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Page: What is the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)?


Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges and derived from four decades of research on Polyvagal Theory, the SSP is a non-invasive auditory intervention that involves listening to specifically processed music that can re-tune the ears’ auditory pathways.

SSP can lead to decreased feelings of stress, auditory sensitivity, trauma, and emotional difficulties as physiological and emotional state regulation ensues. Clients are better able to interpret human speech and improve their communication and connection with others. The SSP can result in feelings of calm, improved interpersonal and spontaneous social behaviours, an enhanced ability to learn and self-regulate, and it can enhance the success of adjunct therapies.

How Does It Work?

The SSP stimulates nervous system regulation by improving the functioning of two cranial nerves that are important for human social behaviour. Cranial Nerve VII (Facial Nerve) helps clients focus on human voice and tune out irrelevant frequencies. Cranial Nerve X (Vagus Nerve) enables self-soothing and autonomic regulation.

For more information about the SSP program, visit:

Case Vignette: Hannah

Hannah is a 59-year old woman who presented for treatment suffering from complex PTSD symptoms as a result of war-related and developmental trauma. She reported overwhelming migraines, poor sleep, recurrent nightmares and anxiety. Hannah also had difficulties concentrating and found it exhausting to engage in social relationships, including her family who she loved very much.

Neurofeedback treatment and psychological therapy assisted Hannah to improve her sleep and migraines. Hannah was able to arrive at valuable insights about past events that triggered the emergence of her symptoms, and she could better understand current triggers and recurrent dreams about her childhood in the context of past trauma.

The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) was added to the end of neurofeedback treatment to further assist Hannah in her recovery and to improve her social-emotional connection with others.

Following five SSP sessions, Hannah reported feeling calm, her anxiety and irritability had decreased, and she felt better able to manage day-to-day emotions and interpersonal relationships. Her family noticed the positive effect the SSP had on treatment.

The graph below illustrates a significant decrease in trauma related symptoms pre to post treatment (Harvard Trauma questionnaire – HTQ), with positive changes in symptoms of anxiety and depression also reported (Hopkins Symptom Checklist – HSCL)

** Client name has been changed, and some details of the story have been modified to protect the client’s identity.