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Relaxing with Music

“The quest for safety is the basis for leading a successful life.”
- Dr. Steven Porges

Safe and Sound Protocol

At Anchored in Hope Counseling, we use a holistic, integrative approach to mental health and wellness. That's why we're proud to offer innovative therapeutic interventions like the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) alongside traditional talk therapy sessions. 

What is the Safe and Sound Protocol?

The Safe and Sound Protocol is a non-invasive therapeutic program, which utilizes sound in a practical application of Polyvagal Theory. Polyvagal Theory is a theory developed by Dr. Steven Porges, and provides insights into the ways in which our nervous system interacts with external stimuli of those around us, such as their vocal tones and facial expressions. The Safe and Sound Protocol is designed to create a sense of calm and safety in the presence of these stimuli, and has been shown to produce significant improvements in emotional control, behavioral organization, and hearing sensitivity and listening. It has been notably studied, with positive results, in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and in cases of trauma, as a tool to assist in addition to traditional talk therapy. This program can be utilized by both children and most adults, but does require a short assessment with a Safe and Sound Protocol practitioner before beginning. To read more about how the Safe and Sound Protocol is helping clients click here.

The SSP is a sound-based intervention (using headphones) that has been found to calm physiological and emotional states. It was designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity and enhance social engagement and resilience by stimulating nervous system regulation through filtered music (i.e., a range of frequencies that exercise and systematically challenge the middle ear muscles). The music is computer altered vocal music (i.e. filtered music) designed to exaggerate the features of human prosody and hypothetically to exercise the neural regulation of the middle ear muscles. The specially adapted music uses the auditory pathway as an access point to the neural network and is intended to help people extract human voice from background noise and, as a result, better regulate the autonomic nervous system and all its many functions. Learn more about SSP here:

What is the process? 

Anchored in Hope Counseling currently offers the Safe and Sound Protocol as a three-part process which can last up to two months, depending on the needs and comfortable pace of each client. You can view a short video about how this program works, by clicking here. 

The SSP Program that Anchored In Hope offers consists of three phases:

  1. Connect: A pathway to help clients prepare for using SSP Core. Connect is the unfiltered music for the program. 

  2. Core: The main therapeutic listening program with filtered music. 

  3. Balance: Lighter filtered listening program. 

​The SSP Program can be accessed by current clients at Anchored In Hope as a part of their current counseling, as a tool to access deep areas of the brain often un-accessible by traditional therapy alone. If a current client decides they would like to undertake the program, a portion of their current session can be spent doing SSP and they will continue the listening sessions at home in between appointments. 

What is the science behind the Safe and Sound Protocol? 

The Safe and Sound Protocol resets the middle ear to the detect the range of frequencies that mammals use for social engagement, which are at a higher frequency band than that which animals utilize for threat monitoring (imagine the sound of a running predator). Resetting the ear to increase sensitivity to these social engagement frequencies concurrently resets our foundational neurology away from protective vigilance. We experience this vigilance in a myriad of ways that, at their core, are related to an ongoing feeling of being unsafe, and which express as reactive anxiety and/or anger. To access more information about the science and research data behind SSP click here.

Who can benefit from the Safe and Sound Protocol? 

The Safe and Sound Protocol can be a helpful therapy for a wide range of people experiencing challenges and is safe for children and adults. Here are some groups who may benefit:

  • Individuals with anxiety, inattention, and focus issues: SSP can help regulate the nervous system, leading to reduced anxiety and improved focus.

  • People with auditory sensitivities: The protocol can help those who find sounds overwhelming or stressful.

  • Those with behavioral regulation difficulties: SSP can be useful for managing challenging behaviors, particularly in children.

  • People on the autism spectrum: Research suggests SSP may improve social engagement and communication in individuals with autism.

  • Trauma survivors: By promoting a sense of safety within the nervous system, SSP can support emotional healing from trauma.

Overall, anyone seeking to improve their emotional regulation, sensory processing, or social engagement may find SSP beneficial. It's important to note that SSP is used alongside other therapies, not as a replacement.

What is the cost?

For established Anchored in Hope Counseling clients, the cost for SSP is $500.00. This rate includes an initial intake session and access to all three SSP tools: Connect, Core, and Balance. This allows up to 12 full months of access to the program to go at the pace that works best for you. The program cost is not covered by insurance. Payment plans are available. 

Ready to get started?

If you're interested in learning more about Safe and Sound Protocol and how it can benefit you, contact Anchored in Hope Counseling today. Email us at or submit a form to become a client.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • SSP Core offers 3 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: which 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.

  • 1. A device in which you can access the SSP application, such as a smartphone (either iPhone or Android), tablet (either Apple or Android), newer MacBook (must have the M1 chip), or Chromebook.

    2. Headphones that are compatible with your chosen device through Bluetooth or audio jack. The headphones must be over the ear, with the big, padded ear cups that completely surround the ears. They either do not have noise cancellation, or that feature can be turned off. Not bass enhanced. **Earbuds are not recommended for SSP**

  • 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. Some people may need listening sessions that are much shorter than that, in order to keep the process gentle and to have best possible improvements.

    For people who are sensitive to SSP, some parts of the listening session process may 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.

  • SSP Core is quite neurologically intensive. When a neurological system is overwhelmed it may shut down rather than process new information. For this reason, generally speaking when doing SSP Core, we do not combine it with other neurofeedback approaches such as EMDR or Brainspotting. Occasionally there can be some possible exceptions to this, particularly when someone is going through SSP quite slowly.

  • Before starting SSP we 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 are demanding, like a big presentation at work, exam periods, an expensive vacation then it may be better to wait until those events have passed.

    Ideally, we prefer to find a time when it is possible 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 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 school breaks tend to be a better time.

    Another thing to check the upcoming schedule for is upcoming surgery, invasive medical procedures, or 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 coloring, 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 ther sleep, while their nervous system responses are being monitored.

  • 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.

    Some 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.
    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.

  • For some people, some or all of their SSP improvements stick into the long term. 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.

  • Temporary dysregulation is possible with SSP. Any 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. It is important to let your provider know if you experience any dysregulation so that your provider can adjust the delivery of SSP and reduce those symptoms. 

    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 how it responds during the process.  If SSP is done too quickly with tinnitus, it may 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 cannot cause something such as a tic disorder, however.

  • 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 we would absolutely would recommend they do SSP at some point, it is not where we would recommend that they begin.

  • Comprehensive overview of SSP: Home | What is the SSP

    Video overview of SSP:

    What to expect from SSP:

Get anchored in hope.

Anchored in Hope Counseling provides compassionate and comprehensive mental healthcare to clients of all ages, gender identities and expressions, religions and belief systems, racial and ethnic ideas, and sexual orientations.

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