SSP music is music you will recognize. For SSP Core there are three different playlists.
Adult which is a mix of rock, pop and country.
Child which has music intended to appeal to children. The songs are from Disney and similar.
Classical Flow is classical music.
The filtering is the same on all three playlists so they can be used by anyone of any age. The different pathways are mainly to appeal to different preferences.
Our hope is that Classical Flow may make SSP more enjoyable for those whom English is their second language or for someone whose misophonia triggers may be connected with vocalizations during music.
It is completely fine for someone to alternate between the three playlists, as long as they substitute the same portion of music of one playlist for another. For example, someone could first listen to the first half of the first hour of Adult Core and then for the second half of the first hour, on a different day, listen to either Child Core or Classical Flow Core.
If you or your child are sensitive to certain pieces of music or feel better when you know in advance which songs are coming up, you can ask your provider for the written playlist for each track.
If a particular song is a trigger, it is completely fine to either switch to a different playlist to avoid it, or to simply skip past that song.
With SSP we have three main pathways:
The vast majority of the time, when we talk about SSP, we are speaking about. SSP Core. Core is the main SSP protocol with the most significant level of filtration.
The filtration on each hour is different. In virtually all cases the best approach is to - gradually, at the pace that you and your provider determine is best for your/your child's specific nervous system - listen to each hour, in order.
The first hour of SSP Core is intended to be calming and settling to the nervous system. It and the second hour help to prepare different aspects of our physiology for the higher levels of filtration that hours 3-5 have. The "bigger" work of SSP is typically in hours 3-5.
Having said that, although for some people SSP Core starts out very gentle and relaxing and then might - or might not - become gradually more challenging in subsequent hours, that is not always the case. Many people, and often more sensitive people, find the first hour the most challenging, with subsequent hours becoming easier and more relaxing.
There is a video here where Stephen Porges talks about the filtering of SSP Core differs on each hour. Please note that this is an older video: SSP is not typically recommended to be done over 5 days any longer, in most cases. Currently the recommendation is to listen to up to30 minutes per day. Many people will need to go more slowly than that and very often people need to have days off during the protocol.
SSP Connect is music that is completely unfiltered.
If SSP Connect is used, it is often used to help prepare someone to receive SSP Core.
For example, it may be used for a young child who is unaccustomed to using music as therapy, or wearing headphones. While it is entirely optional, we may choose to start them with Connect so that they can adjust to the process before the filtering is included.
Although Connect is completely unfiltered, some people do still experience mild therapeutic improvements with it. For that reason, we may also use it after doing Core or occasionally we may pause Core if someone is having a rough time with it, and move them over to Connect for calming and settling. In those cases, often after taking a bit of a break and hanging out with Connect for a bit, people are able to return to Core.
Because there is no filtering on Connect, it does not matter which hour is listened to, or if they complete all five hours.
Some people do experience dysregulation with Connect. It is more often adults who are more sensitive and/or have trauma histories, who do so but many even within that population do well with Connect. Usually my recommendation is to start slowly with Connect, just in case.
If someone begins with Connect, how they do with it does not indicate how they may respond to Core. Often people who do have a hard time with Connect end of finding Core to be easier than they did Connect.
SSP Balance music basically produced mild acoustic vagus nerve stimulation, with lighter filtering than what is present with Core.
Balance was initially intended to be a "lighter" version of Core, for those who do not tolerate Core well.
However, some people do still become dysregulated by Balance and sometimes more so than they may with Core.
The filtering on each hour is the same so it does not matter which of the five hours are listened to, in what order, or if all of it has been listened to.
Balance is most often used after doing SSP Core, as a way of extending the protocol.
Those who do well with Balance can continue with it indefinitely. Some people choose to use Balance in between rounds with Core as it is important to wait at least three months in between rounds of Core.
What equipment/headphones do I need to do SSP?
