Neurofeedback—Sometimes challenges are situational—maybe it’s bullying, a divorce, family dynamics, or academic frustrations. Most of the time parents can identify those issues. But sometimes it’s not a situational problem at all. The lack of concentration or the fits are at home, school, mom’s house, dad’s house, everywhere. When parents have that gut level feeling that despite the child’s intelligence, or despite how kind their child is, or despite their child’s ability to be mature when calm, when he or she flips that switch, it’s like all of that goes out the window. That’s often times a brain-based issue.
The Brain and Neurofeedback
The brain is made up of many different components. When working with mental health, you often hear about neurochemicals. Medicine is a neurochemical based intervention. Neurofeedback is an intervention dealing with the electrical activity in the brain. Sometimes things are out of balance. Maybe there’s too much of one wave and not enough of the other, and depending on where this is happening in the brain, various symptoms with show up.
When talking about electricity and the brain, it’s important to be clear about what neurofeedback is NOT. We do NOT use electricity to treat the brain. There is no electrical output coming from the equipment. All it’s doing is teaching the brain something new by creating thresholds, reading the brainwaves, and then providing auditory and/or visual feedback, letting the brain know it did it right.
To learn more about Neurofeedback, you can visit https://www.isnr.org/neurofeedback-introduction
You can find extensive research articles on the use of neurofeedback at www.isnr.org where you can search by category. See the “Publications” tab.
What can it Treat?
Neurofeedback is frequently used for the following difficulties:
- Emotion regulation
- Executive function
- Performance optimization
- Sensory processing
Types of Neurofeedback
The most common forms of neurofeedback are amplitude and coherence training.
Amplitude training looks at the size of the brainwave. Most people feel best when their brainwaves are within a certain range. Each brainwave has a different amplitude. If brainwaves get too big or too small, it can cause symptoms such as inattention, anxiety, ruminating thoughts, sensory issues, difficulty with word retrieval, aggression, and more.
Coherence training looks at the communication in the brain between different sites. Both over-communication and under-communication can cause symptoms. Many with concussions have issues with coherence. As well as those who are on the Autism Spectrum, have experienced a stroke, have learning disabilities, or have other brain based disorders. Symptoms may look like difficulty with thinking, learning, memory, stuttering, compulsive tendencies (e.g. hand washing), and more.
We’re going to start the neurofeedback process by doing a couple of assessments. We’re going to do a qEEG brain map so we can see where there’s over activity/underactivity in the brain, or over-communication/under-communication in the brain. We’ll also have you fill out a symptom based assessment to give us clues about over-arousal/under-arousal/mixed-arousal in the brain. With that information, we’ll choose which sites to train.
Training is two times a week for the first 20 sessions. After that, sessions can be reduced to once a week, but it is preferred to continue with twice per week until it is time to tapper off of training. The brain also continues to change after neurofeedback therapy has ended and many see permanent results. This is not a life long therapy, but something of a reset. It’s really challenging to give an estimate of how many sessions are needed. We say somewhere around 40, give or take; however, depending on the complexity, it could be 100. That’s rare, but possible.
What Happens During a Training Session?
Sessions go the same way every time. You come in, we’ll take sensors that connect to the equipment and use a paste/gel/goo to stick the other end to the scalp over the brain site we’ve chosen to train. We’ll put gel on your ears, followed by ear clips (imagine clip on earrings), and a sensor on your forehead. Once we have a connection and the equipment is reading the brainwaves, if we’re doing eyes open training, you’ll watch a game on the TV monitor that responds to your brainwaves meeting the threshold. Once you’re done, we’ll wipe off your ears and scalp and send you on your way.
Reasons Results May Not Hold
While doing neurofeedback it’s important to know about your food sensitivities or allergies. Foods like gluten and dairy cause an inflammatory response for many people. That inflammation affects the brain as well. While in neurofeedback, these individuals will see changes and improvements because neurofeedback reduces inflammation in the brain, but when the therapy stops, there’s nothing to counteract the inflammation caused by the foods, which causes regression, and as a result changes don’t hold.
The second reason results may not hold is because the problem is environmental. Neurofeedback is an incredible therapy that helps a lot of people make changes, get off medications, and avoid starting medications, but it will not change the stress of a divorce or bullies at school. It also isn’t going make them better at organization without learning organizational skills. What it does is get the brain working optimally for that person, and with that, they will be set up to learn, retain, and utilize the skills they learn. We say neurofeedback is like getting glasses–just because you can see, it doesn’t mean you can read. Skills and processing are still important components to treatment and growth.
What does it mean for a clinician to be BCN certified?
BCN stands for Board Certified in Neurofeedback. According to the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance, “Board Certification demonstrates professionalism and adherence to carefully developed standards as a healthcare provider. Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA) procedures follow the Department of Health & Human Services Guidelines. Healthcare professionals who achieve BCIA Certification demonstrate commitment to professionalism by completing basic degree and educational requirements, endorsing a rigorous code of professional conduct, learning to apply clinical biofeedback skills during mentorship, and passing a written examination. BCIA is the only institute recognized worldwide that grants certification to biofeedback practitioners. The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), the Biofeedback Foundation of Europe (BFE), and the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) all endorse BCIA certification. BCIA was established in 1981 to certify individuals who meet education and training standards in biofeedback and to progressively recertify those who advance their knowledge through continuing education. Currently, more than 1,500 healthcare professionals have achieved this certification in 25 countries.”
Bethany and Michele are both BCIA Board Certified in Neurofeedback and have earned the designation BCN.