26 Jul

I recently became interesting in the SSP - Safe and Sound Protcol, by Stephen Porges, the creator of Polyvagal theory - after hearing about it from three different NeurOptimal rental clients.

When I keep hearing about something, I start to think maybe I should check this out. So I started by reading the reports of other somatic experiencing psychotherapists who were talking about the SSP, online. And when I read what they were saying, I became very excited, indeed. :)

I immediately realized that I needed to try it, and began where I always do with a new approach - I used it on myself, first.

While the process was slightly bumpy for me - initially I went into "flight" mode, with a temporary increase in anxiety, and then into "fight" mode (slightly more edgy than normal). I then had a massive surge of energy and was very go-go-go for about 12 days straight. As someone with fibromyalgia, this was very different for me - usually if I am busy one day, I have to be careful not to do too much the rest. The difference was so remarkable that my own therapist asked me if I had ever had a manic episode before.....she had a moment of worry as to whether or not I may be bipolar.

But no, I am not bipolar. :) It is typical for many trauma survivors to have a burst of energy after doing SSP because the energy that the body had been using to stay in a functional freeze state - sometimes for decades - becomes released all at once, as the body leaves that freeze state, and suddenly there is far more energy than normal, available. This is temporary - while I am happy to report that I do still have more energy than I did prior to doing the SSP, it is a far less dramatic difference.

Within days of running the SSP at the end of May, I noticed I appear to have a total elimination of all social anxiety. In June, I even went on a trip to England to meet my parent's UK family for the first time - he had not even seen them himself since he left England when he was 8 years old. It was only upon returning home that I suddenly realized I had not had a moment of social anxiety before, during or after the trip. I never once second guessed a thing that I said, I never worried about whether or not people liked me, and I just found the whole experience to be profoundly enjoyable and easy. And, I am an introvert and was staying in the home of people who, prior to my arrival, were total strangers to me. It is now late July and I have still not had any experiences of social anxiety or even significant anxiety in general, since doing the SSP mid May. I will be excited to run the program on myself again, mid to late August.

So what is the SSP?

The SSP is an auditory intervention that consists of five hours of listening time...and that is it. It is possible to repeat the process later, if needed - but it's important to wait at least 3 months before repeating it, to allow all of the changes to show up, which can take 7-8 weeks, and then to allow the nervous system to settle again.

For many - especially children - those 5 hours of listening can be done as one hour per day, five days in a row. However, for some - especially for adults, and most especially for adults with a trauma history - it is important to slow things down as needed. Sometimes this may look as slow - but not slower than - listening just once/week, for five weeks in a row.

What is being listened to is music that you would recognize - the adult track has a combination of pop, rock, new country, and I believe a bit of classical - so that, while most people will not love all of the music, hopefully no one will hate all of it. :) The children's track has a mix of music from Disney movies, and other child friendly tunes.

What is different is that the music has been passed through a special filter. Something about how the music is filtered causes the muscles of the middle ear to have to work very hard while listening. Nerves from the middle ear extend to a variety of systems of the body - the throat and larynx, the heart, the digestive system, the vagus nerve, and more.

As a result, most often very deeply profound shifts occur in areas such as anxiety, social and emotional difficulties, interpersonal relationships, auditory sensitivities, auditory processing disorder, trauma symptoms, inattention, and social engagement.

While I am very new to SSP, having so far used it just upon myself and three clients, I have been shocked, amazed and thrilled by the results. I am seeing shifts in a few short weeks that normally can take decades to produce.

So far, results seen have been a total elimination of any sign of social anxiety; dramatically improved emotional regulation, drastically improved ability to stay in connection with others, suddenly being more able to seek out and maintain connection, dramatically improved confidence, and improvements in mood and sleep.

I have one client who previously found herself in conflict with her partner a few times/week - to the point of having overwhelming urges to flee the relationship - over things she herself agreed were at times relatively innocuous - but then suddenly after doing SSP having no conflict at all, over the span of a few weeks. It was not that concerns didn't arise but rather, in her own words, she was able to respond "like a normal person", and to just talk about things without going to an extreme emotional state.

The mom of a young adult client with special needs noted that she found her daughter showed suddenly dramatically reduced social anxiety, and a corresponding incredibly increased sense of confidence and safety, and increased independence.

With those on the spectrum we often see drastically improved eye contact, sensory integration, improved verbal skills, and more. Those with ADHD tend to find themselves suddenly far more able to focus.

It is important to know that the process can be slightly tumultuous at times - especially for adults and for those with trauma. This is why we slow down the process for those groups, and for kids as well, if needed. With neurological work, less is often more.

If you are interested in trying SSP, please message me. I prefer to begin the work - especially with adults - in office together, so that we can both see how the process goes. I am then on hand to help slow things down, and modify things so that the prices becomes more gentle, if needed. Once we are both confident that the process is not too bumpy, it is possible to then rent an SSP system for home use, so that the work can be completed at home, less expensively and more conveniently than in office. I am still available for support as needed, for home users.

In addition to the wonderful improvements that most trying SSP experience, SSP has a way of boosting the effectiveness of all of the other approaches and therapies that someone is accessing. The SSP is not considered the end of treatment, but often sets the stage for making everything else work more efficiently and easily, making it not just highly effective but also incredibly cost efficient.

Very excited about this wonderful addition to my practice! :)

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