To do SSP remotely, you will need:
Access to a device for the SSP app. Suitable devices include:
Smartphones (either iPhone or Android)
Tablets (either Apple or Android)
Newer Macbooks that have the M1 chip
You will also need a suitable set of headphones. The specifications on headphones are:
over the ear, with the big padded ear cups that completely surround the ears rather than just sitting on top of them
they either do not have noise cancellation, or that feature can be turned off
not bass enhanced
either bluetooth or wired headphones are fine for most clients
While headphones are considered more optimal for most clients, if you or your child can not tolerate wearing headphones, using speakers is an option. Using speakers can soften the impact of SSP at time but for some clients that can be really useful.
Earbuds can NOT be used for SSP.
Some headphones and/or speakers may require an adaptor for your device if your device does not have a 3.5mm connector.
If you are going to be listening to SSP during an online session, you will need a separate device for the online session than the one you are using for the SSP app.
How long will it take me to complete SSP listening? How long are listening sessions typically?
The length of time that someone can listen to SSP each time and/or how long it takes to complete SSP is unpredictable.
We really don't know for certain before someone begins, what their ideal pace of listening will be.
The current maximum recommended length of listening session is up to 30 minutes per day.
Many people can do quite well with that for some or all of SSP but most people will benefit from taking some days off during the process and for some it will be essential to do so.
Some people may need listenings sessions that are much shorter than that, in order to keep the process gentle and to have best possible improvements.
For people who are extremely sensitive to SSP, their listening sessions may for some parts of the process be measured in seconds rather than minutes. During other parts of the process they are likely to be able to listen at a pace that is significantly faster than that, though it may still be slower than what it might be for someone else.
Some people can complete SSP Core safely and gently within 2-3 weeks.
Most people can complete SSP safely and gently within 2-3 months.
Many more sensitive or medically complex people may need several months to complete one round of SSP Core.
And I have had some people who have taken a bit over a year to complete SSP Core. Most of those people have still felt they had improvements with SSP though sometimes (not always) they are more subtle. On subsequent rounds of SSP those people are likely to have more vivid improvements.
If someone went far more slowly with SSP than what their nervous system needed, completing it over several months when maybe 2-3 months was more idea - but they kept forgetting to listen, for example - we can't be sure that they will still have noticeable improvements.
However, it is very clear that those who need to go very slowly through SSP in order to keep the process gentle, can still have wonderful improvements. In fact, people who are very sensitive to SSP very often have the most significant improvements of all. Some of those improvements very often begin to become evident quite early on in the process.
Although there are exceptions, the most common patterns we see with SSP listening are either:
Someone starts and the first hour is the easiest one for them and after that they need to slow down on each subsequent hour. That difference becomes most noticeable around hour 3.
Or, someone starts and the first hour is the most challenging one and each hour after that they can go at a faster pace.
One person for example who was highly sensitive to SSP on the first hour with me could only tolerate listening to one minute once every 3 days. But the second hour they could listen to one minute once every two days. By hour 3 they did quite well with 4-5 minutes of listening once every 2-3 days. Hour 4 they could do 8 minutes at a time, once every 2-3 days. By hour 5, however they did quite well listening to 20 minutes most days.
Although when they started they were very concerned it would take an extreme amount of time to complete SSP - a year and a half or more - in the end, it took them about four months.
Their improvements were so remarkable and dramatic that they did a second round three months after the first one, which is the minimum amount of time between rounds that we typically recommend.
But I thought SSP was listened to one hour per day five days in a row?
Listening to SSP one hour per day, five days in a row is a very outdated recommendation.
Even back when it was the recommendation, the caveat was that that pace was fine as long as it was tolerated well
It was also never particularly the recommendation for adults and most especially was not the pace recommended for adults (and sometimes children) with trauma.
In June 2020 the recommendation changed to up to 30 minutes per day. This recommendation change came partly due to the pandemic as we were being bombarded with messages that we are not safe.
It is always fine to take days off from listening and for many people it is quite important to do so.
