Therapeutically Guided Safe & Sound Treatment
The therapeutically guided safe & sound treatment is an intervention where you listen to engineered music with a headset that uses technology of sound to stimulate the nervous system and activate the social engagement system.
The frequency of the music has been altered to mirror that of the human voice, which activates your natural inclination to seek and enjoy relationship.
As your social engagement system comes online, I will be with you. My role is to provide presence and unconditional acceptance, which allows your nervous system to experience safety with another person. I will help you notice and understand the various responses of body. At times, you may feel alert and happy and may enjoy being with me. You may also have moments where your body sends you alarm signals, like tightness in your face, chest, or stomach. You may have a variety of feelings associated with these sensations. We will gently attune to your body’s reactions and allow your body time to adjust.
We are allowing your nervous system to incorporate new feelings of safety when your social engagement system is activated. Ideally, this allows you to feel more spontaneous and at ease in relationships with others.
We will carefully set a pace that is attentive to your needs. I will help you respond to these signals in your body with gentle acceptance. As your social engagement system comes online, your nervous system experiences historic reactivity while also taking in the new experience of being in a safe relationship. This helps your system learn to recognize safety and find comfort in relationship.
Listen to Dr. Stephen Porges, pioneer of the Polyvagal Theory, discuss the Safe & Sound Protocol with therapists Robbyn Peters Bennett and Amy Bryant.
When the social engagement system is activated, you may feel more vulnerable and interested in connection. Initially, your nervous system may associate this vulnerability to a history of feeling alone, abandoned, or overwhelmed in relationship. For this reason, your system may have an alarm response (ex – tightness in the body, audio sensitivity, an urge to move), while also having the experience of another person being with you with acceptance and care. My presence with you, allows your system to integrate the new experience of safety and build tolerance for connection. This process is called memory re-consolidation, where early memories of unpredictable or unreliable relationships are modified with a new experience of safety and support. We accept with kindness and care that your body is at times wary, and allow time for your body to recognize safety and learn and adjust. Because our relationship is based upon unconditional acceptance, your nervous system learns social engagement can be a source of comfort. This is a form of co-regulation that regulates the nervous system and can have a myriad of positive emotional and physical effects.
Digging into the science of the Sound Protocol
Dr. Stephen Porges developed the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) based upon 45 years of research on the nervous system and his research on the polyvagal theory. The polyvagal theory is a more contemporary understanding of the fight/flight/freeze response of the nervous system. We have three tiers of response in our bodies to perceived threat or danger.
- The oldest defense is our ability to feign death, like a lizard. This is the dorsal vagal system that allows our system to dissociate in order to endure threat that is inescapable. On the extreme end, it can be a physical sensation of numbing, or feeling disconnected from the body. Dissociation is also quite common and we all use it in mild ways while under stress. We might experience it as spacing out or losing body awareness and not realizing we are hungry or tired.
- The more recent system is our sympathetic system which allows us to take flight or fight. This is our ability to bring our energy up to meet or avoid danger. It also helps us meet deadlines at work and drive in hectic traffic.
- The most recent is our sophisticated social engagement system, the technical term being the ventral vagal system. When our social engagement system is turned on, we have the ability to connect with others and experience a deep sense of “you and me.” This is an awareness that we are together and deeply connected to each other. When our system is in ventral, we feel we have access to the support of another person who can help us feel regulated. This helps us experience empathy, love, and joy, and to experience a deep sense of well being.
Dr. Porges understood that finding ways to stimulate the nervous system in order to activate our social engagement system could help improve a person’s sense of wellbeing. He developed a five-day auditory intervention designed to reduce anxiety and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement. By calming the physiological state, the door is opened for improved connection and greater trust in oneself and others. This serves as a neural platform for potentially improving the outcomes of other forms of treatment including psychotherapy.
When the social engagement system is not regularly engaged, our nervous system struggles in a state of defense. When in a state of defense, our system looks for potential cues of danger, and we will miss cues of safety. So even benign environments may feel unsettling which can result in:
- Social and emotional difficulties
- Auditory sensitivities
- Inattention and/or irritability
- Emotional withdrawal
- Preoccupation with tasking/working and remaining in an up-regulated state that contributes to chronic fatigue and depression
Parenting from a state of safety
If we have a trauma history and we struggle to feel calm in our bodies, it can make parenting very hard. Our nervous system may be signaling to our children that there is danger, or even that we are a source of that danger. This can happen even when we have the best intentions and we love our children and work very hard to meet their needs. Even though our thoughts and feelings are focused on conveying warmth and structure and consistency to our children, our nervous system may be conveying danger and unpredictability.
This is why non-punitive relationally based parenting is so important for creating cues of safety for both our own nervous system and that of our child’s. This supports the naturally emergent behaviors of connection, warmth, and collaboration and is at the heart of co-regulation.
Robbyn is a professional with huge knowledge on the subject and a wealth of experience and this is deeply evident in how she engaged with me from the beginning. I felt deeply held and cared for and I would highly recommend this process with Robbyn to anyone reading this!~ Monique Danaher, mother and psychotherapist
I described some elements of my child’s behavior to Robbyn and she recognized that a course of SSP would help…
Since doing the safe & sound protocol with Robbyn I have noticed that I actually feel healthier, my digestion is…