The Safe and Sound Protocol
Think, feel, and connect better through nervous system regulation.
Five hours of music.
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a powerful listening therapy designed to help regulate the nervous system, so you can better connect with yourself, others and the world around you.
Humans need social connection.
Subconsciously, your nervous system is always looking for cues of safety from other people through things like body language, facial expression or tone of voice.
But if you have a harder time interpreting these cues of safety due to past experiences or the way you take in information, your brain and body can misinterpret these cues, limiting your ability to connect in a meaningful way.
How does the SSP work?
Through the specially filtered music, the SSP sends cues of safety to your nervous system, building the foundation for awareness, embodiment and resilience.
Benefits of nervous system regulation
Improved response to stress
When our nervous system is regulated, it’s easier to sleep, eat, digest, concentrate, communicate, and participate in meaningful relationships with others. We can better respond to difficult situations and move past them instead of reacting and getting “stuck” in them.
Better emotional regulation and resilience
Become attuned to and more in control of emotions, so you can move through temporary setbacks with more flexibility and ease.
More social connection and deeper relationships
By activating the part of your brain that allows us to be more social, affectionate and connected, the SSP can help shift you into a state where you are more comfortable and at ease engaging with others, leading to deeper and more meaningful relationships.
Tunes that retune.
The music of the SSP is unlike any other. Each track has been filtered through a patented algorithm that highlights specific sound frequencies that are similar to the human voice.
This is an example of the full-spectrum sound frequencies in a typical unfiltered clip of popular music.
Specially Filtered SSP Music
Here is the exact same clip — after being filtered through the evidence-based algorithm backed by decades of scientific research.
As you listen to the music of the SSP, these highlighted frequencies send cues of safety to retune your nervous system, which can help you feel more settled, engaged and balanced.
Works alongside you, wherever you are on your healing journey.
Supports many symptoms and conditions
The SSP may be helpful in reducing symptoms and supporting overall health and resiliency for people seeking support for:
Depression and anxiety
Neurodevelopmental differences, such as autism, hyperactivity and attention
Sensory processing differences
Listen from almost anywhere
You can listen to the music of SSP either in person with your certified provider or remotely from the comfort of your own home, allowing for flexibility and ease. Your provider will collaborate with you on a listening plan that works for you.
Works with other therapies
It can also be combined with and is supportive of other therapies, including:
Neurodevelopmental treatment, such as occupational therapy, play therapy and sensory integration therapy
Other forms of mental health and trauma therapies, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing® (SE™), and Internal Family Systems (IFS)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of talk therapy (e.g. DBT, MCBT, etc.)
Safe and effective for all ages and families
The SSP has helped over 100,000 children, adolescents and adults in more than 70 countries worldwide. Uniquely, many families experience the SSP together and in support of one another.
"[After the Safe and Sound Protocol], I feel like I could finally connect with myself, recognize and accept who I actually am, and all of a sudden know what my needs are."
— Client, 30, who presented with hypersensitivity and anxiety
What to expect from your experience
As the listener, all that is required of you during a session is to simply listen to the music and to let your provider know of feelings or sensations, whether emotional or physical, that may arise.
Your provider may also have you engage in light activity during your listening sessions, such as stretches, breathing exercises, or drawing. Be sure to stay in close communication with your provider, so they can adjust your listening plan to suit your needs.
Your Provider's Role
Your certified provider will be your guide along your SSP journey. They are trained to make sure that you are ready even before you start listening to the music, and will recommend an individualized listening plan for you. They will provide education, answer all your questions and prepare you for all that you may experience once you begin.
During the listening, they will monitor your progress and make sure you are not completing the program too quickly or too slowly. They will support and work with you to find the right pace and conditions for the optimal listening experience for you.
If you are a parent or caregiver, you may be the primary listening partner for your child. Follow your provider’s instructions for what activities to do and how to guide your child.
Continue your learning
It's important for you to stay informed and educated along the listening journey. Watch this short video for an introduction to the SSP, including:
What a listening session may look like
What the SSP music sounds like
How often or how fast you should listen
What to expect from your SSP provider
What can I do while listening?Consult with your SSP provider for guidance on what activities are most supportive of your listening experience. In most cases, light movement, breathing exercises, and drawing, coloring or puzzle activities are recommended. High-intensity exercise, cognitively demanding tasks, and video games or computer work are generally not recommended.
Can I do the SSP by myself without a provider?The SSP is a powerful therapeutic intervention and is not available for use without the supervision of a trained professional (e.g. therapist, licensed social worker, mental health practitioner, clinician, educator, etc.). Your provider may, however, suggest some independent listening as part of your SSP experience. All SSP providers are required to complete an extensive training and certification course prior to delivering the SSP to ensure safe and effective delivery.
What does the music sound like?The SSP uses music that you may already be familiar with. The music is filtered through an algorithm that enhances intonation changes within the frequency range of the human voice, training the auditory processing system to attune to cues of safety. A classical playlist is also available as a non-vocal, trauma-sensitive and accessible alternative that maintains the essential elements and original algorithms of the SSP.
