About the Provider
Name: Carrie Strauch
Discipline/Credentials: Occupational Therapist (OTR/L), Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner
Modalities: Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP), sensory processing/integration, movement, play, Jin Shin Jyutsu, craniosacral therapy, meditation
Name: Gabriella (pseudonym)
Age and Gender: 73-year-old woman
Program Delivered: Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) (SSP Core, Hours 1 through 5)
Gabriella is a retired lawyer who lives with her husband in New York City, and has a long history of depression. In January 2021, she received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Since then, she reports experiencing continued symptoms associated with long COVID, including fatigue, brain fog, blurry eyes, dizziness, shortness of breath, anxiety, sweats and chills, and depression.
Gabriella was not an existing client of provider Carrie Strauch, but reached out specifically for the SSP after hearing about the intervention and vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) for long COVID.
When talking with Carrie, Gabriella spoke of feeling sad, angry, anxious and depressed as she described how [long COVID] has impacted her life, but was friendly, interested and open to the SSP process. Working together, the goal of SSP delivery was to improve Gabriella’s daily life through better nervous system regulation.
Implementation of the SSP
The majority of the SSP was delivered together via Zoom in 5-, 10- and 15-minute sessions, with some independent listening as well.
In addition to co-regulation, education and discussion, Carrie also coupled the listening with supporting activities before and after each session that included:
- Body scan
- Somatic awareness
- Sensory input
- Energetic alignment
Carrie observed that the SSP calmed Gabriella but, more importantly, opened her up in a new way as she started to become aware of many deep emotions and feelings that had never surfaced within her before, even during psychotherapy.
“We discussed that the SSP is a bottom-up approach and how so much has been held in her body for so long,” Carrie said. With this new awareness, Gabriella had astute reflections about her emotional and mental health, and how she functioned in the world before and during COVID.
She learned to focus on other sensations in her body, and said, “I connected with feeling that joy is available to me at any time. At one point, I had an understanding of feeling safe without any real or potential threat lurking — a new feeling — and I’ve been trying to retrieve it since! Quite the glimmer — joy and comfort at the same time.”
As her body opened up, Gabriella learned a lot about herself, such as realizing that she had always been a bit of a frenetic overdoer who was unable to slow down. After working with Carrie through the SSP, she had a new understanding of feeling safe and even had glimmers of self-compassion amongst her often self-critical thoughts.
“I was excited to see how often she experienced emotions and feelings held in her body — some of which for decades,” Carrie said. “It was very important for her healing that we were able to go through the process together and to take it slowly.”
Her long COVID symptoms receded on some days while returning in full force on others. However, she was less angry when they resurfaced, and was able to remain hopeful that more of these symptoms would change or even disappear forever.
Finding time every day for self-care was fairly new to Gabriella, and not at all at the habit stage. Although she preferred to just listen to the SSP music, she was pleasantly surprised when she tried drawing a few times.
“I feel it is important to keep gently offering a small risk not too far out of the comfort zone, like drawing or movement,” Carrie said, noting that it was helpful to be able to talk with her client in real time as she was experiencing the effects of the SSP.
“I was hopeful [that] some of the physical symptoms might recede but clearly saw that the first part of this journey for her was on another level. [It] reinforces how we cannot have expectations about what the SSP will do for each person, which can also make it challenging as providers,” Carrie added. “Everyone’s journey of healing is going to be unique, and not always revealed by their physical health.”
Discover the Safe and Sound Protocol
Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the SSP is a non-invasive acoustic vagus nerve stimulator that helps clients connect with themselves, others, and the world from a foundation of physiological safety.