What is the SSP?

Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the SSP is a five-day intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience. By calming the physiological and emotional state, the door is opened for improved communication and more successful therapy.

The SSP is a research-based therapy showing significant results in just five days in the following areas:

  • Social and emotional difficulties
  • Auditory sensitivities
  • Anxiety and trauma related challenges
  • Inattention
  • Stressors that impact social engagement

Emotional and physiological state are critical to how we approach the task at hand. So when a client has better state control, not only can they be more socially engaged, they are more open to therapy. Better state regulation improves therapeutic outcomes. Read more about how the SSP is helping clients.

This non-invasive intervention involves listening to music that has been processed specifically to retune the nervous system (regulating state) to introduce a sense of safety and the ability to socially engage. This allows the client to better interpret not only human speech, but, importantly, the emotional meaning of language. Once interpersonal interactions improve, spontaneous social behaviors and an enhanced ability to learn, self-regulate and engage are often seen.

The SSP is available to professionals only. View SSP training information. For ways you can use the SSP at home, please call 303-741-4544.

The SSP is a Patent Pending intervention.



  • Calms the emotional and physiological state by improving vagal regulation of the heart and improving auditory functions
  • Addresses difficulties in social communication


  • One hour of vocal music per day for five consecutive days, may be implemented in 30-minute segments
  • May be implemented by clinician, assistant, caregiver or self-administered in clinic or home


  • Quick and easy to administer
  • Accelerates subsequent therapies

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How does it work?

Based on Dr. Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, the program is derived from nearly four decades of research on the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and social-emotional processes. It is designed to stimulate nervous system regulation by exercising and systematically challenging the auditory system with specifically processed music.

The music trains the auditory pathways by focusing on the frequency envelope of human speech. As the client learns to process these speech-related frequencies, they improve the functioning of two cranial nerves that are important for promoting overall social behavior. Cranial Nerve VII (Facial Nerve) helps clients focus on human voice and tune out irrelevant frequencies. Cranial Nerve X (Vagus Nerve) enables self-soothing and autonomic regulation.

Following successful completion of the intervention, individuals will be better able to focus in school, therapy, and everyday life and experience a calmed emotional and physiological state.  This is based on studies that suggest that skills such as attention, state regulation and the ability to engage socially will be enhanced.

Read the Research

Client Experiences with the SSP

Sophie’s Story

Sophie is a 6 1/2-year old girl who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when she was five.   Her Occupational Therapist was introduced to the SSP in July as part of a feasibility trial and immediately thought of Sophie who was very anxious and seemed constantly in a state of threat. Her fear prevented her from trying many things, as they seemed impossible to her.  The extreme over-arousal of her sympathetic nervous system also affected her learning, her speech and her ability to communicate effectively.

These pre- and post-SSP videos capture the marked decrease in her level of fear and the improvement in her confidence and demeanor.  Sophie’s mother is overjoyed with the changes she’s noticing in Sophie:

  • Her facial expression is now relaxed and she seems less anxious
  • Her spontaneous speech has escalated (“Her language is improving like crazy!” – Sophie’s Mom)
  • She’s exhibiting prosocial behavior (“It’s not all about her anymore.” – Sophie’s Mom)
  • Her emotional regulation is much improved (“Sophie is now sitting in the group at circle time and listening intently. She even raised her hand to ask a question!” – Sophie’s teacher.)

David’s Story

David is a nine-year old with Down Syndrome who has had frequent ear infections.  He has few spoken words, but attempts to communicate through a combination of words, sounds and gestures.  He is a member of a large and supportive family who described the following concerns prior to beginning the SSP.

  • Severe anxiety in noisy and/or crowded environments
  • Significant over-responsivity to sounds
  • Lack of consistent response to requests or name calling
  • Poor sleep quantity and quality

David had an extraordinary response to the SSP!   His mother tearfully expressed her gratitude for the intervention as she reported the changes she and her family have noticed.

  • After Day One of the program, David slept throughout the night for the first time.  Prior to this, I had to stay near the bed until he fell into a restless sleep, awakening MANY times each night.
  • Since completion of the SSP, David has been much more interactive with other children.  He approaches others to join in play or conversation.  And he sings and dances frequently.
  • Prior to the SSP, David refused to go to family gatherings or parties.  He would hide in the bathroom away from all the activity.  Over the holidays, he attended a large family gathering and even danced!
  • When I call him from another room in the house, he now quickly responds to his name as and asks “yes Mom?”.  This is a complete change from before completing the SSP.
  • Every year in our community, we have a well-attended large holiday parade complete with floats, high school bands, fire and police department activities, musical guests and participation by other community organizations culminating in an elaborate firework display.  Every year, our family attempts to attend, but if we are able to go at all, David usually sits in the family van wearing headphones watching movies.  This year, for the very first time, he stood near our family outside and watched every float, band and musician and even cheered during the firework finale!

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*Training is required before ordering the SSP system which is offered on a subscription basis.

Client and Therapist Testimonials

“My stomach has a bit of a smile, with eyes that blink very happy. That’s why I am very happy. I feel free.”

– Bente, 6 year old girl

“We have tried so many other things with minimal help – we just never got to the core of the issue – the SSP got to the core.”

– From the parents of a 14 year old with PTSD

“This girl and her family have attempted many different therapeutic interventions over the developmental years and unfortunately were discouraged with the outcomes. The positive results on the SSP have provided this family with encouragement and hope.”

