SSP Safe and Sound Protocol
Nourish and awaken the nervous system. Feel better. Think better. Connect better.
The Safe and Sound Protocol, or SSP, is a non-invasive application of Polyvagal Theory, based on decades of research and developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, Unyte’s Chief Scientific Advisor.
Stephen Porges explain Polyvagal Theory: Click Here
SCIENCE BEHIND THE SSP WITH DR. STEPHEN W. PORGES
1. Please explain more about the acoustic features of the SSP: Click Here
2. Can the SSP potentially effect changes in the gut microbiome: Click Here
3. What is the difference between self regulation and co regulation and how does personality play into
style of regulation: Click Here
4. How is state regulation related to behavioral issues? (Part 1): Click Here
5. understand the role of state regulation in behavior (Part 2): Click Here
6. How do ear infections affect the middle ear muscles? Click Here
Safe & Sound Protocol
“I’ve spent a lifetime running away from my mind… or avoiding my mind, and to have that gift of quietness, to have that gift of enjoying my mind,… to be present with my mind… is truly amazing.”
Sophie is a 6 1/2-year old girl who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when she was five. Her Occupational Therapist was introduced to the SSP in July as part of a feasibility trial and immediately thought of Sophie who was very anxious and seemed constantly in a state of threat. Her fear prevented her from trying many things, as they seemed impossible to her. The extreme over-arousal of her sympathetic nervous system also affected her learning, her speech and her ability to communicate effectively.
These pre- and post-SSP videos capture the marked decrease in her level of fear and the improvement in her confidence and demeanor. Sophie’s mother is overjoyed with the changes she’s noticing in Sophie:
Her facial expression is now relaxed and she seems less anxious
Her spontaneous speech has escalated (“Her language is improving like crazy!” – Sophie’s Mom)
She’s exhibiting prosocial behavior (“It’s not all about her anymore.” – Sophie’s Mom)
Her emotional regulation is much improved (“Sophie is now sitting in the group at circle time and listening intently. She even raised her hand to ask a question!” – Sophie’s teacher.)
More Client Experiences With The SSP : Click Here
One SSP, 3 Pathways: Connect, Core, Balance
Nourish the nervous system safely and remotely
The complete SSP program comprises 3 main pathways and each of the SSP pathways is composed of different filtered, unfiltered and calming 5-hour music playlists for either children or adults.The SSP pathways are designed to help the nervous system to better receive, process and respond to the cues and signals from the world around us. This helps us learn how to more easily and consistently feel better regulated in the face of life’s challenges.
SSP CONNECT: Warm up the nervous system with a gentle and slow introduction, establish familiarity and a sense of safety.
SSP CORE: The original 5-hour listening program designed to wake up, exercise and open the nervous system, to build capacity and achieve reduced sensitivity and a more resilient physiological state.
SSP BALANCE: Continue to stabilize and maintain a sense of calm and grounding, and further integrate the benefits of SSP Core.
What you hear, and how you hear it, influences how the body responds.
Listening is connected with the vagus nerve, the body’s internal control center for processing and responding to cues and signals from the world around us. The SSP uses specially-filtered music to train the neural network associated with listening to focus on the frequency range of the human voice.
We look, speak and listen with the same system. When the voice changes, the body responds. As we learn to focus on the sound frequencies of human speech through the SSP program, the vagus nerve becomes stimulated and the state of feeling more safe and calm becomes accessible.
The proof is in the playlists. Specially treated music playlists are part of the SSP program and all help ‘prime’ the nervous system by exposing it to different sound frequencies. Listening to these playlists through over the ear headphones helps the nervous system to more readily achieve balance, or “homeostasis.”
Effectiveness of SSP
The SSP’s effectiveness has been proven in a wide range of studies, most notably in two clinical trials involving children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Trial participants demonstrated statistically significant improvements in:
1. Emotional control
2. Behavioral organization
3. Hearing sensitivity
Dr. Porges Polyvagal Theory: Social, Danger and Shutdown
The terms “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” are typically what we refer to when discussing this autonomic nervous system. However, there are different aspects of the nervous system referred to as the polyvagal theory, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges. The vagus nerve, referred to as the wandering nerve in Latin, is one of the longest nerves and is a cranial nerve that originates in the brainstem and innervates the muscles of the throat, circulation, respiration, digestion and elimination. The vagus nerve is the major constituent of the parasympathetic nervous system and 80 percent of it’s nerve fibers are sensory, which means the feedback is critical for the body’s homeostasis.
When we are in this stressed state or potentially anxious state, then we cannot be curious, or be empathetic at the same time. In addition to not being able to be empathetic or curious, we are also not able to break the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for executive function, communicating, guiding, and coordinating the functions of the different parts of the brain, back online. This essentially means that we are not able to regulate our attention and focus.
