The importance of feeling psychologically safe for health & wellbeing is being increasingly recognised. Feeling psychologically safe is essential for protecting us from stress, anxiety & low mood, while promoting post-traumatic growth following adversity. People often seek therapy because they are struggling to feel safe, blighted by anxiety, stress & low mood. They often wish to feel safe again, or indeed yearn to for the first time. Early adversity & repeated exposure to adverse life events can bias us towards sensing threat, which can significantly challenge feelings of safety & compromise our physical and psychological wellbeing.
We have developed a new scale for measuring psychological safety named the Neuroception of Psychological Safety Scale (NPSS). The scale, consisting of 29 items, assesses how safe a person feels. It is further divided into three sub-scales of Social Engagement, Compassion & Bodily Sensations. The measure is informed by the Polyvagal Theory (PVT), which offers a comprehensive explanation of psychological safety grounded in an evidence base of neurophysiology, psychology & evolutionary theory.
The measure is the first of its kind, combining psychological, physiological & social components. It has the potential to be used in a broad range of settings, such as tracking progress in psychological therapy or assessing whether a sense of psychological safety enhances learning or improves hospital outcomes. It can also be applied to psychological safety in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study was led by Dr Liza Morton & carried out at The University of Strathclyde with Dr Nicola Cogan, a Senior Lecturer in Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences & Health with partners from the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium at the renowned Kinsey Institute, Indiana University and The Polyvagal Institute including Prof Stephen Porges, founder of Polyvagal Theory & Dr Jacek Kolacz. Dr Damien Williams & MSc students Calum Calderwood & Marek Nikolac, from the University of Strathclyde, also contributed. Dr Thomas Bacon, Clinical Psychologist, NHS Fife & Dr Emily Pathe, Counselling Psychologist, NHS Lanarkshire contributed to item development.
The measure is free to use for research & educational purposes. However, we ask that you please contact the lead author Liza Morton (Liza.Morton@gcu.ac.uk) for permission before using it. Please keep us updated with your feedback on the scale to assist us with its development & guidance for use. Follow the links before for more info & updates.