What is Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP)?

Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges after over 20 years of research, the SSP is an auditory intervention designed to reduce stress and sensory sensitivity, while enhancing social engagement and resilience by regulating the nervous system.
Based on Dr. Porges’ groundbreaking Polyvagal Theory, the SSP works by calming the physical, emotional, and behavioural state so that the door is opened for improved communication and more successful engagement in life. This new ability to engage in the world with improved emotional and behavioural regulation, attention, less stress, and less sensory sensitivity has a ripple effect that makes engaging in other therapies, work, school, and relationships more successful.

Social Communication

The SSP is a portal to the Social Engagement System and can have powerful effects on how a person interacts with the world. Examples are: better eye contact and facial expressivity; improved attention, listening and understanding; regulating the tone and volume of the voice; better emotional and behavioural control; more engagement in social interactions; and increased emotional expression.

Physiological State

Just like the brain, the Autonomic Nervous System can “learn” to stay more activated than necessary. By improving the ability to assess safety in social situations, the SSP helps people to activate a calm state, so they feel less anxious, hyperactive, hyper-aware, aggressive, withdrawn, or shut down. Accessing a calm state promotes emotional and behavioral regulation, more flexible thinking, and increases feelings of safety and wellbeing.

Sensory Sensitivities 

The SSP can improve the brain’s ability to process and integrate sensory input. People with sensory sensitivities may: respond negatively to unexpected or loud noises, become distracted or disturbed when there is a lot of noise or continuous background noise, dislike crowds, or find it difficult to extract the frequencies of human speech from background noise. They may also be bothered by touch, tags on shirts, textures of clothing; are “picky” eaters and do not like certain food textures, temperatures, or have other eating or sensory needs and behaviours that interfere with their quality of life.

Image by Lee  Campbell

Common Queries

Who is best suited for the SSP?

People experiencing the difficulties below may respond best to SSP: 

  • Social engagement difficulties 

  • Auditory hypersensitivities or processing disorders 

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Trauma

  • PTSD

  • Chronic pain or chronic health issues 

  • Sleep issues 

  • Mood dysregulation 

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders & ADHD

  • Motion sickness

  • Selective Mutism 

  • Sensory Processing Disorder 

  • Emotional and behavioural regulation difficulties and outbursts

How does it work?

This non- invasive intervention involves listening to music that’s been processed to use certain frequencies of sound that specifically re-tune the nervous system to introduce a sense of safety, decrease sensory sensitivity, and increase the ability to socially engage. This happens because the SSP activates the Parasympathetic branch of the Autonomic Nervous System (the rest and digest system responsible for calming and socially engaging), primarily via the very important Vagus Nerve (cranial nerve X), and helps to counteract and dampen the Sympathetic branch of the Autonomic Nervous System responsible for the stress response and fight-or-flight. This allows the person to better listen to and interpret human speech, and importantly, to extract the emotional meaning of language. Once social interactions improve, spontaneous social behaviors and an enhanced ability to learn, self-regulate, calm and engage are often seen.

SSP is delivered either entirely in-person with a therapist, partly in-person or online with a therapist and partly self-directed online, or exclusively self-directed with check-ins and support. This depends on what is best for each individual.

What ages are appropriate for the SSP?

Anyone 18 months or older may do the SSP.

What is the cost?

The cost to use the SSP system for an individual is $350 and includes:

  • One month of the SSP Core listening system (ample time to complete the program)

  • One additional month of either: SSP Connect before beginning SSP Core OR SSP Balance after completing SSP Core

Each additional family member is $75 per person. 

SSP done under the supervision of a therapist is subject to regular session pricing and can be submitted for reimbursement under extended health benefits if applicable. 

Those without benefits can pay over a two month period.