Safe and Sound Protocol

The Safe and Sound Protocol, or SSP,  is a therapeutic listening program and a non-invasive application of Polyvagal Theory, based on decades of research and developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, Unyte’s Chief Scientific Advisor. It is designed to help increase the social engagement system in children and adults while simultaneously calming the nervous system. We must be regulated and organized in order to understand language and engage socially with one another!

George Khamis, MA, TLLP at Mala Child & Family Institute is a certified Safe and Sound Protocol provider. SSP can only be done by a professional who has participated in the training. The cost to receive digital access to the filtered music for 30 days is $450 for the first month and $250 for any subsequent months if needed. This window of time allows for clients to ease into the listening intervention with unfiltered music and to move at a pace that feels safe and comfortable.

Please note this intervention is not meant to replace other forms of therapy — it is designed to be used in an adjunctive manner. By calming the physiological and emotional state, the door is opened for improved communication and more successful therapy.

Current clients, new clients, and clients who are referred by (and are under the care of) other therapists are eligible to utilize this intervention.

The SSP’s effectiveness has been proven in a wide range of studies, most notably in two clinical trials involving children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Trial participants demonstrated statistically significant improvements in:

  • Emotional control
  • Behavioral organization
  • Hearing sensitivity and listening

Nourish the nervous system safely and remotely.

One SSP, 3 Pathways: Connect, Core, Balance

The complete SSP program comprises 3 main pathways that are accessible through and facilitated by a qualified and certified professional.

Each of the SSP pathways is composed of different filtered, unfiltered and calming 5-hour music playlists for either children or adults.

The SSP pathways are designed to help the nervous system to better receive, process and respond to the cues and signals from the world around us. This helps us learn how to more easily and consistently feel better regulated in the face of life’s challenges.

What you hear, and how you hear it, influences how the body responds.

Listening is connected with the vagus nerve, the body’s internal control center for processing and responding to cues and signals from the world around us.  The SSP uses specially-filtered music to train the neural network associated with listening to focus on the frequency range of the human voice.

We look, speak and listen with the same system. When the voice changes, the body responds. As we learn to focus on the sound frequencies of human speech through the SSP program, the vagus nerve becomes stimulated and the state of feeling more safe and calm becomes accessible.

The proof is in the playlists. Specially treated music playlists are part of the SSP program and all help ‘prime’ the nervous system by exposing it to different sound frequencies. Listening to these playlists through over the ear headphones helps the nervous system to more readily achieve balance, or “homeostasis.”

Preventive Care
Prenatal & Up

Research shows us that engaging in preventive care is far more effective than seeking treatment once issues have formed. Parents ensure children complete annual visits with their pediatrician, optometrist, and dentist to prevent future health concerns. It’s time to do the same by completing annual visits with a psychologist. We are here to help you begin this preventive care as you are planning to become parents, during the pre-partum period, or at any point in your child’s life.

Play Therapy
Ages 2-9

Play therapy refers to treatment methods that apply to the therapeutic benefits of play. In the process, the therapist’s role is to help a child identify and address their own problems and resolve them through play. This is especially helpful when they do not have the words to express themselves. Play is the language and the toys are the words.

The benefits of play include increased communication, social and emotional regulation,  formation of problem-solving skills, advanced cognitive development, and resolving trauma and grief.

Individual Therapy for Tweens and Adolescents

Psychotherapy is a form of treatment that involves therapeutic conversations and interactions between a therapist and a child, adolescent, or adult. It can help clients understand and resolve problems, modify behavior, and make positive changes in their lives. There are several types of psychotherapy that involve different approaches, techniques, and interventions. At times, a combination of different psychotherapy approaches may be helpful. 

Among the approaches we use are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), trauma-informed care, and psychodynamic therapy. We are all strength based and systems oriented. We use movement, mindfulness, and art with many of the older kids, teens, and young adults that we treat.

Teen Group Therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy 

Tuesdays 5:00 – 6:00 PM for 9-12 year olds (in person)

Thursdays from  at 4 PM – 5 PM (virtual)

Group Facilitator: Amy Graham, MA, TLLP

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is an evidence-based approach and the gold standard of treatment for individuals suffering from intense emotional outbursts, identity confusion, interpersonal difficulties, impulsivity, risky behaviors, and parent-child conflict. It incorporates emotion regulation skills, distress tolerance skills, interpersonal effectiveness skills, family problem-solving skills, and mindfulness skills for child and adolescents requiring more comprehensive treatment than standard Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT). Each DBT module is about 5-6 weeks long.

