Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a five-day music therapy intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience. Based on Dr. Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, the program is derived from nearly four decades of research on the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and social-emotional processes. Individuals with auditory processing disorder often exhibit sensitivity to sound and auditory overload from loud noises, leading to anxiety and/or an overwhelmed emotional state. When the emotional response to sound is negative, the limbic system stimulates the vagus nerve and the autonomic nervous system so that the individual goes into a “fight or flight” reaction response. The SSP exercises and systematically challenges the auditory system with specifically processed vocal music focusing on the frequency envelope of human speech. This retunes the nervous system associated with regulating behavioral state and social engagement. Patients report reduced stress, anxiety, and auditory sensitivity, along with improved ability to self-regulate. In addition, research indicates an improved ability to focus on speech when background noise is present and improved ability to interpret the emotional meaning of language.
Just as the brain is plastic and can change based on experience the autonomic nervous system is also plastic. As the listener learns to process these speech-related frequencies, it improves the functioning of two cranial nerves that are important for promoting overall comfort and social behavior. Cranial Nerve VII (Facial Nerve) helps individuals focus on the human voice and tune out irrelevant frequencies. Cranial Nerve X (Vagus Nerve) enables self-soothing and autonomic regulation. The Safe and Sound Protocol has been shown in peer-reviewed research to significantly increase vagal regulation of the heart, leading to better control of state. Since our state is critical to how we approach a task at hand, by calming the physiological and emotional state, the door is opened for improved communication and more successful therapy.
The Safe and Sound Protocol involves a total of five hours of specially processed music that can be administered in 1-hour increments over 5 consecutive days or 30-minute increments over 10 consecutive days. Following successful completion of the intervention, individuals become better able to focus in school, work, therapy, and everyday life and experience a calmed emotional and physiological state.
Research has shown significant results with just five hours of intervention in the following areas:
- Auditory sensitivities
- Social and emotional difficulties
- Anxiety and trauma-related challenges
- Stressors that impact social engagement
Auditory Processing Center now offers digital delivery of the SSP. The Unyte-iLs app makes the SSP program easily accessible because it can be downloaded on any smartphone or tablet and used with over-the-ear headphones. The user’s listening behavior is tracked at Auditory Processing Center and their schedule can easily be modified when needed. Contact us for more information.