Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP)
What is the Safe & Sound Protocol?
The Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP) is a cutting-edge intervention based on decades of research by Dr. Stephen Porges, a world renowned expert on the Nervous System. SSP is a five hour listening program designed to reduce stress, increase resilience, and regulate the central nervous system through the vagus nerve. These five hours are most commonly broken down into half hour segments and done over a two week period, although in certain cases it can be done in hour segments over five days (in person only). Sessions can be completed in person at the therapists office or remotely, by downloading an app on your device and staying connected to the therapist through Zoom (online) during the intervention.
Sounds in our environment have the capacity to trigger changes in our autonomic nervous system states, either towards a stress response or towards relaxed & social behaviour. The specific sounds used in the SSP speak to the neurological system to activate parts of the brain and neurologically calm the person. It resets the nervous system so that it isn't so hypersensitive, or easily triggered by stressors. A calm, well regulated nervous system helps behaviour, emotional, and sensory regulation. It also helps us to see things from a bigger picture perspective, make better decisions, and problem solve. A well regulated nervous system enhances also our access to creativity, increases focus, concentration & memory.
Who Can Benefit From the SSP?
The SSP is beneficial for anybody with any type of autonomic nervous system dysregulation. It is most often applied to:
Trauma history or PTSD
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Autism Spectrum Disorder
There are numerous clinical trials underway right now, and more recently the protocol is being applied to neurological disorders, such as Parkinsons Disease.
How does the Protocol Work?
Sounds in our environment have the capacity to trigger changes in the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) states, either towards a stress response or relaxed and social behaviour. Also, the ANS, like the brain, is "plastic" or changeable, meaning that when people are under conditions of chronic stress or experience a traumatic event, the ANS learns to stay more activated and hypervigilent on an ongoing basis. This affects our resilience and ability to handle stressors.
The middle ear muscles are designed to pick up sounds of threat in our environment. It then sends that information to the brain and nervous system through the vagus nerve. When we are on high alert, the middle ear muscles are specifically looking for and picking up any frequencies that could be a potential threat, even in non-threatening situations.
The SSP uses prosodic vocal music that has been filtered to train the middle ear muscles to focus on specific frequencies of the human voice that enhance a sense of safety and relaxation. The protocol assists the person return to a baseline of safety and relaxation by stimulating the vagus nerve through the middle ear muscles.
What is the Vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve carries the most bi-directional information between the brain and the body of any other nerve. It initiates in the core of the brain and travels to the depths of the gut. Along its travels, the vagus nerve affects eye movement, facial expressions, tone of voice, heart rate and heart rate variability, breathing, and the function of the spleen, liver, kidneys and intestines. It can help to reduce inflammation and to improve your immune response. It is the care-taking nerve of the body.
The vagus impacts more than just physiological processes. When you say something is “getting on my nerves” or that you have a “gut feeling”, you’re referring to the vagus nerve. Through neuroception, a term coined by Dr. Stephen Porges, the vagus nerve is assessing the safety of a situation and the mood of people you interact with. And that information is relayed to the brain.
The vagus nerve activates the parasympathetic nervous system. When the vagus is stimulated, it elicits the relaxation response, slowing your heart rate and relaying instructions to release certain proteins and enzymes to calm you down. When you are relaxed, people can see it in your face and hear it in your voice because of the vagus nerve. You are better able to: concentrate, self regulate and connect with others when you are in this more calm and safe state.
What to Expect During A Treatment
Before starting the protocol, it is important to have an initial assessment session to determine whether the protocol is suitable for you and to learn a little bit about the nervous system & how to protocol works.
The intervention itself involves listening to specific series of songs for a half hour a day over 2 weeks, (or one hour over five days) through a non noise cancelling, over the ear headset. Sessions are done in a calm, quiet & comfortable environment, with a practitioner present for the duration of the session. Extra time is given for each session, so that there is time to check in at the beginning & end, and to take a break in the middle if needed.
It is important to do the intervention over consecutive days in a row (during weekdays with a break over the weekend) in order to get the most out of it. Sessions can be done in person at a therapist's office or by distance using an app on your mobile device while staying connected to the therapist through Zoom (online).
The participant needs to actively listen and attend to the music for the time it is playing. Mindless activities such as drawing or colouring can be done during the intervention, as long as they don’t take attention away from focusing on the music. At the beginning of each half hour segment, a test song is played to set the volume for the music.
During the intervention, the volume of certain songs may be quieter due to the frequencies being filtered. It is important not to adjust the volume but rather to listen to the best of one’s ability. There is a big variety in the songs played, and some will be repeated throughout the protocol. They may sound different due to the frequencies being filtered.
People can experience a variety of sensations throughout the body during the treatment. Tiredness around hour three is not uncommon, as the middle ear muscles fatigue and the nervous system begins to more deeply relax. Occasionally, people may experience mild agitation in the initial stages of the protocol as the nervous system starts to engage with the sound frequencies. If this happens, more breaks will be taken and relaxation exercises will be given.
Tracking one’s body sensations as well as mental and emotional state, energy levels, and quality of sleep throughout the treatment process can be useful to see the progression during the intervention. At the end of the treatment, the nervous system will be recalibrate back to its original baseline for functioning. Unless there is a significant stressor, the intervention generally does not have to be repeated more than once.
What is the Cost of Treatment?
The investment for the full treatment protocol over the two week period is $799 ($599 for the 5 day intervention) + GST (if you are Canadian). Please note that an initial assessment session is required prior to starting SSP, for those who are not already clients, to collect background information & discuss the protocol. The changes from the intervention continue to unfold for up to six to eight weeks afterward. After that time period, one can reassess whether further intervention is needed. It is important to leave lots of time for the sessions, so please plan for one hour each time for the half hour sessions (or an hour and a half for one hour sessions).
Candy's Observations about the SSP:
"As an experienced therapist trained in a number of different modalities to enhance autonomic nervous system regulation, I am blown away by the effectiveness of this protocol. Every single person I've worked with so far, including myself, have noticed a significant difference after completing the SSP. Most commonly noted is a much greater level of calm, better sleep, and an increased capacity to handle life's stresses. Life is no longer so overwhelming for these people, and a lot more enjoyable. I am so grateful for this intervention. If someone would have told me listening to certain songs with edited frequencies for five days would create this level of change, I wouldn't have believed it. But now that I've seen and personally experienced the effects, I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to feel calmer, safer and more socially engaged in life."
What clients say about the SSP:
"We monitored my blood pressure before and after the daily sessions. Every day we measured it, my blood pressure dropped after listening to the music. The last day, the starting BP was lower than any of the previous days, and at the end of the protocol, my blood pressure was back in the normal range. That's the lowest its gotten since I started monitoring it, which is incredible! I am also feeling more calm overall and sleeping more soundly thanks to these sessions. I did the protocol 6 weeks ago and I am still noticing changes."
"The effects of SSP are subtle but profound. I would get tension headaches which could turn into migraines when I was under strong time pressures. Since doing the Safe & Sound Protocol theses headaches do not appear. I am able to handle the situations so much more calmly and efficiently. I also feel an overall sense of calm with less triggers to my nervous system."
"When I have a stressful experience now I am able to put it in perspective and see it as a single event, rather than adding in all the other stress in my life. This has really helped me a lot. I am also getting more restful sleep."
Candy is not currently accepting any new SSP clients. To find a practitioner, please visit the SSP page on the Integrated Listening website using this link.