I tell all my clients this anecdote at some point, so it’s time to publish this as a blog post.
When I first read about the Safe and Sound Protocol back in 2017, I was extremely sceptical. How could just five hours of listening to an hour of music make any difference?
I trained in the SSP in 2018 as a professional with a background in nervous systems and neurodivergent children and their parents. I had experience of other (much longer) listening programmes that address higher level brain function, but the SSP works in a completely different way – addressing the autonomic nervous system through the ears to stimulate the vagus and facial nerves to help a person move out of fight/flight/freeze and into social engagement.
The training complemented my neurodevelopmental therapy work. I had many a lightbulb moment while taking the course and reading Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, and became convinced that I had to integrate a polyvagal approach and the Safe and Sound Protocol into my practice.
Having completed training, I immediately sent off for an SSP unit, which was a small solid state Walkman, with pre-loaded music. The SSP is now provided as an app, however.
I decided to try the Safe and Sound Protocol out on myself first. I did not know at the time that I was suffering with PTSD as a result of medical negligence (blog post on this to follow). I also happen to be middle aged, and was then approaching menopause, and was getting disrupted sleep as a result and my menstrual cycle was all over the place.
At first, I listened using an adult colouring book for entertainment. While listening to SSP, it is important not to have any distractions such as TVs, mobile phones, computers – any screens at all, in fact, which can put us into a dissociative state. The ideal scenario is a quiet, cooperative game, like chess or Jenga or something like that. Jigsaws would also be fine, Rubiks cubes, clay, painting, drawing, or my very favourite now, the Buddha Board.
I cannot lie – I found the music really annoying (I don’t anymore!!): it sounded tinny and moved from one ear to the other and back. Twenty minutes or so into the tracks, I suddenly realised that I had a racing heart and was taking very shallow breaths.
How could music have caused such a reaction? So I concentrated on deep, yoga breathing and limited my listening time. After each listening session, I felt excited about the next session.
The main thing I noticed while going through SSP was that I slept right through the night until 7am and woke up feeling refreshed, which I hadn’t done for AGES before that. I didn’t feel anything particularly uncomfortable or unpleasant, but didn’t enjoy the music. That said, I reframed the music for myself as not *just* music, but engineered sound, which enabled me to deal with it better.
Because I work with nervous systems on a daily basis, and understand the need to go at the speed that an individual processes change and trauma, I was aware that I needed to pause listening whenever I had any change to my baseline, even if I wasn’t sure if these changes were due to SSP or not.
After the five hours, I can honestly say that I felt a lot more connected – and much more relaxed, and this was noted by one of my RMTi trainers: I went on a large course in the Netherlands and connected with everyone on the course in some way, whether making spontaneous, pointless chit chat about the coffee machine to discovering that one of my colleagues also goes caravanning in France in the summer. Before SSP, my conversation may not have strayed far outside the course content – although it should also be noted that before my medical (birth) trauma, I would have had no issue nattering with anyone about anything.
About two months later, I realised that my monthly cycle was MONTHLY again: after a year of it being absolutely haywire, it went be back to exactly every 28 days. I was so astounded that I even booked a GP appointment and requested hormone testing – and to my surprise, my hormones indicated that I was years away from menopause at the time. The SSP possibly helped me achieve a better hormone balance.
I discussed this with Unyte and discovered that the increase in Oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the love hormone, and is important for bonding and connection. It is also incredibly important as it acts as a neurotransmitter, regulating hormones such as cortisol, dopamine and the sex hormones.
I have spoken to my gynaecologist about the Safe and Sound Protocol and the effect it’s had on me. There’s a drive to prescribe HRT to anyone who mentions the M word – I wondered whether I was missing out on something, but my gynae told me that she felt I didn’t need it as everything has been so well in balance – plus with my family history, I do not want any of the increased risks associated with HRT.
Having spoken to other SSP providers, I’ve discovered that I am not the only one to note incredible hormone regulation in peri-menopause and menopause.
Aged 51, I can honestly say that I’ve never had a single symptom of menopause (other than the obvious petering out of menstruation).
Since then, I’ve been using the SSP with several hundred clients, all of whom have reported reduced anxiety, vastly improved social communication in children on the spectrum, reduction of misophonia, a reduction in tinnitus, better sleep, improvements in the digestive system and even a reduction in appetite.
It is important to mention that the Safe and Sound Protocol is marketed as a “wellness” programme, not a medical protocol. It has, however, been through a number of randomised, double-blind controlled trials (RCTs) for a number of applications, but not yet menopause.
I was one of the original providers to train in the Safe and Sound Protocol, and one of the first in the United Kingdom. I have now worked with hundreds of clients with a full range of nervous systems, and would be delighted to work with you. Please contact me for a discovery call.