The Safe and Sound Protocol: Evidence-Based Therapy For Self-Regulation


We can all benefit from a little down time to rest and refill that cup of ours so to speak. What if your body won’t let you rest, you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed by the noise around you or you don’t have the attention span to have down time. Introducing the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP). SSP is a calming therapeutic intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience. For us to understand how it does this we first need to understand the interactions between our emotional and physiological state and the Social Engagement System. 

Emotional and Physiological State & the Social Engagement System 

Our emotional and physiological state is the basis for how we express ourselves (also known as our behaviour). Some states promote calm, prosocial behaviour, while some states promote anger and frustration.  

We want to be promoting learning and development to allow engagement in our everyday lives, whether that is cooking for our household, going to school or socialising with friends. To be able to do these activities the optimal emotional state is a relaxed, alert, and confident one.  

The physiological basis needed for this emotional state can only be achieved when we interpret signals of safety in our environment. You may now be asking “how can we change what we or others interpret in our environment?” According to polyvagal theory, this optimal physiological state is produced by the “Social Engagement System” (SES). Interestingly, the SES engages our parasympathetic nervous system to initiate our “rest and digest” functions.  

Central to the activation of the SES is the vagus nerve, which travels from the brain to the heart, to the gut, and makes plenty of stops along the way. This nerve communicates messages between the body and the brain, relaying information about safety and encouraging the body to relax.  

If we feel like there are threats in our environment, the SES is unable to do its thing. Instead, the sympathetic nervous system activates our “fight or flight” response making us want to get out of there or put up a fight – in some cases this can also result in immobilization. It’s our bodies way of “playing dead” so the threat will leave us alone. 

Therefore, activating the SES is necessary in allowing individuals to relax, be open to new ideas, and engage meaningfully in their environment and activities. All the things we hope to achieve in occupational therapy and achieved with the Safe and Sound Protocol. 

Safe and Sound Protocol and its Uses 

The protocol goes for 5-8 consecutive days, 1 hour a day, listening to filtered music and doing activities. While we are listening it is encouraging activation of our SES, with the research showing improvements in:  

  • Social and emotional difficulties 
  • Auditory sensitivities 
  • Attention difficulties 
  • Anxiety and Trauma informed therapy 

A little more on anxiety, trauma and the SSP. When we feel safe we can focus on what we are doing, whether that’s cleaning our room, reading a book, going to the local shops or being in a therapy session. This all changes when we feel threatened in our environment, our survival instincts automatically kick in. We have no control over this, we definitely can’t reason with it and it wont respond to being told to calm down. It’s a biological mechanism hard-wired into every one of us.  

Unfortunately, for some of us, the survival instincts are over-stimulated. When this happens, it can be difficult to learn, socialize, and function. This is where the SSP comes in. It’s an evidence-based therapy that assists those who experience this over-stimulation by calming their physiological and emotional state. When we feel more regulated, we are more able to successfully engage in therapy. 

Experience Results with the Safe and Sound Protocol  

SSP is a non-invasive, safe intervention that provides a physiological platform for learning and development to occur in people of all ages who have challenges like Autism Spectrum Disorder, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, auditory processing disorder, sensory processing difficulties and more.  

Contact Allay today to discover if the Safe and Sound Protocol is right for you.