– From the therapist of a 15 year old with ASD

I want to let you know that I feel that the SSP seems to have rebooted my emotions relative to grieving for my sister. My face feels more expressive, there is more modulation in my voice, and I feel less of a wall between me and the world. Yay!!!!!”

– From a therapist who did the SSP herself.

“There seems to be a better sense of control about my emotions and a sense of balance and calm. It has been extremely rewarding to be more deliberate and aware of my reactions. This change has improved the communication and conflict resolution in some of my most important relationships.”

– From a 53-year old client struggling with sleep, attention and motivation problems following the death of her husband 1 ½ years ago

“Much less trouble controlling emotions and excitement.  Better control of emotions and fewer tantrums now.” 

– From the father of a young boy with ASD who was concerned about his poor emotional control

Selected Research and Publications on the SSP and the Polyvagal Theory by Dr. Stephen Porges

Dr. Stephen Porges

Dr. Stephen W. Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University and a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Two Peer-Reviewed Studies (involving 292 children)

Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia and Auditory Processing in Autism: Modifiable Deficits of an Integrated Social Engagement System?

In this peer-reviewed study, higher functioning individuals with ASD were tested using an early version of the SSP.  The study showed that auditory processing and state regulation improved following the intervention.

Reducing Auditory Hypersensitivities in Autistic Spectrum Disorder

In a second peer-reviewed study, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who used an early version of the SSP experienced significant improvements in emotional organization, listening, spontaneous speech and hearing sensitivities.

5 clinical trials in progress to evaluate the effectiveness of the LPP/SSP in:

  1. Children with a trauma history. Funded by the Australian Childhood Foundation.
  2. People with ADD who have difficulties with autonomic and/or behavioral regulation. In cooperation with: ADD Centre and Biofeedback Institute of Toronto.
  3. Emotionally disturbed and learning-challenged young people who have difficulties with autonomic and/or behavioral regulation. Funded by the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center of Vista Del Mar, California.
  4. Decreasing the atypical features of the Social Engagement System in adolescents with Prader Willi Syndrome. In cooperation with the Latham Centers School in Brewster, Massachusetts.
  5. Reducing chronic pain in a sample of older adults. In cooperation with the Meadowood Retirement Community in Bloomington, Indiana.

“Collectively, the data from the current trials and Porges et al. provide convergent preliminary support that LPP (precursor to the SSP) enhances function of the Polyvagal “social engagement system” manifested in improved auditory processing, reduced auditory hypersensitivities, increased vagal regulation of the heart, and increased spontaneous social behaviors (e.g., sharing).” 

The Polyvagal Hypothesis: Common Mechanisms Mediating Autonomic Regulation, Vocalizations and Listening

In this chapter written by Dr. Porges and Dr. Gregory Lewis, the connection is made between the Polyvagal Theory and the Social Engagement System.  It provides the scientific basis of the SSP.

The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-Regulation

Polyvagal Theory Book Cover

This book compiles for the first time, Stephen W. Porges’ decades of research.  A leading expert in developmental psychophysiology and developmental behavioral neuroscience, Porges is the mind behind the groundbreaking Polyvagal Theory, which has startling implications for the treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma, and autism.  Adopted by clinicians around the world, the Polyvagal Theory has provided exciting new insights into the way our autonomic nervous system unconsciously mediates social engagement, trust and intimacy.

“[O]ne of the most important books written on the nervous system in the last fifty years. Porges’s ambitious, meticulous, synthetic theory provides a missing link between mind and the nervous system. It also helps explain, in fine detail, how our individual nervous systems influence, and are influenced by, our interactions with others. Suddenly we understand things novelists have described for centuries: how it is that a facial expression, a gesture, a certain tone of voice, can trigger a radical mental reorganization, and lead to engagement, and how our mental and nervous system states shift. Porges’ studies and his theory of the social vagus represents a major advance in human knowledge, and is already improving the practice of psychotherapy and mind-body medicine.”

— Norman Doidge, MD, author, The Brain That Changes Itself

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory. The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe.

Bridging the gap between research, science, and the therapy room.
Since publication of The Polyvagal Theory, Stephen Porges has been urged to make his ideas more accessible and The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory is the result. Constructs and concepts embedded in polyvagal theory are explained conversationally in The Pocket Guide and there is an introductory chapter which discusses the science and the scientific culture in which polyvagal theory was originally developed. Publication of this work enables Stephen Porges to expand the meaning and clinical relevance of this groundbreaking theory.

“In The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory, Stephen Porges succeeds, as few researchers do, in the art of deconstructing dense scientific concepts to render them wonderfully accessible to clients, clinicians, and the lay person alike. As the subtleties of the Polyvagal Theory are brought to life through the friendly voice of an innovative genius, a new understanding about the influence of the autonomic nervous system on human behavior emerges, along with neurobiological explanations for a variety of difficulties. You will find that many of the perplexing issues that bring clients to therapy suddenly make biological sense, as well as discover the seeds of bottom-up roadmaps for healing them. Read this book, and be inspired by a revolutionary perspective on the human condition that will have a far-reaching positive impact on your life, your relationships, and your clinical practice.”

— Pat Ogden Ph.D., Founder/Educational Director, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, Boulder, Colorado USA

*Training is required before ordering the SSP system which is offered on a subscription basis.
The SSP is a Patent Pending intervention.

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