What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a gentle, non-invasive biofeedback technique that shapes brain functioning by monitoring and feeding back its own activity with sophisticated computer systems. This activity can be in the form of electrical brain waves (EEG neurofeedback) or blood flow (Hemoencephelograpy).
Neurofeedback harnesses neuroplasticity; the ability of the brain to form and reorganize neural networks through learning and experience. Many emotional, psychological and physiological challenges stem from patterns of brain dysregulation. With neurofeedback we can train the brain to function in healthier and more optimal ways by improving its innate capacity to heal and self-regulate.
How does it work?
Neurofeedback teaches the brain to self-correct by offering a mirror of its own activity. In 20 sessions, with feedback every half second, your brain is given 72,000 chances to learn. This repetitive exercise of brain networks results in brain change, also known as neuroplasticity. Neurofeedback allows you to harness neuroplasticity to get to the root of the problem and reshape your brain.
Seigfried Othmer of the EEG Institute describes the neurofeedback
process as analogous to learning to ride a bike:
“The best analogy to explain neurofeedback training is the traditional example, learning to ride a bicycle. We accomplish skill-learning in a predictive model, always playing off what actually happened against what we intended. The particular challenge here is maintaining balance, and that can also be a metaphor for what the brain has to learn with respect to its own regulatory burdens. Everywhere and at every level it is a matter of establishing and maintaining balance. And the brain cannot stop processing just as it cannot stop worrying about balancing the bicycle. So once the brain realizes that the signal on the neurofeedback screen is relevant to this issue of maintaining its own balance, the signal becomes a priority to the attention of the brain.”
A safe complement to other treatments
Many clients seek out neurofeedback as a complement or alternative to other forms of treatment such as medications, rehab for brain injury, trauma therapy, migraines and ADHD coaching. Neurofeedback is completely safe and is not contraindicated with any of these therapies.
It is important to note that we do not regard neurofeedback as a cure or provide any form of diagnosis. With Neurofeedback, our goal is to help relieve symptoms of dysregulation to the point where they are not interfering with life functioning. Extensive research and client experience show significant improvement of symptoms for many conditions which include mood issues(including anxiety and depression), trauma, sleep problems, headaches and migraines, and brain injuries including concussions.
We work primarily with the following 2 systems
Infra Low HD Neurofeedback
Treats the most sensitive nervous systems and high arousal conditions such as ADHD, bipolar, attachment issues and post-traumatic stress.
PIR HEG Neurofeedback
Trains the frontal lobes to become more effective in regulating the rest of the brain. It has excellent results with migraines, ADHD, anxiety and depression.
We participate in ongoing training, research and mentorship in clinical applications, ensuring that are current and up to date in the most trusted neurofeedback systems in the world.
Medication is one way that the health care system often alters brain chemistry in order to manage distressing symptoms. But with neurofeedback, we instead alter the electrical activity of the brain, producing brain health. The idea is to get the differentiated parts of the brain working together as an integrated whole. It’s a learning process in which new neural pathways are actually created. These support a shift to a state of greater calm and improve your resilience in the face of stress.
Self-regulation is the ability to manage the intensity and frequency of disruptive emotions and physiological responses to disruptive stimuli. With improved self-regulation we experience a greater sense of ease, clarity and calm. This helps us thrive despite the challenges and stress of daily life. Neurofeedback isn’t a cure; rather, it significantly reduces distressing symptoms. Clients report greater resilience: improved energy, better sleep, more focus, and increased ability to recover from life stressors.
First, we will work together to assess the specific symptoms you have been experiencing, so that we can tailor the training to your particular needs. Small sensors are placed on your head with paste in order to read the electrical activity (EEG) of the brain. You’ll then watch a computer screen where you can see the feedback of the brain’s own electrical activity—in real time—as it learns to follow a very low electrical signal. Gradually, by learning to follow this low, slow electrical signal, your brain will become better at self-regulation and you will begin to feel a greater sense of ease in your daily life.
Although there are many kinds of neurofeedback, we use the most up-to-date, clinically effective method, Infra Low Frequency (or ILF) training (We also use the other three main methods), combining as needed to develop the right training protocol for you.
Each session begins with a brief check-in about your symptoms. Sensors are placed on your head to pick up electrical activity of the brain and are connected to a computer software program that detects and amplifies this information through a feedback program. Trainees sit in a chair for 30-45 minutes, either watching a movie, or playing a video game. The brain receives feedback of its own activity in the form of visual and auditory input from the TV, and tactile input from a vibrating teddy bear. The change in input provides a rewarding message to the brain in real time, signaling when the brain is creating desired brain activity that feels good. This process is completely involuntary and even though you may not be consciously aware of the changes, learning is happening as your brain observes the shift in state to a feeling of more ease and focus. A clinician beside you throughout the training, making adjustments and monitoring how you are doing.
Anyone can benefit from neurofeedback training from people suffering from complex trauma to those seeking to improve performance at work, sport, or the arts. Neurofeedback training does require a consistent commitment over a number of weeks to be effective and change can be gradual. Typically, people who are ready for change and can make the commitment will benefit the most from neurofeedback training.
- Eating Disorders
- Concussion symptoms
- Sleep disorders
- Peak performance and creativity
People can feel the effects of training anywhere from right away to just a few sessions, but it takes longer for the effects of training to hold between sessions. We usually recommend that you train at least twice a week for the first month, after which sessions can be spaced out weekly. A full course of treatment is 20 sessions. At that point, we’ll reassess the overall change in your symptoms and make recommendations for ongoing treatment or maintenance of gains. For more severe symptoms and recovery from trauma, it is not uncommon to need at least 40 sessions of neurofeedback. We will work very closely together to monitor the changes in your symptoms over time (We use a symptom tracking system called EEG expert). This helps us to determine if training is moving in the right direction, helping you to feel better.
Neurofeedback can be an excellent complement to traditional talk therapy, especially for those recovering from trauma. As a psychotherapist, I became interested in neurofeedback because I saw its potential to help people who had experienced early childhood trauma and despite years of therapy, were still stuck in feeling unsafe. They needed an approach that could teach them what it feels like to be safe in their bodies and to decrease the feeling of constantly being on guard. That’s what neurofeedback does. As people start to feel this shift, other issues can arise for which talk psychotherapy can be helpful. This might include difficult feelings, such as grief at having lived with the effects of trauma for so long.
For people recovering from trauma, it is important to integrate both neurofeedback and psychotherapy to address issues relating to the core sense of self. My neurofeedback sessions can be extended to include talk therapy. I also work collaboratively with therapists who are doing deep psychotherapeutic work with their clients.
Yes, there is no expectation that you will change your medications while doing neurofeedback. However, as symptoms change, you should speak to your prescribing physician about whether medication changes are needed.
Neurofeedback is completely safe. It’s a learning technology, and does not “do” anything to the brain. It simply gives the brain a mirror of its own activity. As we work out the optimal protocol for you, you may experience side effects such as fatigue or agitation.
Research in the field of neuroscience is exploding. A new paradigm for mental health is emerging as we begin to understand the mechanisms that underlie the efficacy of neurofeedback. Please see the following websites for more detailed information about the research on neurofeedback:
Neurofeedback may be covered by your insurance. Please check your extended health benefits policy to see if you have coverage for Social Work services.