• November 13, 2019
  • By Kathleen Francis
  • Comments Off on My Experience with SAFE AND SOUND PROTOCOL (SSP)
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​I am pleased to announce that I have achieved certification through Integrated Listening Systems to offer an exciting therapeutic intervention. The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a 5 day listening therapy that can help to calm both physiological and emotional state. When our nervous system is calm, then we are more able to notice cues of safety in the social behaviour of those around us, and be more open to change in therapy.
The intervention uses the auditory system to access the brain and nervous system, and helps make us more sensitive to the human voice, to safe and social facial expressions in others, and to feel a sense of calm in our bodies. This intervention is a starting point and makes the brain and body more ready and able to receive other therapies and make changes because neuroplasticity (the capacity for the brain to change) becomes more accessible when we are in a calmer state.
In other words, when we notice signs in the people around us that signal that we/they are 'safe', then we have more access to whole brain states, allowing for more creative problem solving, thus enabling change in an gentler way. Also, when a sense of threat lessens in our lives, then we feel safer and more able to connect with our loved ones. Indeed, isn't deeper connection what we are all ultimately craving?
The SSP is a listening exercise, and is quite relaxing and enjoyable. You listen to a playlist of songs for 1hr/day over 5 days. The sound frequencies of the songs have been tweaked in a way that encourages the middle ear muscles to have to work to hear and pay attention to higher frequency sounds in the frequency range of the human voice. Stress, trauma and many disorders can attune the middle ear muscles to lower frequency sounds, which in our evolutionary past equated to sounds from predators and other threats. After the protocol, our middle ear and brain become more able to filter out these low frequency sounds of 'threat'. This often results in a lessening of symptoms and a capacity to connect more easily with others. It also makes us more receptive to other therapies.
How does it work?

The SSP uses the auditory system as a portal to the vagus complex, which controls our physiological state. Once physiological state is regulated, we can accelerate or enhance subsequent therapy.

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. It is designed to stimulate nervous system regulation by exercising and systematically challenging the auditory system with specifically processed music.

The music trains the auditory pathways by focusing on the frequency envelope of human speech. As the client learns to process these speech-related frequencies, they improve the functioning of two cranial nerves that are important for promoting overall social behavior. 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.

Following successful completion of the intervention, individuals will be better able to focus in school, therapy, and everyday life and experience a calmed emotional and physiological state.  This is based on studies that suggest that skills such as attention, state regulation and the ability to engage socially will be enhanced.

My own personal experience with SSP has been very positive and quite fascinating. I completed the intervention with a therapist over 2.5 weeks. (There is the possibility to rent the system to complete some sessions at home.) The first day I felt quite tired after, which is normal and I knew to expect that. I also came home to my family and felt a craving for eye contact. I kept asking my kids to 'let me see your eyes', and it was like their eye contact was nourishing me, feeding a need I didn't even know I had. Over the next couple of sessions I noticed myself having a keen interest in faces. My therapist has therapy animals (2 dogs and a cat) and I found myself being drawn in fascination to their facial features. It was as though I had never looked closely at an animal's nose or eyes before...as though I glossed over the world in front of me and saw it in generalities. That day I noticed how much I was looking with curiosity at the faces of both my loved ones and strangers. That first week I also noticed what I understand to be the 'orienting response' - I would turn my head right around to check out any noises around me (something I don't normally do, or at least not to that extent). The orienting response is a nervous system behaviour and it is a healthy thing animals (and humans) do as they scan their surroundings, ensuring their safety.
Some of the most amazing changes to me have actually occurred in my relationships with my family members. I have noticed that when in tension or conflict with my spouse, I would normally go into a defense state and its accompanying reactions and behaviours. Instead, humour and play naturally erupted between us. Another time I had the thought pop up 'I am safe', which is not a thought I usually have when in the high anxiety state I normally feel when I believe I am disconnected from my loved ones. I noticed a softening in my relationship and an ease of connection. Another time, it was really easy for me to see and admit that 'I was wrong'....a tough one for me!!
My children seem to have responded to some changes in me as well. My younger daughter who has had challenges with self-regulation when disappointed or angry, has calmed down significantly. My eldest daughter who sometimes would exhibit attention seeking behaviours seems to have found a more fulfilling connection with me as well and I have noticed these behaviours lessening. Eye contact and a more calm mama seem to be rubbing off on them!
It can take 5-9 weeks for your brain and body to integrate all of the changes that can happen in the nervous system through SSP. Since completing the SSP last month, another change I have since noticed is how much easier it is for me to have direct eye contact with the various people I meet throughout my days. And I actually find others responding very positively to me when I catch their gaze. A sense of humanness seems to be created between us.
If this intervention is something you would like to explore, please let me know either in session or via email. Pricing is available here. The Safe and Sound Protocol can be done in office in conjunction with 30 minutes of Psychotherapy, and you will be billed for clinical hours which you can submit to your insurance. You can also rent the system for a 3 or 4 of the 5 listening days, as long as we see that your nervous system is responding positively and you have enough social support away from the office. Rentals would not be covered by extended health insurance plans.
Additionally, I have both adult and child playlists for the SSP. If you choose to rent the system, there is the option for you as a parent to administer it to your child(ren), with coaching and support. It is recommended that family members space out the timing of receiving the protocol, due to the changes in family dynamics that can occur. Often parent will begin and then a few days later the child can start. Please let me know if this interests you.
I am excited to be able to offer this service that will support both your self-regulatory system and nervous system as you journey to health and well being.
In wellness,

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Name: Kathleen Francis
Phone: 416.737.6647
Address: 450 Bronte Street South, Milton, ON