Most providers agree that with the pandemic we have seen a shift to more people needing to go more slowly and that even though we are now three years into the pandemic, that continues to be the case.
If someone is working with a very experienced provider who is monitoring closely and listening to SSP for an hour at a time is being tolerated well, it can still be an acceptable approach.
It is not without its risks, however, including that some people may experience SSP related dysregulation in a delayed way: they may feel completely fine during listening sessions and completely fine throughout the process until even a few weeks later and dysregulation may show up then, sometimes in a very vivid way if they went at a pace that was too fast for them.
The dsyregulation will still be temporary and there will still be things that will help to settle it, and the process will almost always still be effective.
It's just that there are safer, gentler ways.
SSP is an extremely powerful approach that can be absolutely life changing for many. For this reason and because most people will benefit from repeating the protocol, I don't ever want anyone to be afraid to do SSP again.
As Stephen Porges, the founder of polyvagal theory and creator of SSP says himself, there are no prizes for finishing quickly.
Should I do SSP before or after I use X approach?
In the vast majority of situations, the best place to begin is with SSP.
By very rapidly shifting physiology, SSP sets a better platform for virtually any other approach to work more effectively and more efficiently, thus saving both money and time.
However, there are a few caveats:
SSP can initially for some people cause the nervous system to become more sensitive and more reactive. Basically, at the start, things may become worse rather than better. For this reason, we do not begin SSP when someone is already at the limit of what they feel they can deal with.
With SSP, in order for the process to be both as smooth as possible and as effective as possible, it is important to have someone who is a support for you or at least neutral, to be there with you while you listen.
SSP is likely to be much more tumultuous and potentially less likely to be effective when someone is living with someone who is toxic, hurtful ,or angry towards them, consistently.
For these reasons, sometimes I may suggest someone begin with another approach that may help their nervous system to become more settled and/or bring more harmony into the home, prior to beginning SSP.
Is it okay to do SSP at the same time as neurofeedback (or EMDR, Brainspotting, HemiSync, etc...)
SSP Core is quite neurologically intensive. When neurological systems tend to shut down rather than process new information when they become overwhelmed. For this reason, generally speaking when doing SSP Core, we do not combine it with other approaches.
Occasionally there can be some possible exceptions to this, particularly when someone is going through SSP quite slowly. If I am your provider (or your consultant), I am happy to discuss specific possibilities you are wondering about.
How do I choose the right time to do SSP?
Before starting SSP I always suggest to people that they look at their upcoming schedule for themselves/their child and their family members.
If there are "big" events coming up that may be stressful or it's really important to be "on" for, like a big presentation at work, exam periods, an expensive vacation - unless possibly it's a very relaxed beach vacation or similar - then it may be better to wait until those events have passed.
Ideally we prefer to find a time when it may be possible to have moments to rest, relax and integrate if needed, and when people around the intended SSP client may feel more able to "hold space" for them and be patient, etc... if any dysregulation were to show up.
This does not have to be perfect - kids can do quite well doing SSP during the school year, for example though if say summer break or Christmas or spring break are approaching soon, sometimes that is an ideal time.
Another thing to check the upcoming schedule for is upcoming dental work. Although things like cleanings and regular dental checkups are totally fine, we avoid doing SSP right before invasive dental procedures such as a root canal or dental implants.
Similarly, we would avoid doing SSP shortly before a surgery or other invasive medical procedure.
What can I/my child do while listening to SSP?
During SSP we ideally would like as much of the focus to be upon actively listening to the music, if possible, rather than just passively hearing it.
For this reason we avoid things like reading, writing or using screens while listening to SSP - other than for online sessions listening to SSP with a practitioner or other support person.
Things like colouring, drawing, playing with little toys, using fidget toys, doing simple crafts, kinetic sand, gentle stretching, walking, etc... are all fine.