What does a listening session look like?Listening sessions can vary between providers depending on intake assessments, and usually can include a combination of client education, regulating activities and listening to the SSP. We recommend speaking with your provider about SSP delivery.
Do I have to listen to the hours in order?The music is divided into five hour-long sections. While you are not required to listen to a full hour each session, the filtration of the main SSP program is dynamic and progressive so it is important to listen in order and not repeat any sections without guidance from your SSP provider.
Discover the science behind the Safe and Sound Protocol
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) was designed by Dr. Stephen Porges based on decades of research that is now known as the Polyvagal Theory.
To understand the science behind the SSP, it can help to first understand our own body and the nervous system.
The Autonomic Nervous System
Our involuntary bodily functions, such as breathing, heart rate, and digestion, are regulated by the autonomic nervous system, which has two parts that work together to help us ebb and flow through life: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system is classically called the "rest-and-digest" state, which helps us heal, recover and conserve energy when we feel safe.
(Keep in mind that your "fight-or-flight" state and your "rest-and-digest" state may look different from someone else's.)
Sympathetic Nervous System
You can think of the sympathetic nervous system as a mobilization system that would support our "fight-or-flight" responses.
It functions like a gas pedal, mobilizing internal resources in response to danger. When this happens, you might feel an increase in your heart rate, fast and shallow breathing, tension in your neck and shoulders, and anxiousness.
Your autonomic nervous system is always asking the question, "Am I safe?"
But what if it's tuned to feel unsafe?
According to Polyvagal Theory, the autonomic nervous system is the foundation of our well-being.
Through Dr. Porges' Polyvagal Theory, we now understand that the vagus nerve — an essential component of the parasympathetic nervous system — has two structural pathways with different functions.
Polyvagal Theory: Revolutionizing the way we view the body’s response to stress
Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D., is the author of the Polyvagal Theory and creator of the Safe and Sound Protocol. He is Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium, as well as Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland.
He served as president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award.
When we don't feel safe
When we don’t feel safe, our autonomic nervous system responds by taking action. In this state, you might notice anxiety, fast breathing, and feeling hot or quick to anger.
If the feeling that we are not safe does not go away, another branch of the parasympathetic nervous system will shut us down. In this state, you might notice extreme fatigue, difficulty with digestion or feelings of depression. This is our body doing its best to conserve our resources to keep us alive.
When we feel safe
When we feel safe, one branch of the parasympathetic nervous system supports our ability to connect socially with others, to better access our higher brain functions and to have balanced, efficient and healthy bodily systems. In what Polyvagal Theory calls the "Social Engagement State," we feel calm, connected and more resilient to life's challenges.
The autonomic nervous system is constantly taking in and responding to cues from other people, our environment, and even inside our bodies, that tell us if we are safe. The more often our nervous system feels unsafe, the easier it is to get stuck.
So, what could it look like to "get stuck?"
Because your nervous system feels unsafe, it becomes harder to “tune in” to cues of safety.
Autonomic Feedback Loop
Cues from other people, the environment, and from inside your body tell your nervous system it is not safe.
Your nervous system mobilizes ("fight or flight") or shuts down in response.
What does dysregulation look like?
The autonomic nervous system regulates many of our essential bodily functions. When the autonomic nervous system is challenged to access a "safe" state, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
Difficulty with digestion, eating or swallowing
Difficulty with falling and staying asleep, or sleeping too much
Rapid or shallow breathing, changes in heart rate and blood pressure
Challenges connecting with other people, feelings of isolation or loneliness, and anxiety
Trouble with concentrating, mental clarity, or creativity
This is where the Safe and Sound Protocol comes in.
When you listen to the SSP, the music is working to interrupt this feedback loop, redirecting it with cues of safety to help regulate your nervous system.
Through nervous system regulation, you are then better equipped and more ready to respond more effectively to life's challenges, access higher learning and cognition, and build positive social relationships.
Speak to your healthcare provider about the Safe and Sound Protocol.
We recommend consulting a licensed and certified professional to see whether the SSP may be an option for you in your healing journey.
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) supports greater capacity to ebb and flow and respond to life’s challenges.
Over 100,000 Helped
Used in 70+ countries, those who've gone through the SSP report improvement and support with anxiety, autism, and more.
In-Person or Virtual Listening
The option for delivery in-person, remote or a hybrid mix offers flexibility to make the SSP work around you.
Safe and Effective for All Ages
Suitable for children, adults and families, with multiple playlist options to choose from, including classical and popular music
Works with Other Therapies
The SSP acts passively on the autonomic nervous system, meaning that beyond listening, you do not have to “do” anything to experience the benefits.
By helping to regulate the nervous system, the SSP makes it easier for you to engage in other therapies, including mental health therapy that includes talking, thinking, or other actions; body work, physical therapy, and other integrative approaches like sensory integration and occupational therapy.
Backed by Real World Evidence
Research showing the positive impact of the Safe and Sound Protocol has been published in peer-reviewed academic journals including the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, Frontiers, and more.