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. Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a research-based therapy designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement.
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.
When your social engagement system comes online, you will be more open to connection with others. You may feel some relief in emotional distress. The treatment is a neural learning experience that helps you learn to recognize when your nervous system is in a state of well being or defense. During the treatment, you may feel alert and happy and may enjoy being with your listening partner. 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. With guidance, you will learn to gently attune to your body’s reactions and allow your body time to respond and learn from the experience.
We are allowing your nervous system to incorporate a new sensation of safety when your social engagement system is activated. Ideally, this allows you to feel more spontaneous and at ease in relationships with others.
Listen to Dr. Stephen Porges, pioneer of the Polyvagal Theory, discuss the Safe & Sound Protocol with therapists Robbyn Peters Bennett and Amy Bryant.
This auditory intervention includes 5-hours of filtered music aimed to tone the vagal nerve, which calms your nervous system and thereby helps with:
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.
If you are not in Oregon, you can go here to find a local practitioner on the iLS website.
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
Since doing the safe & sound protocol with Robbyn I have noticed that I actually feel healthier, my digestion is…
I described some elements of my child’s behavior to Robbyn and she recognized that a course of SSP would help…