Moving while listening to SSP can be useful in staying more regulated during the process. This may be especially important for adults and those with trauma. If moving during SSP listening it is important that the movement be on the slow and gentle side rather than being fast and vigorous as fast vigorous activity may speed the nervous system up and be less rather than more settling to the nervous system.
Ideally we prefer for the background to be as quiet as possible. However, if doing SSP with a child and they keep talking throughout, it is more important that the child feel safe and supported, than that they be quiet. It's fine to respond with playful fun gestures, big smiles and maybe putting a finger to your lips if that is well received but otherwise - don't worry about if if your child speaks during listening.
We know that SSP listening does not need to be perfect in order to be effective - many kids and some adults talk throughout SSP listening and still have wonderful results.
It is also the case that, while the usual instructions for SSP listening is that if someone falls asleep during listening it's important that they go back and listen again to the part they slept through. However, when I do SSP with my dogs they are virtually always asleep the entire time and have wonderful improvements. And, some very interesting and encouraging work is being done currently with SSP being administered to children during their sleep, while their nervous system responses are being monitored.
If you are interested in reading about my dogs' responses to SSP, you can do so on my blog. The posts about SSP and dogs begin October 2019 and there are several more, involving three different dogs, if you scroll up from there.
Do I really need to have someone present with me during SSP listening?
Generally speaking, the theory is that SSP is more likely to be more effective when listening is done in the presence of someone we feel safe and comfortable with.
Part of how SSP works is by activating the social engagement systems and, while those systems might not come on board in a different way for some people until a few to several weeks after the process has been completed, for others, they may start to come on board immediately, during listening. If someone during listening experiences the urge to connect and they look around and they are alone or, worse, someone is present that they feel unsafe with, our feeling is that that may not support the process as well.
Having said that, not everyone has someone in their life that they feel safe with and supported by.
Some people also do not generally feel safe with other humans.
I have very often had people do SSP with me who either chose to listen while alone or did so from necessity and - while we can't be sure what their process or improvements might have looked like had they had someone else present - they have virtually all still had wonderful improvements.
I have also had someone who did all of their listening with me but felt very awkward in doing so. She later repeated the process listening on her own at home, with her dog and felt she had better improvements that way.
If you are considering doing SSP with me and don't have someone who can be present with you throughout, one option is that all of the listening is done with me present, as long as we can work out scheduling that works well for both of us.
The cost of doing SSP is then my usual hourly rate with no "extra" charges for SSP but, the cost can be unpredictable as we have no idea ahead of time how many sessions will be required for you to complete the process.
Alternatively many people listen with their pets present or connect with friends or family online or in person after listening, or look at photos of those they care about while listening to SSP.
For myself I actually never worry about whether or not I have someone present with me during listening anymore - most of the time when I am listening to SSP I am hanging out with my pets while listening and having them listen too, over speakers and we all end up showing improvements. :)
How long do improvements last for?
For some people, some or all of their SSP improvements stick into the long term.
Since we are humans though, a caveat is that as we reach different life stages or hit pockets of intense stress, it's normal that some things may resurface, or new concerns may appear.
My husband, whose misophonia improved in August 2019, has not had it return since.
Other people may find that their improvements may fade after a few to several months or longer. Generally speaking, when we start to see improvements fade this tends to be a sign that it may be time to repeat SSP. Typically what happens in those situations is that with a subsequent round of SSP the improvements that had faded kick right back in again and each time they do SSP the improvements last longer.
Some people may experience a combination where some improvements stick and others may fade over time.
I did my first round of SSP in May 2019. The improvements I had with social anxiety, assertiveness and self protectiveness have never faded. I did not experience improvement with chronic pain (fibromyalgia and arthritis) until my third round of SSP. That particular improvement for me would fade after a few to several months with subsequent rounds of SSP but whenever I repeat SSP pain relief tends to kick in again right away.
How long before I see results?
SSP improvements may begin to appear any time from the moment listening begins, until up to 2-7 weeks following completion of the entire protocol.
