SSP: Safe and Sound Protocol

Safe remote trauma therapy: the Safe and Sound Protocol Digital

In response to desperate pleas by SSP providers around the globe, Unyte iLs pushed through a Beta release of the Safe and Sound Protocol in digital format somewhat earlier than planned back in May, in order to address concerns about providing the physical product due to social distancing and hygiene measures.

The full version of SSP Digital, available imminently, offers much better control, and will require greater training and controls for practitioners to access.

The Safe and Sound Protocol, in case you do not already know, is a revolutionary five-hour programme, based on Dr Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, which uses filtered music to train the stapaedius, while stimulating the facial and vagus nerves. The effect is softened facial muscles, a better “tuned” autonomic nervous system and a better ability to tune into the human voice and filter out irrelevant background noise.

The Safe and Sound Protocol is unlike any of the other longer-lasting auditory integration therapies on the market because it addresses the autonomic nervous system and “fear” at a cellular level, while the other well-known programmes tend to deal more with hemispheric integration.

How does the Safe and Sound Protocol work?

The Safe and Sound Protocol promotes vastly improved social engagement: As your facial muscles soften, you become more engaging as your face becomes more expressive. You are better able to focus on conversation, rather than feeling on alert from high and low frequency background noise, and your breathing, heart rate and digestion will head more towards a rest and digest state than fight/flight/freeze.

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The digital release of the Safe and Sound Protocol is better designed to be delivered remotely, especially during the COVID19 period.

This does not mean that EVERYONE should access SSP remotely: for adults with trauma, SSP is not always suitable for remote delivery.

From a practitioner point of view, the digital version is a huge blessing, for the following reasons:

  • we do not need to charge a deposit for physical equipment (but practitioners may charge a booking fee in order to organise their diaries).
  • we do not need to ship our expensive equipment or worry about loss or damage
  • we can track your progress from a console, so we can check that you have ONLY completed the listening that we have told you to do.
  • clients cannot exceed the prescribed listening programme
  • we do not need to worry about hygiene or sterilisation of the equipment, which may over time damage it, as you use YOUR equipment

I almost always recommend that a parent completes SSP first before completing with their child. This is because co-regulation is extremely important for the best possible results. If you would like to understand this concept from a polyvagal theory point of view, please read the book Grounded by Claire Wilson, or watch her TED talk about neuroception and co-regulation.

You will be required to return an agreement and consent form in advance, as well as screening questionnaires and full payment.

I have used the Safe and Sound Protocol with over 200 different clients over the last two years, almost all of whom have reported reduced anxiety, vastly improved social communication in children on the spectrum, better self-regulation, reductions in misophonia and tinnitus, better sleep, improvements in the digestive system and even a reduction in appetite.

Occasionally, someone reports back that they have seen little or no progress with SSP. This will be because they have not felt safe during the programme and have not co-regulated effectively. This is why it is important to ensure that we adapt the programme to suit the individual, which may mean we complete the protocol 100% via Zoom, or it may mean training you and your co-regulator up and ensuring regular check-ins. It may also mean that you or your child is not yet ready for the SSP, or that you would benefit from in-clinic supervision rather than remote.

My golden rule is that it is essential to get to know and understand each client individually: the SSP involves five hours of listening, but this five hours will look different for every single person, and it’s working out how to deliver it that makes the difference between success, almighty failure or the perception that nothing at all has changed.

Let me tell you know that it is IMPOSSIBLE that nothing at all has changed. This is a fast track to your autonomic nervous system, so the Safe and Sound Protocol will always make shifts, but it may be that a person is too stuck in a freeze state to notice change.

The greatest success with the Safe and Sound Protocol comes when a client fully understands the process and engages with it. The other success factor is the degree to which the programme is customised for you. Recently I came across a service that advertises the SSP as “thirty minute bursts” of music. Some people – children and adults alike – cannot cope with half an hour of SSP at a time. It is essential to keep in close contact with your practitioner, so that listening can be adjusted throughout the programme, depending on how the subject is feeling. Believe it or not, feeling anything can also be an indication of overwhelm for some people!

In order to fully understand SSP myself, I have completed multiple rounds of the programme. The first time around, completing the programme in five days, as was previously recommended, I did not notice a lot of change to be honest – but this was because five hours over five days is actually too fast for most people to be able to process traumas and microtraumas.

Last year, I conducted what I consider to have been an essential self experiment. This was due to witnessing extreme overwhelm in a child whose parents inadvertently overwhelmed him by listening to a full hour rather than the fifteen minutes I had recommended: the child became violent and nobody could work out why. I decided to do all five hours of listening over a weekend. The result was very disturbed sleep, Handmaid’s Tale type dreams, a feeling of the world rushing at me while I struggled with brainfog, and a horrible feeling of tumbling forward. The SSP had clearly brought up hidden traumas and affected my vestibular system. The most concerning thing to note was that I did not notice that I had over-listened at the time, hence my enormous degree of control and boundary setting when I go through the SSP process with my clients: many of my clients simply cannot recognise how their physiological state relates to the polyvagal ladder at first.

The result was very disturbed sleep, Handmaid’s Tale type dreams, a feeling of the world rushing at me while I struggled with brainfog, and a horrible feeling of tumbling forward. The SSP had clearly brought up hidden traumas and affected my vestibular system.

The Safe and Sound Protocol is available via my clinic, or from iLs accredited providers. Please always look for experienced, trauma-informed providers, and check that they understand the individual nature of the Safe and Sound Protocol before signing your life away! Expect to be screened for ACE scores as well as current autonomic state.

As I have been using the Safe and Sound Protocol for over two years now, I and a team of talented international, multi-disciplinary therapists have been feeding back experiences, best practice and training recommendations to Unyte-iLs. Because working with clients remotely requires far more skill and sensitivity than it would first appear is necessary, practitioners are now encouraged to complete Remote Facilitation Certification, which incorporates a polyvagal-informed approach to working with clients.

Move2Connect is passionate about ensuring best practice of SSP delivery in the United Kingdom. We have access to deliver a powerful intervention to our clients, and we do not want the Safe and Sound Protocol to gain a tarnished reputation because of a law suit with someone who has not taken due care with their clients.

We are also keen to work with adoptive parents, and can offer help with securing funding from your local authority for work with your adopted children.

We also offer mentoring for new SSP practitioners, as well as advice on how to incorporate into your practice.

Please contact me for further information.

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