The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)

Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)
Safe and Sound Protocol Equipment

What is the Safe and Sound Protocol?

The Safe and Sound Protocol by iLs (Integrated Listening Systems) is an intensive listening programme aimed at those with anxiety, social communication difficulties and trauma that has been developed as a result of over four decades of peer-reviewed research, based on Dr Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory.

Music is played through over-ear headphones, which has been specially filtered in order to gradually expose the auditory system to different sound frequencies. It works by stimulating the facial and vagus nerves and helping the autonomic nervous system to regulate, improving concentration and social engagement.

The protocol was designed to be delivered over five consecutive days, but those who have been in practice for a while have noticed more effective results can be achieved when the protocol is slowed down – especially for those with significant trauma histories.

This blog post on the Safe and Sound Protocol also explains how it works, as do the following videos:

How does the Safe and Sound Protocol Work?

Dr Stephen Porges explaining the Polyvagal Theory

Who can the Safe and Sound Protocol help?

Safe and Sound Protocol has been proven to help the following difficulties and challenges:

  • Social and emotional difficulties
  • Auditory sensitivities
  • Auditory processing difficulties
  • Anxiety and trauma related challenges
  • Inattention
  • Stressors that impact social engagement

The SSP can help people of all ages. For individuals with a trauma history (including children with developmental trauma), it may be necessary to split the sessions over more than five consecutive days.

A summary of the Safe and Sound Protocol, from Dr Stephen Porges

How do I access the Safe and Sound Protocol?

The Safe and Sound Protocol is available to my existing reflex integration clients. The standard programme involves 5×1 hour sessions on consecutive days.

However, it should be noted that everyone is individual, and it’s rare that I prescribe five consecutive days’ listening.

We sometimes just do fifteen minutes listening, or half an hour twice a week until we finish the five days’ worth of listening.

The Safe and Sound Protocol may be used by new clients in my West Sussex and Surrey clinics in person. These sessions tend to take place first thing in the mornings.

What can I expect following the Safe and Sound Protocol?

The Safe and Sound Protocol has been described as a “portal to the Social Engagement System”, and can have powerful impacts on how you/your child interact with the world around them.

Essentially, the SSP is opening the system for greater engagement. What comes after the SSP can cement and extend the gains.

It is the repeated and consistent responses from the people around your child that will enhance their new sense of safety and reinforce the new behaviour.

It is also important to recognise that if you are a parent with extreme anxiety, you will benefit greatly from the Safe and Sound Protocol yourself, and it is recommended that you complete the programme before your child for the most optimal results.

Emma Ashfield was one of the first practices to train in the Safe and Sound Protocol in the United Kingdom, and is currently the only Safe and Sound Protocol provider in Sussex/East Surrey. Emma works closely with the growing community of experienced SSP practitioners across the UK, and is also a contributor to iLs SSP training.

Move2Connect also offers primitive reflex integration, based on RMTi, an effective neurosensorimotor programme, as a prequel or follow-up to the SSP, and is also trained in the iLs Focus programme, which will be incorporated into practice in Spring 2020.

For more information about the Safe and Sound Protocol, the iLs Focus programme or Rhythmic Movement Training for reflex integration, please contact me.

The Safe and Sound Protocol – a parent’s experience

With the permission of Kimberly

SSP Testimonials and Case Studies

Dan – aged 7

6 months on from SSP and my son not only fully participated in a dance display at his school but look at him – he’s smiling!!! 😁😁😁 Last autumn he had to be persuaded to speak 5 words at harvest festival and here he is absolutely smashing the dance performance! I held back tears the whole way through I was so impressed by how far he has come.

Oscar, aged 9

We recently worked with Emma to look at reducing anxiety in our eldest. We are already doing reflex work but Emma offered us the Safe and Sound Protocol, which we did under her guidance. O responded immediately in a positive way, is much slower to react to triggers and accesses his coping strategies much more easily. Would highly recommend Emma.

Erika – aged 47

Erika had started suffering from social anxiety and depression following the birth of her now school-aged child. She found social situations hard and would constantly cancel at the last minute. In addition, she found switching off after work very hard, and was an insomniac, functioning on as little as four hours’ sleep a night.

She heard about the Safe and Sound Protocol via social media, and was keen to give it a go.

We had a one hour one-to-one session, in which we played a wonderful game of scrabble! I then issued instructions on how to proceed for days 2-5, and then we reconvened for a one hour debrief on day 5.

“The main result I’ve noticed from the SSP is my quality of sleep. During the programme, I was ready to go to bed by 9pm every night, and slept soundly until 6am! I’ve also noticed a great reduction in social anxiety, and feel more able to confront social situations without panicking”.

Oliver – aged 4

Oliver has had issues with aggression against other children for the past few months, both at pre-school and in public spaces such as playgrounds. His parents contacted me because they are convinced was to do with anxiety, and didn’t know how to address it. He has a mild speech and language disorder, which makes him less articulate than the average four year-old.

We completed the protocol during the October half term holiday, and since then, the incidents have petered out to once a day, once a week and none at all in early December! In addition, I have noticed that his speech has improved very noticeably in clarity and content.

Austin – aged 8

Austin has a range of diagnosed specific learning difficulties, including dypraxia, dyslexia and dysgraphia. We did the programme together on the first day – he enjoyed drawing and making models with air drying clay during our first session. His parents then continued through to day five with him at home. They reported that he went to sleep far more easily throughout the programme. Additionally, there was a drastic improvement in handwriting, without any other intervention.

The SSP continues to make improvements for several weeks after it has been completed.

Lucy – aged 45

Lucy decided to try the SSP as a drug-free way to address her anxiety. She has found it much easier to sleep since completing the programme, but even better news for her is that it has eased her perimenopause and her monthly cycle is once again regular after a year of being all over the place.

Lukas – aged 6

Lukas came to me with a presentation of sensory processing difficulties and poor receptive language skills. He completed one session with me, in which he drew me some fantastic pictures and then made trains out of play doh. He completed the remainder of the programme at home with his mother, with remote support.

His mother reports that he has developed close friendships with a couple of boys in his class and has been invited for playdates for the first time ever! His attention at school is noticeably improved, and sensory issues reduced.

Jack – aged 9

Jack is non-verbal and struggles with anxiety, and attends a specialist school, where he requires a high level of support with transitions and routine.

He completed the SSP over the holidays.

When he started back at school, his key worker could not believe the change, as he had started following instructions without having his hand physically held. He was also able to cope much better with transitions (such as the end of play time), and has started to join in with songs during circle time.

Further SSP case studies are published on the iLs website

*Please note that some of the names above have been changed for complete anonymity.