Neuroception: Balancing the SSP, children and their parents

Here you are walking your parenting tightrope:

You are considering therapy for your struggling child.

The Safe and Sound Protocol is still not so widely known about in the United Kingdom, so it may not be your first port of call.

The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a five-hour auditory therapy based on the Polyvagal Theory, which trains the middle ear to filter out low and high frequencies, to focus on the prosody of the human voice – mid-range frequencies.

It should, hopefully, one day be the go-to therapy for attachment disorders, anxiety and trauma. This is because, unlike most other auditory interventions, it is based on more than four decades of solid science.

The Safe and Sound Protocol was originally marketed to help those with ASD with auditory processing disorders and anxiety, but as the Polyvagal Theory grows in fame, and is introduced into Psychology degrees and trauma therapies, people are starting to talk.

However, it is not just a question of giving a practitioner a call, ordering the SSP and doing it by yourself. Any practitioner prepared to allow unsupervised, unmonitored listening should be avoided, as should anyone who tells you this is a five day intervention, that it’s non-invasive or that it is suitable for anyone.

A person who does not feel safe cannot access their emotions or executive functions. You might find this simplified explanation of the way the brain deals with threat by Dan Siegel useful:

In order for a child to use the Safe and Sound Protocol, practitioners should be assessing parents as much as the child they are working with.

Let me give you an example of what we’ve seen repeatedly:

Parents who want a quick fix their child.

It is natural. We all want to do the best for our children, and as quickly as possible!

Guess what: the Safe and Sound Protocol *may* be able to help. However, the key to SSP is understanding the concept of Neuroception, and how a child’s environment needs to be SAFE and GROUNDED in order for them to benefit.

You see, children will pick up on their children’s anxieties and reflect them back, and then some. I fell into this trap too – we threw money at our child, but not at ourselves.

We also see parents who want to race their child through SSP in the week before school starts. They get annoyed when we say no, because why would we not want to help? We are saying no precisely because we DO want to help, and because we want your children to make progress with the SSP.

We sometimes have parents ask why they need supervision and monitoring through SSP, mistaking it for programmes such as Tomatis or Johansen, which do not need any supervision.

We see parents totally unprepared for their appointments with us – they haven’t even looked at my preparation page, for example, let alone signed their agreement. People who have not done any background reading or preparation will more than likely not benefit long term from SSP.

Additionally, we have enquiries from parents whose children are on programmes with other practitioners, who use other modalities. We tend to turn these people away too, because we respect our colleagues and do not want to interfere with their programmes. If you are on another programme, please clear it with your practitioner and get them to contact me to confirm BEFORE you request SSP with me.

On the other hand, we sometimes see parents who are desperate to go through the process themselves first! This really is music to our ears – literally. By first working with a parent, a child will have a supportive role model to work with. A parent who can engage with the process and recognise and regulate their own autonomic state is absolute gold, and a sign that SSP will bring positive change, removing those barriers to social engagement and learning.

If you would like to know more about why it is so important to be in tune with your own nervous system before you can work with your child, please watch the following TED talk by the author of Grounded, Claire Wilson:

For support with your neuroplasticity journey from other parents, moderated by professionals, please join this Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/739754809477939/

Our Facebook page for the Safe and Sound Protocol is at https://www.facebook.com/SafeandSoundProtocolSSPUK/ and website www.safeandsoundprotocol.co.uk

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