I have had SSP clients notice vivid improvements - anything from sudden improvement in chronic constipation that had been an issue for decades, to a child who had never spoken before saying their first word - right from their first listening session, even when the session may have only been one to 10 minutes long.
I have also had SSP clients who noticed nothing at all during listening sessions, nothing in between listening sessions, and nothing for a few weeks after completion of the entire process.
Although it is rare, there are some people who do not appear to respond on a first round of SSP. The vast majority of those people are likely to experience a significant response on a second round of SSP, if they are willing to repeat it.
Is SSP effective for misophonia?
A little known fact is that, at one point. SSP stood for "Sound Sensitivity Program".
While we can not guarantee that any one person will have any one specific thing improve with SSP - or even that anything will improve for that specific person at all, as every nervous system is different, the vast majority of the time I do see misophonia improve with SSP - and sometimes disappear completely - very often on a first round of SSP Core.
Those who do not have it improve on a first round are likely to have other concerns such as anxiety or depression improve, and those improvements tend to make living with misophonia a little bit easier.
Then with a subsequent round of SSP Core it is extremely likely that misophonia will improve.
At the same time, it is important to understand that SSP is not a treatment for misophonia - or for any other specific condition.
Instead, what SSP is, is a modality that helps the nervous system to become better regulated. When that happens, a wide range of areas and concerns have the potential to improve, including sound sensitivities and misophonia.
I have a very high volume of clients who seek me out for help with misophonia.
My husband, who did not show any improvements either of us could detect on his first round of SSP Core in May 2019, had his misophonia resolve completely by his second hour of listening on his second round, back in August 2019. It has never returned.
Depending upon how the misophonia shows up some clients may prefer the classical version of SSP Core that was released in December 2022, if some of their misophonia triggers are related to vocals in music.
I've done SSP - what next?
SSP Core is considered to ideally be the beginning of treatment, rather than the end. One of many benefits of SSP is that it helps physiology to shift very rapidly, when then very often allows other approaches to then work more efficiently and effectively. SSP is not meant to be used as a stand alone approach.
Although most people will benefit from repeating Core and can do so as many times as they wish, it is important to wait at least 3 months in between rounds of Core.
What one may choose to follow SSP with will depend partly upon what their concerns are.
Someone may find that after SSP their work with occupational therapy, psychotherapy, speech and language therapy, etc... progresses more easily and rapidly.
Other approaches that SSP Core can be followed with include Unyte-iLs Focus and neurofeedback.
I am rapidly growing pretty excited about Unyte-iLs Focus after seeing some wonderful shifts in myself, a family member and a number of clients. While Focus has much longer programs, they can be condensed as needed. Furthermore, during Focus listening we actually want people to do be doing things so this makes it relatively easy to incorporate into daily life at the schedule you and your provider determine is ideal for you or your child.
For my clients who are in Canada, I do have NeurOptimal neurofeedback rental systems available for home use. You can read about NeurOptimal here. For those outside of Canada who wish to explore neurofeedback, I am happy to provide a referral for providers that I trust.
I heard of someone who had a rough time when doing SSP and I'm scared to try it
SSP only tends to become rough when someone goes at a pace that is too fast for them. This is why choice of SSP provider is extremely important.
If a provider tells you that with SSP listening you will follow a particular schedule - whether that schedule looks like 5 minutes per day, or 30 minutes per day - this is not the best type of approach with SSP.
While many SSP clients will do just fine with a formulaic approach, SSP is more likely to be both gentle and effective when it is tailored to the specific nervous system response of the individual.
Ideally what you want to hear from a provider is that they will be monitoring the process throughout, whether it is done with them present throughout listening or not.
It is important that someone who understands how to recognize nervous system responses in the earliest stage and also how to titrate delivery of SSP be hearing from you what you are noticing so that they can advise you as to when to pause listening, shorten listening sessions, lower the volume, and/or when it may be okay to lengthen listening sessions.
