What is Neurofeedback Therapy?
Neurofeedback (NFB), also known as biofeedback or neurotherapy, is a form of therapy where we’re given real time feedback on brain activity. With this information, we’re able to retrain the brain to function more optimally, ultimately giving you the ability to change habits from the inside out. Extensive research has shown that individuals struggling with PTSD, ADD/ADHD, OCD, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, addiction, and a number of other issues and symptoms can all benefit from NFB therapy.
Neurofeedback has nearly a century of scientific backing. In 1924, Hans Berger invented the electroencephalogram (EEG) test, which records brain wave patterns that reflect different moods and states of mind. Then in 1941, Herbert Jasper discovered that those brain waves could be trained. In other words, you can actually teach your brain to stop engaging in certain unproductive emotional patterns and other symptoms and start engaging in more positive ones. This is possible due to neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change.
Since its creation, NFB has been extensively researched and developed into the effective treatment modality it is today. Thanks to Dr. Joe Kamiya, Dr. Barry Sterman, and Joel Lubar, experts have continued to learn how NFB can effectively treat a wide variety of symptoms.
Today, it can be helpful to think of Neurofeedback as “applied neuroscience,” “brain hacking,” or a method of rewiring the way the brain processes information and responds. Just as you can learn to program a computer, you have the power to break the brain’s unhelpful habits and create new routines that serve you.
WHAT CAN NEUROTHERAPY TREAT?
NFB can have positive and lasting results alleviating symptoms, such as:
- Sleep problems
- Headaches and migraines
- Anger Management
- Stress related conditions
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Parkinson’s Disease
No matter what symptoms you are facing, with the right help, you can claim a new sense of agency over your choices. You can feel more in control of your life.
HOW DOES NFB WORK?
Neurofeedback therapy is all about the brain’s habits.
While the brain loves to functional optimally, over time, it can develop habits that are not so optimal. Within the context of NFB, you can look at distressing symptoms, such as the worries, anxiety or the heavy cloud of depression, as the brain’s “bad habits,” which need to be broken. Significantly, that means that the symptoms you’re struggling with are not you, nor are they signs that you are “broken” or “weak.” Instead, they are a result of the current wiring in your brain.
What NFB does, is give us real-time feedback on how the brain is working and specifically, how those habits are functioning. Thanks to EEG imaging, you can actually see your brain activity on a monitor. And, once you and a certified NFB practitioner identify those ineffectual habits at the neurological level, you can create an actionable plan to go beyond surface symptoms and effect positive change at the root.
From there, we can teach the brain to make positive adjustments, and reward the brain for making those adjustments. It just so happens the brain loves to be rewarded! As you continue consistent treatment, the brain will continue to make positive adjustments as a way to keep experiencing that satisfactory feeling of reward.
Breaking the process down further, there are two mechanisms that happen during biofeedback:
- Conditioning: The brain modifies its behavior based on consequences. The brain knows to make positive adjustments in order to receive a reward as consequence for doing something good, for example, earning points while playing a game. When this is done repeatedly, 1) The brain feels how good it is to be rewarded and 2) The brain learns what it needs to do to experience that feeling again and again. This is “brain conditioning.”
- Mirroring: The brain experiences the reward for earning more points. Then, on the EEG computer screen, you actually see the brain respond to that reward. That is real-time feedback or “mirroring.” This helps the brain learn quickly what it needs to adjust. As a result, new habits begin to take shape. The brain gets in the habit of making positive adjustments depending on the information at hand, and you start to enjoy long-term results.
For another way to understand NFB, imagine your brain as an orchestra. The different instruments represent various parts of your brain. NFB is the orchestra’s conductor. It says something like, “Percussion, pick up the tempo; strings, slow down; horns, turn the volume up a bit.” The orchestra makes its adjustments and begins to perform beautifully. It is rewarded by the audience’s applause and the musicians’ paychecks. The applause and paychecks are indeed good incentives for the orchestra to continue playing harmoniously.
If you have been struggling with frustrating symptoms for a long time, there is hope and help. To find your sense of harmony, you need to work with a skilled conductor.
MY APPROACH TO NFB
For positive and lasting results, it’s important to work with a skilled, licensed clinician. I am one of only a few licensed neurofeedback practitioners in the Bay Area, and I am committed to helping you alleviate distress through NFB.
During our EEG biofeedback therapy sessions, I like to think of us as two detectives working together. While you are engaging in, for example, a video game, I am using an EEG to investigate different areas of the your brain. This allows me to see your brain activity, with a focus on how your unique brain is operating and where we can make improvements.
Once we have the roadmap we need to access the parts of the brain that aren’t functioning optimally, we can begin to make positive adjustments, just like the conductor of an orchestra. Once your brain begins to learn new ways to play harmoniously, it will carry those new skills out into “the real world” and continue receiving positive reinforcement. In other words, outside of the session, you can keep developing and utilizing your new habits in every area of your life.
My personal experience with NFB has been very positive. It’s improved the overall quality of my sleep and has helped significantly reduce the frequency and the severity of the migraines I experience.
Professionally, I am constantly amazed by watching clients with life-long challenges, ranging from PTSD to sleep problems, discover that their brain is malleable and can be trained to function differently than how it has in the past. After seeing positive results, many of my clients are astounded and say, “I always thought it was me, but it’s actually my brain!” With their new experience and understanding that the brain can change, they are able to process information differently and begin to fully understand their inner and outer worlds. They are able to move through life as their most resilient, aware selves.
As your neurofeedback practitioner, I will collaborate with you to come up with a plan on how best to integrate NFB into your life. For example, if you are currently in talk therapy, you are encouraged to continue that work and use NFB as another effective tool. I am willing to team up with you and any other doctors involved in your healing process. I also recommend some supplemental practices when appropriate. If, for example, you wish to learn better ways to tune in and listen to what’s happening in the body, I might recommend yoga or meditation practice. These can be a wonderful complements to the work we do together.
While I do work collaboratively with clients who are already in psychotherapy with another therapist, I also work with many clients who see me for psychotherapy. We use neurofeedback training at certain times and in combination with other therapy modalities such as Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or other forms of psychotherapy.
Patients often don’t know how good they can feel until they start to feel better. Thankfully, whatever habits your brain has developed, we can work together to “reshape” the way you think, feel, and react. You can find the sense of empowerment you need to navigate the world with greater ease.
Neurofeedback Therapy Can Change Your Mind for the Better
If you are ready to carve out new habits, I invite you to fill out the form and then we can schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation.