal music and the lyrics which may evoke a personal narrative is better tolerated for sensitive clients.

SSP Connect (Adult and Child)

Listening to the unfiltered version of the same underlying 5-hour playlist as SSP Core is a way of creating familiarity and expectancy for SSP Core. In addition, it helps adjust and acclimate to the experience of listening to music via over-the-ear headphones.

SSP Core

This is the existing, original SSP that has been used by thousands of providers and tens of thousands of clients since its release in March, 2017.  It is Dr. Porges’ patented intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience.

The SSP,  is a non-invasive application of Polyvagal Theory, based on decades of research and developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, Unyte’s Chief Scientific Advisor.

The SSP’s effectiveness has been proven in a wide range of studies, most notably in two clinical trials involving children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Trial participants demonstrated statistically significant improvements in:

  • Emotional control
  • Behavioral organization
  • Hearing sensitivity and listening

The SSP program, which is facilitated by qualified and certified professionals, employs a practical bottom-up approach to help people regulate their nervous system more consistently and independently.

SSP Core contains a 5-hours playlist of filtered music which should be listened to by using over-the-ear headsets.

SSP Balance

SSP Balance is a pathway that can be used to extend and integrate the gains of the SSP and potentially act as a state stabilizer. It can also be used for further stabilization and integration before beginning an SSP Core Booster when accompanied by the guidance of an experienced SSP facilitator.

SSP Balance was developed as a follow 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 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.

There is no particular order necessary for listening to the music in SSP Balance as the filtration algorithm for each hour is the same. This means you can feel free to keep returning to the same hour or half-hour segment that appeals to you or move freely in any order. You can listen ambiently via speakers or your computer or any type of headphone.

Consider using SSP Balance as:

  • a way to integrate and embed the experience of SSP Core after completing SSP Core;
  • a warm up before an SSP Core booster;
  • a state shifter on a regular basis at home once consulted with your provider;
  • an ongoing daily support of the nervous system for both children and adults especially if there is a tendency to sympathetic arousal*.

*Note: Initial feedback suggests there may be more potential benefits if the individual is experiencing, or has a tendency toward, sympathetic arousal.  And there may be a slightly greater risk of mild side effects if they are experiencing, or have a tendency toward, a dorsal vagal state.

SSP BALANCE DESCRIPTION

SSP Balance includes the same underlying 5-hour Adult and Child playlists as SSP Core, but with a lighter frequency modulation algorithm. While not the same potency as SSP Core, SSP Balance will support continued practice of the neural networks associated with listening for further toning. Many find it to be calming and grounding and use it as a daily state shifter and support. Speakers or headphones of any type may be used.

The process

Each journey is different. After the first consultation, we will explore which is the most appropriate path. While all three pathways can be followed in order (SSP Connect – SSP Core – SSP Balance), a mix between the three is more likely, depending on individual needs and challenges.

The delivery of the SSP is done remotely, via a mobile phone app (compatible with Android and IOS).

We will connect via Zoom for periodical check-ins aimed at adjusting the daily listening time for each pathway.

Prior to the delivery of the SSP, you will be given a set of questionnaires for measuring the anxiety level and behaviours related to sensory processing.

While after completing the SSP Core, a period of at least three months is recommended before starting it again, the SSP Balance can be used as a daily state shifter, under careful supervision so as to make sure that there are no side effects.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of music will I be listening to?

The Child Playlist includes songs from several familiar Disney movies like Frozen, Madagascar and Despicable Me and music from popular artists like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. 

Adults will find the Adult Playlist soothing.  It contains vocal music from artists like Norah Jones, Sarah McLachlan and Simon & Garfunkel.

What if I've already completed the SSP Core?

Even if you already completed the SSP Core less than three months ago, you can use the SSP Balance to better integrate the results of the SSP Core as well as use it as a daily mood shifter. You can buy only the SSP Balance pathway for a month, via the Shop page.

Can I pay in instalments?

Yes, if otherwise innacessible, we can agree upon a payment plan.

Can I use the SSP for my children?

Any person above the age of 18 months may use the SSP.

Are there any contraindications for using the SSP?

We encourage those with a seizure disorder to check with their neurologist regarding any restrictions around using headphones before beginning the SSP.

Do I need to listen to the music at the same hour each day?

No, you can listen during different times each day. It is however recommended that you choose a time when you are more active.

Can I use the SSP for Tinnitus?

Depending on the cause, it is possible that the SSP may bring relief from the symptoms of tinnitus.  And even if the tinnitus is not abated, it is possible that resilience could be increased and sensitivity to the ringing may be reduced as a result.  This more global influence would enable an individual to deal with several diverse disruptors or disorders.

While rare, if Tinnitus is caused by an acoustic neuroma (a benign tumor on the 8th cranial nerve), it is best not to use the SSP.

Can I use the SSP to improve my sports performance?

Increase of performance has been reported by professional athletes using the SSP. This is due to a more calm and regulating state enhanced by the use of the SSP.