Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)
in Houston, TX and Online
What Is the Safe And Sound Protocol?
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a therapeutic tool that can be added to an existing course of treatment to enhance the benefit of therapy and retune your nervous system. The SSP helps clients to regulate their nervous system, increase social, emotional, and stress regulation, enhance the capacity for connection with others, increase response to therapy, and reduce the impact of external stimuli. Because SSP has a calming effect that can help adjust your response to your environment, it is particularly helpful for those who are sensitive to or easily distracted by light, sounds, and social or emotional stimuli—i.e., individuals who have autism, ADHD, or social anxiety. Furthermore, the Safe and Sound Protocol helps to regulate the nervous system, making it a particularly useful tool in the treatment of trauma survivors. For those struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or chronic distress following a difficult event, SSP can aid in the reduction of emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms associated with trauma.
It’s not all in the mind.
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a therapeutic tool that can be added to an existing course of treatment to enhance the benefit of therapy and retune your nervous system.
The SSP helps clients to regulate their nervous system, increase social, emotional, and stress regulation, enhance the capacity for connection with others, increase response to therapy, and reduce the impact of external stimuli.
Because SSP has a calming effect that can help adjust your response to your environment, it is particularly helpful for those who are sensitive to or easily distracted by light, sounds, and social or emotional stimuli—i.e., individuals who have autism, ADHD, or social anxiety.
Furthermore, the Safe and Sound Protocol helps to regulate the nervous system, making it a particularly useful tool in the treatment of trauma survivors. For those struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or chronic distress following a difficult event, SSP can aid in the reduction of emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms associated with trauma.
Polyvagal Theory And The Development Of SSP
Safe and Sound Protocol was developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, who first conceptualized Polyvagal Theory. Known as “the science of feeling safe,” Polyvagal Theory is based on the idea that our nervous system and perceived threats significantly impact behaviors and life experiences.
It’s difficult for clients to change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when their nervous system is stuck in a state of chronic defense.
According to this “bottom-up” framework, if we can resolve distress at the body-based level, thoughts and feelings will improve as we cultivate a calmer response to our environments and the people around us.
As Dr. Porges studied and better understood how information gets filtered through the ear, he developed a revolutionary auditory approach that initially helped autistic children in particular feel safer and less triggered by environmental stimuli.
However, SSP has since been expanded to treat individuals (of all ages):
How Does SSP Work?
The Safe and Sound Protocol Works by Regulating the Nervous System By Stimulating the Vagus Nerve
In his research for SSP, Dr. Porges understood the importance of the vagus nerve and other parts of the inner ear. The vagus nerve extends all the way from the brain to the colon, making it an “internal control center” of sorts where the information we receive on a daily basis is processed. This essential element of the nervous system aids in regulating many of our physical functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and communication, making the vagus nerve key in mind-body alignment.
When we feel triggered by fear or anxiety, the body enters what’s known as fight, flight, or freeze. As the body develops a learned stress response, we move farther away from a feeling of safety.
Eventually, the social and emotional parts of our nervous systems are activated, creating “big,” intense, and uncomfortable emotions. This feeling of unsafety is particularly felt among autistic or otherwise neurodivergent populations, for which ordinary stimuli and situations can often be overwhelming.
The Safe and Sound Protocol uses specially filtered music to help condition the ear and regulate the nervous system through the vagus nerve to reduce the sensation of threat and worry. By reducing noise sensitivity and helping clients acclimate to human voices and speech, the music used in SSP calms the nervous system.
With its revolutionary ability to actually change the brain’s response to external stimuli, SSP has been very successful in helping its users experience more peace and safety.
The Steps Of Safe And Sound Protocol
SSP is available to both children and adults who are already being treated in individual therapy. Due to its highly specialized nature, the protocol needs to be closely followed. And because certain songs, sounds, and noises can activate a stress response, it’s important to participate in SSP under the guidance of a counselor who can offer strategies for coping and emotional regulation.
For a total of five hours—usually in 30-minute increments over ten days—you will use specific headphones to access your SSP playlist, which can be accessed through an app and is designed to increase in intensity throughout treatment.
The music used for SSP is scientifically programmed to attune your brain to otherwise triggering sounds and noises so that you can gradually build a sense of trust and safety.
As such, it’s important that you participate in SSP at a time when you feel calm and relaxed, and that you aren’t engaged in an activated or noisy activity during your 30-minute treatments. For example, activities like coloring, sand tray, and snacking on soft foods are okay, but you’ll want to avoid anything that makes sounds such as crunchy foods or noisy activities.
It’s also recommended that you do some kind of movement following the treatment, as it helps reinforce the effect of SSP.
The Safe And Sound Protocol At Eddins Counseling
Our practice specializes in therapy for individuals struggling with issues related to trauma and neurodivergence, so we were pleased to integrate SSP into our counseling approach. After seeing one of our younger autistic clients make significant improvements in their physical and emotional regulation, we decided to provide Safe and Sound Protocol as an add-on option for treatment.
Using Unyte’s SSP model and approach to Polyvagal Theory, many of our therapists have since been trained to integrate this revolutionary technique into their therapy practice.
Because we recommend doing treatments consecutively, our clients are likely to participate in SSP for a relatively short period of time. There is a monthly fee to access the app and playlist, so as long as treatment can be completed within four weeks, there is no need to continue. And even though some of our clients have benefitted from multiple courses of SSP, we find that the first cycle is typically the most effective.
Not to mention, the implementation of SSP tends to reduce the overall time spent in therapy.
The Safe and Sound Protocol has helped our clients experience decreased stress, calmer emotions, and increased trust in their relationships. SSP has been a meaningful addition to our therapy services, and we are confident it can help you or your child too.
The Safe and Sound Protocol FAQ's
The SSP can be delivered in-office or accessed remotely through an app-based program and completed at home:
- Your therapist will coach you through the initial listening steps.
- You will be provided with an app to access the SSP on your mobile phone at home.
- You will need to use the app in conjunction with specific headphone types designed to allow the specially filtered music to activate your vagus nerve.
Ideal for Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Over-ear headphones are recommended for the best outcomes with the Safe and Sound Protocol.
And headphones that are not noise canceling. (Example: Beats headphones will not work since they are noise canceling.)
Headphones designed for SSP delivery can be purchased from Amazon here:
Calm, quiet activities that can be conducted while completing the safe and sound protocol:
- Sand tray (without banging out loud toys)
- Eating soft foods such as yogurt (no crunchy foods/snacks)
- Finger painting
- Gentle rocking
- Gentle swinging
Avoid using electronic devices, talking, or other activities that create sound while complete the Safe and Sound Protocol
**Please note that listening to these songs alone is not SSP.
The music in the SSP app has been specially filtered to enhance the nervous system and train the middle ear muscles to tune into specific frequencies of sound.
SSP Is Like Nothing Else You’ll Find In Therapy
Though Safe and Sound Protocol is not a stand-alone therapy, it is highly effective as a counseling tool—especially for individuals with neurodivergence and/or PTSD.
By actually reprogramming your nervous system, SSP enhances feelings of safety, connectedness, and calm for those who would otherwise feel uncomfortable in social situations.
Enhance Feelings Of Trust And Safety In Your Life
If you or your child experience social setbacks related to anxiety, trauma or neurodivergence, the Safe and Sound Protocol can help facilitate regulation of the nervous system when used in conjunction with talk therapy.
To learn more about our therapists’ approach to SSP or Polyvagal Theory, contact us below.
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