SSP – Safe and Sound Protocol:
Our brains are wired for connection, but, when we’ve experienced trauma our brains re-wire into patterns of protection instead.
The nervous system takes over during a traumatic event (or series of events) and it prohibits access to clear thinking, openness to new ideas and perspectives and the possibility for health and growth.
We need tools that can help us move out of these protective reflexes. Could sound therapy help repair our nervous system?
What is SSP Safe and Sound Protocol?
Developed by Dr Stephen Porges (the creator of Polyvagal Theory), the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a music therapy intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing easy social connections again and building flexible resilience.
The SSP is a non-invasive, gentle acoustic therapy which stimulates the vagus nerve which is part of the autonomic nervous system.
The purpose of the Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP) is to initiate and access a physiological state of well-being, positive engagement with others, and growth in learning and therapy.
How does Safe and Sound Protocol work?
The SSP uses the sounds of safety in voice and music to help our well-being. It helps us to create the “just right” window of tolerance for therapy. It guides us, via sound, to the sweet spot where a person is available and motivated.
We use filtered sounds that transmit cues of safety that our nervous system enjoys. When the ANS is gently stimulated repeatedly through filtered music creating neural feedback loops it is akin to the soothing frequencies of a lullaby, soothing the nervous system and increasing the capacity for safe engagement with the world once again.
When the middle ear muscles aren’t working in the optimal way they may cause low or high frequencies to be perceived dominantly.
High or low frequencies are implicit cues of danger (e.g. a lion roaring) triggering a state of defence in a person’s NS.
This then shifts the nervous system towards defensive states e.g. anxiety, tension or shutdown.
In the SSP mid-range frequencies are emphasised to re-pattern the nervous system back again to cues of safety.
To understand this better, it has been shown that the vocal features that predict infant calming are voices that include strong middle frequencies and fluctuations in vocal prosody. When exposed to these voice tones infants showed improvement in calming and autonomic regulation.
Why was the SSP developed?
Rooted in his Polyvagal Theory, Dr Stephen Porges created the SSP to help people learn to attain a grounded state where they feel safe, connected, calm and social.
Our state is critical to how we approach life. When you have better state control (feeling calm), not only are you more socially engaged, you are more open to connection and therapy.
Better state regulation improves therapeutic outcomes.
By helping to access a calm and grounded state, the SSP promotes a neural platform for health, growth and restoration.
Is SSP Safe and Sound Protocol evidence-based?
Yes, it is. For more information about the growing body of research into the use of SSP for trauma and other conditions please take a look HERE
Can I use SSP on my own?
The SSP is best used together with other therapies and is delivered as a course over a few months with the support of a Provider. Getting safe support as you experience the SSP is an important part of the journey.
After experiencing the SSP the nervous system will continue to strengthen these new patterns of autonomic flexibility after the treatment and help the client grow a deeper sense of safety within.
Changes from the SSP can be cumulative and will be enhanced by the social support you receive from your Provider and the learning opportunities they present.
While you may notice some very positive changes while using the SSP, it is not meant to be used in isolation. The changes you feel can potentiate neuroplasticity and functional change from other therapy modalities.