Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)

Utilising the Polyvagal Theory to reduce stress and auditory sensitivities

SSP (Safe and Sound Protocol)

Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the SSP is an auditory intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivities while enhancing social engagement and resilience. By calming the physiological and emotional state, the door is opened for improved communication and more successful therapy.

The SSP is a research-based therapy showing significant results in the following areas:

  • Social and emotional difficulties
  • Auditory sensitivities
  • Anxiety and trauma-related challenges
  • Inattention
  • Stressors that impact social engagement

Emotional and physiological state are critical to how we approach the task at hand. So when a client has better state control, not only can they be more socially engaged, they are more open to therapy. Better state regulation improves therapeutic outcomes. 

This non-invasive intervention involves listening to music that has been processed specifically to retune the nervous system (regulating state) to introduce a sense of safety and the ability to socially engage. This allows the client to better interpret not only human speech, but, importantly, the emotional meaning of language. Once interpersonal interactions improve, spontaneous social behaviours and an enhanced ability to learn, self-regulate and engage are often seen.

Melville Occupational Therapy offers the SSP protocol via remote access after an initial assessment and set up session.

Click here to read about the outcomes of past participants.


“This girl and her family have attempted many different therapeutic interventions over the developmental years and unfortunately were discouraged with the outcomes. The positive results on the SSP have provided this family with encouragement and hope.”

– From the therapist of a 15 year old with ASD

“My stomach has a bit of a smile, with eyes that blink very happy. That’s why I am very happy. I feel free.”

– Bente, 6 year old girl

“We have tried so many other things with minimal help – we just never got to the core of the issue – the SSP got to the core.”

– From the parents of a 14 year old with PTSD

“There seems to be a better sense of control about my emotions and a sense of balance and calm. It has been extremely rewarding to be more deliberate and aware of my reactions. This change has improved the communication and conflict resolution in some of my most important relationships.”

– From a 53-year old client struggling with sleep, attention and motivation problems following the death of her husband 1 ½ years ago

I want to let you know that I feel that the SSP seems to have rebooted my emotions relative to grieving for my sister. My face feels more expressive, there is more modulation in my voice, and I feel less of a wall between me and the world. Yay!!!!!”

– From a therapist who did the SSP herself.

“Much less trouble controlling emotions and excitement.  Better control of emotions and fewer tantrums now.” 

– From the father of a young boy with ASD who was concerned about his poor emotional control



Dr. Stephen W. Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University and a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Two Peer-Reviewed Studies (involving 292 children)

Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia and Auditory Processing in Autism: Modifiable Deficits of an Integrated Social Engagement System?

In this peer-reviewed study, higher functioning individuals with ASD were tested using an early version of the SSP.  The study showed that auditory processing and state regulation improved following the intervention.

Reducing Auditory Hypersensitivities in Autistic Spectrum Disorder

In a second peer-reviewed study, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who used an early version of the SSP experienced significant improvements in emotional organization, listening, spontaneous speech and hearing sensitivities.

5 clinical trials in progress to evaluate the effectiveness of the LPP/SSP in:

  1. Children with a trauma history.Funded by the Australian Childhood Foundation.
  2. People with ADD who have difficulties with autonomic and/or behavioral regulation.In cooperation with: ADD Centre and Biofeedback Institute of Toronto.
  3. Emotionally disturbed and learning-challenged young people who have difficulties with autonomic and/or behavioral regulation.Funded by the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center of Vista Del Mar, California.
  4. Decreasing the atypical features of the Social Engagement System in adolescents with Prader Willi Syndrome.In cooperation with the Latham Centers School in Brewster, Massachusetts.
  5. Reducing chronic pain in a sample of older adults.In cooperation with the Meadowood Retirement Community in Bloomington, Indiana.

“Collectively, the data from the current trials and Porges et al. provide convergent preliminary support that LPP (precursor to the SSP) enhances function of the Polyvagal “social engagement system” manifested in improved auditory processing, reduced auditory hypersensitivities, increased vagal regulation of the heart, and increased spontaneous social behaviors (e.g., sharing).”