After the initial meeting and assessment with the Dr who I’ll be working closely with for EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), it was also recommended that I do SSP – Safe and Sound Protocol alongside the EMDR sessions.
A couple days ago, I had an appointment by phone with the person who will be monitoring me for SSP where she provided an overview about the process and how to use the app. This entire protocol and process was new to me since I hadn’t heard this talked about before and I also hadn’t done research prior to our meeting, so thought I’d share a summary of what I’ve learned.
Safe & Sound Protocol
The following content was provided to me through my own Dr’s clinic, and similar content is also available through Dr. Stephen Porges website:
Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is an auditory intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience.
This non-invasive intervention involves listening to music that has been processed specifically to retune the nervous system (regulating state) to introduce a sense of safety and the ability to socially engage.
This allows the patient to better interpret not only human speech, but, importantly, the emotional meaning of language. Once interpersonal interactions improve, spontaneous social behaviors and an enhanced ability to learn, self-regulate and engage are often seen.
Research shows that SSP based therapy showed significant results in the following areas:
- Social and emotional difficulties
- Auditory sensitivities
- Anxiety and trauma related challenges
- Stressors that impact social engagement
- Better response to Counselling
Based on Dr. Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, by calming the physiological and emotional state, the door is opened for improved communication and feeling of safety. The SSP exercises the neural pathways associated with regulating behavioral state and social engagement. These are aspects of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). And just as the brain is plastic and can change based on experience, the ANS is also plastic. Peer-reviewed research has shown the SSP to significantly increase vagal regulation of the heart, which promotes better control of our state.
What is Physiological State?
Physiological or emotional state is at the root of all behavior. Some states promote sociability. Some promote tantrums. Others promote shut down.
How do you know when you are in the perfect state for optimal performance?
You’ll notice signals in the: eyes (bright and focused); face (content with the ability to express all emotions); voice (capable of prosody or tone changes); body (relaxed but with good muscle tone); and rate of movement (smooth and responsive – not too fast or slow).
These are all indicators of a state of focused, relaxed, and confident alertness optimal for learning and performing with confidence.
My First Session
Right now, I have 5 hours worth of music available within my app and it’s recommended I listen to 15 minutes or 30 minutes each day until I’ve listened to all 5 hours.
After our meeting Tuesday, I did feel some anxiety. I was feeling uneasy because I didn’t know what to expect while listening to the recommended music and with having so many unwanted memories surface over recent years, I tend to get nervous when I know there’s a possibility for more memories to surface.
Last night was my first experience listening to 15 minutes and it was very relaxing. Being classical music it was very captivating to hear all of the different instruments so clearly and reminded me of my desire to learn piano and get back into playing music!
While listening, I did have a memory come to mind from years ago but it was a good one. While pregnant I had learned the affects of classical music on a baby’s brain so when my oldest son was just a few months old, I played Baby Einstein videos for him (which had classical music) while I would cook or clean. Wasn’t expecting to receive a nice memory of seeing my young son enjoying music and visuals, so that was nice!
At my next appointment specific to SSP next month, we will discuss my experience and will be given access to different audio for the next time frame.
I don’t think I’ll be sharing more about this particularly therapy as I go through the process but will definitely be taking notes throughout and may share a summary afterwards.
Polyvagal Theory Summary
The following text is from the poster below created in collaboration with Dr. Stephen Porges and intended to be a quick visual summary for purchase through Restorativepractices.com:
The Polyvagal Theory explains the relationship between the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and social behaviour. The ANS is the neurological architecture of the mind-body connection. Through its sensory and motor components, it provides the physiological foundation of embodiment and the neural basis for feeling. It regulates our internal [unreadable] and assesses safety or threat internally, on our relationships and our environment.
This ability to detect degrees of safety is known as neuroception. Neuroception selectively engages specific neural circuits (Ventral Vagal, Sympathetic, Dorsal) that shift depending on whether we feel safe, in danger or under life threat. The Polyvagal Theory maps these circuits and the ways they combine into neural platforms of behaviour. It affirms that human well-being is largely social in nature, and it holds significant implications for improved understanding and treatment of our physical and mental health.