NEUROFEEDBACK: WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT WORKS
Neurotherapy, or neurofeedback, heals the brain. Psychotherapy heals the mind. Together, neurotherapy and psychotherapy can create lasting change and recovery. Neurotherapy heals the brain so you can better engage in the psychotherapy process and make more conscious, healthy decisions for yourself.
Neurofeedback, also known as EEG biofeedback or neurotherapy, offers an additional treatment option for people with eating disorders, addictions, mood disorders, anxiety and attention deficit disorder. NFB has been around since the 1960's but it has not yet gained traction as a mainstream intervention, probably because the pharmaceutical industry holds the market on medication interventions. In addition, the NF equipment is expensive, so many clinicians shy away from using it. Nonetheless, there is a growing body of research showing neurofeedback efficacy in treating these disorders. In fact, it has become a level two evidenced based practice in the treatment of ADHD. Neurofeedback also stabilizes the brain to reduce anxiety and depression, allowing for better, more lasting recovery from the Eating disorders and/or other addictions. It will not solve all your problems, but it will help you be stable enough to do the recovery work necessary for lasting change.
How does neurofeedback work?
Our brains, the controllers of our bodies, are intricate systems of chemical and electrical activities with about 100 billion neurons. While we know a lot about how the brain works, there is still a lot to learn. What we do know is that the brain is designed to adapt to changes in the body and our environment and function well at all times. However, for a variety of reasons, genetics, and environment, the brain gets "out of whack", so to speak, and does not function as well as it is supposed to. The brain then becomes "dysregulated". Simply, a dysregulated brain tends to be over-stimulated when it is supposed to be calm and under-stimulated when it is supposed to be attentive. Sometimes, the brain self-corrects. When it doesn't, the dysregulation becomes normal. So it makes sense that we should be able to re-train the brain to function normally again. In neurofeedback training, we work in conjunction with other treatments. When your brain is better regulated, it allows you to change behaviors and thoughts.
The client sits in front of a computer monitor. Another computer is located behind the client, so the clinician can read the EEG data. Sensors are placed on the scalp and ears. The client watches the screen and plays computer games with his/her brain. When the brain waves behave similar to the waves the computer wants, the client will hear a beep and have a visual reinforcement on the screen. The clinician set the parameters on the computer, then monitors client progress. Throughout a regular 30 minute session, the clinician assesses how the client is doing and feeling. At the beginning and at the end, there is a review of symptoms and discussion of what to look for at home.
Neurofeedback training is non-invasive. We are not shocking the brain; we are not manipulating the brain. We are reinforcing when the brain waves function in an optimal fashion for the task at hand. All our equipment is FDA approved.
Neurofeedback is an operant conditioning tool that re-trains the dys-regulated brain to behave more normally, the way it was intended. The brain is designed to stay the same, making change difficult. Yet it is also designed to function optimally. Presently, we use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, (DBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IP) and medication to attempt to regulate the brain, to either calm it down, or arouse it. And yes, these interventions work. And they do not always work as well as clients and providers would like. In conjunction with psychotherapy and education, neurofeedback is another intervention.
What conditions can neurofeedback treat?
The list is exhaustive. The most conclusive evidence of the efficacy of neurofeedback is in the treatment of ADD/ADHD. However, more and more research shows how effective neurofeedback can be in the treatment of other brain disorders: depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and addictions of all sorts. It may also work on traumatic brain injury, tics, autism spectrum disorders and seizure disorders. Again, it takes a long time to train/re-train the brain. Many clients have multiple problems and multiple diagnoses. Some take medications to help, others wish to avoid medications. Either way, neurofeedback may offer a reduction in symptoms, which can be permanent.
What happens at the first appointment?
The new neurofeedback client meets with the therapist for an extensive interview, looking at current symptoms, history, family history, and client goals. A treatment plan is established in collaboration with the client, and when appropriate, the family. If the client agrees to neurofeedback, we do a trial session for 12-15 minutes. Since every brain is unique, we want to be sure the client responds favorably to the treatment.
What can I expect I the first 7-10 sessions?
For the most part, clients find that their sleep improves quite early on. This is a great thing, given what we know about the difficulty making healthy decisions for ourselves when we are sleep deprived. Over time, the client, and family and friends, might notice a calmer, more relaxed state. This state helps us make better decisions in day to day life. Clients notice they have fewer racing thoughts, are better organized, pay attention better, have less anxiety, and better mind/body awareness. Clients who suffer from an under-aroused brain, notice increased alertness and concentration, better sleep, and again, better mind/body awareness. When symptoms are reduced, day to day living is easier, and day to day recovery is easier too. Again, it may take 40-80 sessions for complete retraining.
Can neurofeedback hurt me?
Neurofeedback is a non-invasive treatment. If there are unintended brain changes, they will last only for a few hours after the training. We conduct a very thorough assessment and regularly check in with you during and after the session to be sure everything is OK. If there is a problem, then the clinician can simply change the feedback protocol to better reduce your symptoms. A skilled clinician cannot harm you.
Neurofeedback at The Hull Institute
We began using neurofeedback in 2010. We have been trained by the largest neurofeedback vendor and training program in the U.S., EEG Spectrum International, and we consult with experts around the county on a regular basis. We are committed to offering this promising treatment to all interested clients. We suggest, for optimal benefit, that training be done at least twice weekly. This way, your brain has less opportunity to return to its old bad habits. We are most interested in offering neurofeedback to clients with ADD, eating disorders, other addictions. We have found more and more research showing the links between these conditions. We are working with local researchers to put together an outcomes study so we can measure how effective the neurofeedback treatment is.
Neurofeedback for Eating Disorders and other Addictions
Neurofeedback for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
For more information on neurofeedback, please contact us