Dr. Stephen Porges's Safe and Sound Protocol or SSP and how it can be helpful in therapy
As we all go through the collective trauma of the Coronavirus pandemic, there is no shortage of reasons to feel anxious, depressed or hyper alert. Stephen Porges' polyvagal theory provides a language for these physiological states of connection and activation that our nervous systems go in and out of all the time.
The main idea of it would be that we are all wired to seek safety, both in ourselves, in our environment and in the relationships with the people around us, and that we all have survival responses to protect ourselves from danger and life threat.
According to polyvagal theory, when the Social engagement system is on, we are also able to distinguish human voices from background noise and are more calm and geared towards connection, play and exploration. Stephen Porges' team have discovered a link between the tiny muscles of the middle ear that allow us to tune into human voices and the activation of this social engagement system, or ventral vagal branch of the nervous system.
So by listening to music that has been filtered in a specific way, it's possible to stimulate the muscles of the middle ear and in turn to stimulate the person to tune into this state of safety more.
And here is where the Safe and Sound Protocol comes in. In practice this needs to be done with a trained professional and works best if done whilst the clinician is there, guiding, however the whole system is very user friend and it can all be done remotely through an app. Sometimes it's possible to have some sessions that are assisted and some listening to take place on one's own, depending on the case.
The core SSP consists of 5h of music, which is then listened to in smaller chunks in sessions and two new pathways, one introductory one and one follow up to continue the listening after the SSP Core is finished.
A core aspect of the SSP, together with the benefits of the music itself, is to teach and practice self regulation skills and to get in the habit of really listening in to our own nervous system moment to moment.
I have personally been found the SSP to be useful, both personally, I try to listen to a few minutes every morning to help with my own stress, and with clients in the context of ongoing therapy. In therapy, it can be use as a standalone therapy in itself or in the context of a broader piece of work, together with other ways of working.
If you would like to find out more, feel free to get in touch,
You can find more information on the SSP here