Your provider should be encouraging you to stay in touch throughout the protocol and available with not just what pace to listen at but how to help SSP related dysregulation to settle more quickly, should it arise.
SSP is a partnership between client and provider - or between a child's parent and provider. The best, most effective SSP processes occur when the provider and client or parent "play detective" together in watching for signs of how the nervous system is responding.
Are there any risks to doing SSP?
With SSP, dysregulation that appears is temporary.
The dysregulation should not get too "big" as long as someone does not go through the protocol at a pace that is far too fast for them. When delivery is adjusted when dysreguation appears, ideally in its earliest stages, SSP can be quite gentle.
If someone keeps pushing ahead either because their inexperienced or misinformed provider is telling them to or because they are pushing themselves to do so, even then there are signs of needing to slow down, dysregulation can escalate and uncomfortable experiences may occur.
If someone already has tinnitus it is particularly important to take a cautious approach with SSP and to pay close attention to that particular symptom and if it appears to becoming aggravated during the process. If SSP is done too quickly with tinnitus, it does tend to become worse and for some it may persist in being more evident for a number of weeks afterwards.
While some people are not particularly bothered by tinnitus, others find it quite aggravating.
SSP does have a way of unearthing things that are lying dormant beneath. For example, a child who has a tic disorder that has not yet been discovered, but they are getting close to the age when tic disorders tend to become evident, those symptoms may begin to show up during or shortly after doing SSP. SSP can not cause something such as a tic disorder, however.
I am (or my family member is) in crisis and/or medically unstable - is SSP right for us?
If someone is already feeling at the limit of what they can cope with - or they are dealing with complex medical issues, SSP may not be the best place to begin.
For almost all people SSP can be fairly gentle and/or minimally dysregulating if delivery is carefully titrated to the specific nervous system response of the individual.
Many people may find that they immediately become more relaxed and find right away once they start SSP, that they find some improvements appearing right away and that stress rolls off of them more easily.
However, this is not always the case.
If someone is already feeling at the absolute limit of what they can cope with and, if the dial got turned up on their stress temporarily life may become unmanageable, while I absolutely would recommend they do SSP at some point, it is not where I would recommend that they begin.
Luckily, there are other wonderful approaches that can help bring greater regulation to the nervous system, while carrying a lower risk of things potentially at first becoming a little worse before they get better.
I do offer online somatic experiencing skills groups. While anyone is welcome to attend them, my focus currently is to offer them for people who are preparing to do SSP, currently doing SSP, or have done SSP and want to continue to strengthen their resiliency.
Whether you are doing (or have done) SSP with myself or another SSP practitioner, you are welcome to attend my groups.
If you are interested in attending a somatic experiencing skills group with me please click here.
In some cases we may choose to begin by using SSP Connect in order to ideally bring more regulation into the nervous system prior to starting SSP Core.
I may also suggest NeurOptimal neurofeedback as a method to use prior to beginning SSP Core, to bring more regulation on board.
In situations where there is a great deal of stress in the home, and/or someone in the home that tends to "rock the boat" for the individual - being angry or stressed or difficult - I often will suggest that as much of the family as possible, begin with a NeurOptimal rental system for home use and share the sessions so that everyone at home can, ideally, be feeling better and even a little more harmonious, which then sets a better platform from which to do SSP.
NeurOptimal is also one of the approaches I highly recommend following SSP with.
If you are within Canada I have NeurOptimal rental systems available for home use. Renting NeurOptimal is one of the most cost effective ways of doing neurofeedback. If you are in the US or the UK, I have someone I can refer you to to access a NeurOptimal home rental system.
The iLs Focus System - another remarkably effective system that I highly recommendfollowing SSP with -also can be used prior to beginning SSP, in order to settle the nervous system and bring more regulation on board.
As with NeurOptimal, use of the Focus System programs can be used to increase resilience in the individuals nervous system as well as potentially the system being shared among family members to help everyone in the home become better regulated and more able to support the SSP process.