SAFE & SOUND
What is It?
The Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP) is an intervention developed by Dr Stephen Porges from his Polyvagal Theory. Its purpose is to reduce neurological stress & auditory sensitivity. Together with enchancing the capacity for social engagement. From decades of research this intervention has shown, amongst other things, to be significant in reducing stress, anxiety & improving well-being. It uses filtered music to encourage the nervous system that connects the brain and body to 'reset'. Bringing calm as it moves out of the it‘flight, fight or freeze’ response. So enabling the brain & body to work in a more balanced way which makes coping with the stresses of everyday life easier . As well as finding it easier to socially engage with others.
BENEFITS OF SSP
Evidence about the benefits of SSP is growing. More research is being undertaken & clinicians using SSP are providing direct evidence of how it has impacted their clients.
Social engagement difficulties
Auditory hypersensitivities / Misophonia
Trauma - PTSD
Stressors that impact social engagement
Irritable bowel syndrome
Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD, & ADHD
SAFE AND SOUND
WHO IS IT FOR?
SSP & OTHER THERAPIES
I offer SSP to teens and adults, although it can also be used with children.
If you are aged over 13, then SSP sessions will be held in my office. This is part of the SSP protocol. As it allows me to monitor your reaction to the filtered music. So I can support you and the regulation of your nervous system. In exceptional circumstances I will consider doing the sessions in your home environment. With the impact of COVID 19, adjustments maybe made to the delivery of SSP. This would include providing SSP via Zoom sessions.
Although changes from the SSP can be cumulative & self-perpetuating, SSP is not seen as being used in isolation. Other therapies can be used to support & develop changes. This is for two reasons. Firstly, if you feel unsafe, anxious, this interferes with learning. So the calm & better regulated state achieved from the SSP opens up your system to further change. Secondly, SSP challenges your Social Engagement System to become more resilient. Both supporting better engagement & outcomes in other therapies you maybe in or in engagement in new ones. This would include: speech therapy; physical therapy; occupational therapy; psychotherapy; and many others.
HOW IT WORKS & THEORY
The music listened to encourages improved function of the muscles attached to the eardrum. This results is messages, impulses being sent through the vagus nerve. This enables the brain & body to move out of Fight, Flight or Freeze (Sympathetic & Doral). Into a more calm state (Ventral), where amongst other things allows us to be more social.
For an easy to understand video on the Polyvagal Theory click on this link to a Youtube video.
For further information about SSP & the theory behind it you can go to the Integrated Listening Systems (iLS) webpage. It also has client experiences of the impact of the system on them. (Also see the page below 'What People Say about SSP').
SSP PROCESS & SESSIONS
FIRST CONTACT & ASSESSMENT
PREPARATION FOR MUSIC SESSIONS
Is SSP Right for You?
when you contact me about SSP we will have a brief conversation or email exchange. I can answer any questions you have, ask you a few questions. This would then move us onto the assessment process.
Prior to the assessment I will send you some questionnaires to complete & return to me. These will help me in understanding you & have a base line to measure change. Together we will look at whether SSP is right for your issues; current circumstances; the amount or arousal in your system; & whether the sessions need to be in-person; on-line or a combination of both.
For some the timing is not right for SSP, particularly if due to COVID 19 we can only work on line. For others we can move ahead to the next stage which is preparation for listening to the music sessions.
Assessment session: 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
Understanding your Nervous System.
It is important for us to understand your movement between the three places your nervous system will take you: the Ventral Vagal; the Sympathetic; the Dorsal Vagal (see blog for more info). This is so we can keep in a place where your system is stretched & it can saviour the process, support change. Rather than go to a place of stress where survival takes over. So together we will identify your responses, feelings and actions. So during a music session you are not overwhelmed, and can remain or move back to a calm place.
To support you in this we practice a few techniques that can help you calm your nervous system. We will then be able to to call on them in the music sessions if needed.
Prep Sessions: 1 - 2 of 50 minutes each.
Listening & Being Kind to Yourself
There are 5 music sessions each lasting 1 hour. Depending on where you are doing the sessions (face-to-face; online) the length of listening will vary.
Sessions on-line: There will be up to 30 minutes of listening per session per day. With an additional 30 minutes for prep and closing the session. As well as stopping & starting the music as necessary to ensure your system is in Ventral. These 3 sessions will be done with me. After which we discuss whether you can do the 4th session without me being present (but checking in afterwards) or if it is more appropriate for me to be present. We would certainly work together for the 5th & final session.
Face-to-face sessions: They can be in the same format as on-line sessions. It is also possible for a full hour of listening can be completed. If this is the case then a session can last about 1 1/2 hours.
For more information about what happens in a session go to the next section 'What Happens in a SSP Session'.
Once the session are complete we then have a final session a week later.
Sessions: 5 - 10
Checking In, Review & the Future
We will have our final session together about a week after your last music session. We will review: how the process was for you; how your are feeling; what change(s) there has been; and what next for your. We will look at what resources & support you have. As well as whether other therapy may be appropriate.
As part of this process you may be asked to complete Questionnaires. These will be the same ones you will have done at the start of the process.
Session: 1 of 50 minutes
WHAT HAPPENS IN A SSP SESSION
Specially filtered music is played through over-ear headphones. You will be asked to choose to listen to either the adult or child play list of well known music: they both have the same effect. The aim of listening to the music is to gradually expose the auditor system to different sound frequencies of the human voice. The music may vary in volume, or whether heard in the right or left ear, but is pleasant to listen to.
Before starting to listen to the music we will check in and find out how you are & have been since your last session. Also how your nervous system is and its impact on you. It maybe decided that it would be useful to do a few calming exercises before starting. I will also check in with you as to whether you want to have something to do (activities will be offered) while you listen.
With the headphones on you will establish the right sound level through the App. Then the music will start playing. At various agreed points, the music will be stopped and I will check in with you to see how you, your system is managing. Of course if you will able to stop the music at any point. You will not be asked, or pushed to listen to more than you are able. In fact you will be positively dissuaded from ‘powering’ through, making yourself listen. If appropriate then some calming exercises maybe done before listening to the music again.
At the end of the listening period we will spend a little time viewing how it went. Also ensuring you are ok to make your way home. If the sessions are being done on line then we will also spend time reviewing the session and how you are before coming to an end.
After a session you may feel tired. So it is important that you take care of yourself. You can do this by drinking lots of water; eating food that is easy to digest; take some gentle exercise (particularly useful to integrate the protocol); and go to bed a little earlier than usual. Also before starting the SSP you can make sure your diary is as free of appointments, commitments as possible.
If you are interested in finding out more about SSP and whether it is suitable for you then please do contact me by email. (email@example.com)
The next step is for us to arrange for an initial session of 1 - 1 1/2 hours. This is for me to find out more about you. We will look in detail as to whether SSP and you are a good fit. We also also discuss practical matters as to how SSP will be delivered and fee.
Prior to the meeting I will send you some Questionnaires to complete. These are to help in my assessment & to gauge change. I ask that they are returned to me prior to the initial meeting.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT SSP
Video and comments from those who have done SSP
Issues: Complex Trauma & Anxiety
Video from the iLs website
Stomach Problems & Anxiety about Meals
... I had all sort of stomach problems which meant that food became an enemy. Around meals I became so anxious I would not go out with friends. ... I started to feel a change during the process. That by the time I completed the third music listing the anxiety was less: less action in my stomach & my breathing became easier. Now some weeks after I completing the sessions my stomach problems have eased & my I'm ok about food choices..... friends are surprised when I say yes to an invite.