Picture by Sasha Gorin on Unsplash


Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, polyvagal theory is a theory around how the nervous system works. More recently it has been applied to psychotherapy as its descriptions of the different states of connection or activation that we all go in and out of, seems to intuitively make sense to many people.

I like the metaphor or the traffic lights, sometimes green, when we feel calm and connected, safe even. Then amber, associated with danger, when our sympathetic nervous system kicks in mobilising our energy. This is when we feel anxious, hypervigilant, angry, wanting to run away, either physically, in our mind or through addictions. The brain shouts 'Don't just sit there, do something!'

Then red, associated with life threat or when the threat feels inescapable. This is when we are in a state of shut down or immobilisation, not quite there, dissociated or just without energy, depressed or ashamed. We all move in an out of these states all the time but chronic exposure to trauma or stress can make us stuck in survival mode and can make it hard to regulate ourselves back to the green, what Stephen Porges calls the Social Engagement System.

I use polyvagal ideas in therapy through the use of the SSP or Safe and Sound Protocol. The Safe and Sound Protocol, or SSP,  is a non-invasive application of Polyvagal theory, based on decades of research and developed by Dr. Stephen Porges. It can be done remotely through an app and consists of music that has been filtered in such a way as to stimulate the Social Engagement System, 'tuning' the nervous system so to speak and providing an opportunity to practice self regulation and the ability to move through those states in a fluid way.

The SSP is a new intervention that has shown promising results with people who experience emotional difficulties, sound sensitivities, ASD or Autistic Spectrum Disorder and other conditions. Although the SSP works particularly well with children, I am currently only able to work with adults in my practice. 

For more information about the SSP, you can visit this website.

If you would like to know more, feel free to get in touch.