Our three-part nervous system
First, our “fight and flight” response is our survival strategy, a response from the sympathetic nervous system. If you were going to run from tiger, for example, you want this response to save your life. When we have a fight response, we can have anger, rage, irritation, and frustration. If we are having a flight response, we can have anxiety, worry, fear, and panic. Physiologically, our blood pressure, heart rate, and adrenaline increase and it decreases digestion, pain threshold, and immune responses.
Second, we have a “freeze” state, our dorsal vagal state, which is our most primitive pattern, and this is also referred to as our emergency state. This means that we are completely shut down, we can feel hopeless and feel like there’s no way out. We tend to feel depressed, conserve energy, dissociate, feel overwhelmed, and feel like we can’t move forward. Physiologically, our fuel storage and insulin activity increases and our pain thresholds increase.
Lastly, our “rest and digest” is a response of the parasympathetic system, also known as a ventral vagal state. It is our state of safety and homeostasis. If we are in our ventral vagal state, we are grounded, mindful, joyful, curious, empathetic, and compassionate. This is the state of social engagement, where we are connected to ourselves and the world. Physiologically, digestion, resistance to infection, circulation, immune responses, and our ability to connect is improved.
As humans, we have and will continue to experience all of these states. We may be in a joyful, mindful state and then all of a sudden due to a trigger, be in a really frustrated, possibly angry state, worried about what may happen to then feeling completely shut down. This is human experience. We are going to naturally shift through the states. However, when we stay in this fight or flight or this shut down/freeze state, that is when we begin to have significant physiological effects and also mental/emotional effects. This could be an emergency state. This can also be a suicidal state, if we are in this shut down mode for too long. If we are in a fight or flight state, we can have constant activation of our stress pathway, also known as the HPA axis, and we can really impact our stress hormones, sex hormones, our thyroid, etc. This stress will have significant inflammation effects on the body as well. All of these states can have considerable effect on our overall health, positive or negative, of course. Also, you can not get well if you are not in your “safe” state. No treatment intervention or professional will help you if you are not safe. This is why it’s really important to identify the states for each of you.
How to Map Your Own Nervous Sytem:
Trauma’s effect on nervous system response
With anxiety, depression and stress on the climb, have you ever wondered how you can understand your reactions to life’s challenges and stressors? Or maybe you wondered how you can become more resilient? Did you know that you can map your own nervous system? This is such a powerful tool that can help you shift the state of your nervous system to help you feel more mindful, grounded, and joyful during the day, and more importantly during your life.
Identify each state for you The first step is to think of one word that defines each one of these states for you. For example, if you are in your ventral vagal state, this is also called the rest and digest state, you could say that you feel happy, content, joyful. etc.When you are in your fight or flight state you could use the words worried, stressed, overwhelmed, etc.In the freeze state you could use the words shut down, numb, hopeless, etc.The first step is identifying the word that you correlate with each of those three states. This is really important because then you’re able to recognize which state you are in and identify with it quickly. This understanding will allow you to really tune into your body and understand how you feel in that state, so you can help yourself get out of it. Below diagram helps us to recognize this shift from shutdown to fight-or-flight moving from depression into anxiety. But how can we help ourselves move into our social engagement biology? If we are in a more dissociative, depressed, shutdown manner, we must try to shift temporarily into fight-or-flight. If we are in a state of fight-or-flight, we must find a sense of safety because when we sense that we are safe, we can shift into their social engagement system.
Identify your triggers and glimmers You’ll want to identify triggers for your fight/flight state as well as your freeze state. These could be things like a fight with your boss, an argument with your spouse, a death of a loved one, if someone cuts you off while driving, etc. It is whatever things that cause you to feel stressed. You want to eventually have at least one trigger, if not many, written down for each of those states.Glimmers are the things that bring you to that optimal nervous system state. It could be something as simple as petting a dog or something bigger like going on a vacation.
Once you can identify what those states are for you, then you can recognize what your triggers and glimmers are for that state. You can really begin to make a profound difference in your nervous system state. You can take ownership of what’s happening to your body, you can tune in to what’s happening, and know how to regulate your emotions and your responses to stress. Ultimately, this is how we can begin to develop resilience. This means being able to have respond appropriately to life’s challenges, go to that fight or flight state for a short period, and then return back to your state of social engagement. That should happen a few times a year not multiple times a day, or every day for that matter. To truly enjoy life, returning to your state of safety where you are mindful, grounded, and joyful, is a practice. It can start with mapping your own nervous system.
Specific aspects of ventral vagal nerve functioning
Porges chose the name social engagement system because the ventral vagal nerve affects the middle ear, which filters out background noises to make it easier to hear the human voice. It also affects facial muscles and thus the ability to make communicative facial expressions. Finally, it affects the larynx and thus vocal tone and vocal patterning, helping humans create sounds that soothe one another. Since 2011, Porges has studied the use of sound modulation to hierarchy train middle-ear muscles. People with poor social engagement system functioning may have inner ear difficulties that make it hard for them to receive soothing from others’ voices. Based on his research results, he developed SSP for help people to move out of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system into social engagement state.