Our group is best suited to children and adolescents struggling with one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty Managing Stress

  • Intense Anxiety, Depression, and/or Anger

  • Child/Adolescent/Parent/Family Dilemmas

  • Substance Abuse

  • Self-Harm

  • Eating Disorders

  • Relationship Conflicts

  • Inattention

  • Confusion about Identity


  • All group members are receiving individual psychotherapy to generalize the skills they learn in group and gain greater insight into the cognitions and vulnerabilities which contribute to their problems.

  • Members attend willingly. While ambivalence is normal and it makes sense that children and teens don’t have a clear idea of what group is like prior to joining, children and teens who are opposed to attending will not be admitted.

  • Members agree not to contact each other between the groups for privacy and confidentiality. 

  • Members understand the importance of regular attendance and are willing to commit to at least one whole module (8-10 weeks). 

  • Parents and children/teens are expected to complete the prescreening requirements, which includes a 1 to 1.5 hour intake and assessment, and signing the Release Of Information Form so that we can have collaborative care with the child/teen’s therapist and pediatrician.

Please call for more information and to schedule your intake session.

Parent Coaching
All Ages

Parent consultation is done when parents are looking to discuss parenting strategies and want to implement those on their own. This can be a quick and cost-effective way to get some questions answered and see real success within your family.

Family Therapy
All Ages

Family therapy is defined as helping the family function in more positive and constructive ways by exploring patterns of communication and providing support and education. Family therapy sessions can include the child or adolescent along with parents, siblings, and grandparents. It can also be co-parenting through divorce, single families, and blending families.

Couples Counseling

Our providers utilize Emotion Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) and the Gottman Method when providing relationship counseling to couples.

EFT has been validated in research. EFT helps couples stop fights and end emotional distance by helping each partner express their important feelings and needs that remain under the surface.

Fights happen because you don’t feel connected

EFT believes that feeling connected to and loved by our partner is a primary need that we all share. When we fight with our partner that feeling of love and connection can disappear. This is scary and alarming!

You can think of a fight like an iceberg; part of it is visible, but the vast majority lies underneath the surface, waiting to be discovered. The topic of the fight is like the tip of the iceberg–whereas underneath are the real issues: “Am I safe with you?” “Am I special to you?” “Will you stick around if we disagree?”

EFT also helps you recognize that if you don’t feel safe in your relationship, there are two main ways you will respond:

Attacking. You get angry, criticize, and raise your voice

Withdrawing. You get quiet, turn away, and give the cold shoulder.

Does this sound familiar? If pursuing or withdrawing is happening in your relationship, don’t be alarmed–it’s normal to deal with relationship tension in these ways. The key is to realize that you really want love and connection with your partner–and pursuing and withdrawing often don’t get you that.

EFT believes that the strategies of pursuing and withdrawing happen within a cycle. When things aren’t going well, your interactions become a negative cycle that can spin out of control. The first step is to identify and name this cycle before it starts eating you up.

Fights are a result of an underlying pattern

A common pattern or negative cycle that people get into is “pursue – withdraw.” The more one person pursues the more the other withdraws. The more one withdraws, the more the other pursues. It’s a dizzying dance.

The key to healing your relationship is to a) identify your cycle, b) learn what you really need, and c) communicate your need in a way that creates connection.

Pre-Partum and Post-Partum Mental Health Care for Parents

Our certified providers have extensive training and experience providing mental health care to pregnant and postpartum parents. They use evidence -based and holistic approaches to care so parents can see results quickly. This allows them to focus on the things that matter most, while feeling like they do not have to sacrifice their own health and needs.

Co-Parenting Support through Separation and Divorce

Co-parenting means we are tied for years to someone we no longer want as a partner. Instead of being able to leave this person in our past, we now have to try to move on while still communicating with them on a regular basis. This can make our lives a nightmare and these conflicts can inadvertently start to affect children.

Co-parenting therapy is designed to help parents put their anger and hurt aside and move forward in a civil way for the wellbeing of their children. Rather than being controlled by the past, people can use co-parenting therapy to find balance in their lives while remaining the best parents they can be. Co-parenting therapy helps in three main ways – by reducing conflict, improving communication, and implementing helpful parenting strategies.

Conflict Resolution

Divorced or separated parents often find themselves stuck in the same issues they had when they were in their relationship. Arguments and power struggles  can take a toll on both the parents’ and child’s mental health, as well as get in the way of any future relationships. People can find themselves with the added burden of having to deal with their ex’s new partner and many people now stop being civil to one another because they are no longer trying to preserve the relationship.

Co-parenting therapy helps parents set healthy boundaries and learn conflict resolution skills. This ensures that parents do not keep delving back into past complaints but learn to put their differences aside, move on with their lives, and focus their relationship on strictly co-parenting. Conflict resolution skills also help people avoid future conflicts by helping parents understand each other and make decisions based on the best needs of the children.

Healthy Communication

Parents can learn to communicate in ways that diffuse conflict and help them accomplish what they need. Healthy communication techniques help us learn to ask for things more effectively, explain ourselves more clearly, and coordinate plans more smoothly. Co-parenting therapy teaches people effective communication strategies that are useful for communicating about children without prying into each other’s personal lives, scheduling timesharing and events that focus on the children, addressing problems without blaming each other, and exchanging information without stirring up the past.

Parenting Strategies

Co-parenting therapy also helps people understand themselves and their children so they can be the best parents they can be. Messy divorces and high-conflict relationships can leave people feeling so drained that parenting starts to come second to the conflict with exes. There is no need to feel regretful if you fall into this. Reconnecting to your purpose as parents and defining the kind of parent you want to be helps put the focus back on parenting so you can actually enjoy your relationship with your children. Strategies include being consistent between both households, arranging timesharing and pick-ups/drop-offs in ways that work for the children and both parents, and reducing stress by having supplies, uniforms, etc. at both households.

Children whose parents are split might also try to play parents off one another. They might strategically choose who they ask for things or say that one parent should allow them to do something because the other parent allows it. They can show distress at going from one house to the other or exhibit negative emotions and behaviors. It is also common for children to side with one parent or emotionally punish one parent. All of these issues can be solved when both parents reduce conflict between each other and implement appropriate, consistent parenting strategies as a team.

Co-parenting does not have to be an excruciating experience that ruins your chance at happiness or stresses out your children. When both parents make a commitment to communicating for the sake of parenting, they can parent in a way that is effective for everyone. Research has shown that conflict between parent is harmful to children and parent-child relationships. Even those parents who are skeptical of co-parenting therapy can benefit from having an objective professional mediate between parents and teach them to co-parent in a healthy way.

Executive Function Coaching

We offer Executive Function Coaching for struggling Middle School, High School or College students. Coaching is not quick, easy or cheap. It requires commitment from the student and parent. If you are actively involved in your child’s learning and development, and your child wants change, coaching may be a good fit. Our intention is to help students create substantial changes so they can be successful and happy in school and life. Not only do students need to learn new mindsets, systems & skills, but they need to develop new habits, which takes patience and persistence. Parents and students both must participate in order to get results. Coaching may be right for you if…

  1. You’re not looking for a quick fix. You’re willing to take persistent action and put forth time and effort.
  2. You’re actively involved in your child’s life and you’re willing to participate in this process.
  3. You want honest and clear feedback from me, even if it’s hard to hear.
  4. Your child wants support.
Yoga is a great way to ease the mind and body! Our very own certified yoga instructor, Tracy Lively is offering small group and private yoga sessions to children, families, and individuals both on-line and in-person. Look for details coming soon about yoga focused for prenatal and postpartum, anxiety, and depression.
Tracy also offers a free gentle yoga class online every Monday night at 7:30pm. No yoga experience is required. Here is the Zoom link. You are welcome to leave your camera off if that makes you more comfortable. It is designed to help you relax the mind, gently stretch the body, and overall unwind from the day. Join us!
Zoom link for Monday night yoga at 7:30pm.
If you have any questions before class, or about the yoga offerings in general, please email Tracy Lively at or call/text Tracy at (269)220-0442.