Think of neurofeedback as having a personal trainer for your brain. . . . like taking your brain in for a tune-up so it can operate at its optimal potential.
By: Catherine A. Boyer M.A., LCSW July 9, 2009
Updated: January 30, 2017
Neurofeedback helps your brain change it’s wiring – and that changes how you feel, how you react, how you interact with others.
You’ve probably seen photographs showing different areas of the brain lighting up. Measurements of that electrical activity as it shows up on your scalp are called electroencephalograms – your EEG.
That’s the information neurofeedback systems monitor and feedback to your brain to help it modify how you feel and how you operate in life.
My discovery of neurofeedback therapy
I’ve been a psychotherapist for more than 25 years, but I initially came to neurofeedback for personal reasons. My interest had to do with difficulty I was having with getting enough good quality sleep.
I’d never been “a good sleeper,” even as a child; and it got worse as I got older. I’d tried medications, relaxation techniques, and many, many mainstream and alternative treatments.
Nothing seemed to help; or, if it helped, the side effects were worse than the symptoms. A colleague suggested neurofeedback, which at the time I’d never heard of. After a few sessions the quality and quantity of sleep I was getting improved. I was thrilled.
Then something very interesting happened.
You’re likely to recognize this:
One of the most common anxiety dreams people have has to do with school. If you ask a room full of people:
“Who here has had a dream about being back in school and not being prepared?
You forgot there was a test…
You left your books home…
You can’t find the classroom…”
At least half of the people in the room will raise their hands.
I had been having those dreams, too, once or twice a year for decades. After several neurofeedback sessions, one night I had this dream:
I was at home getting ready for school when I remembered that there was a major test that day and I’d forgotten to prepare for it. I started to get anxious; but then, in the dream, I said to myself, “Don’t worry. You know the material. You’ll ace it.” At that moment in the dream, I stopped worrying. That was the end of the dream, and I have never had it again.
When that happened, I started thinking about many of my psychotherapy clients whom I thought might benefit from neurofeedback.
I got my own system, went for training and offered neurofeedback first to one or two of my therapy clients, who liked the changes it made (not anxious at work anymore, better self care, less squabbling with a spouse, less depression, more focused, those kinds of things).
Both those clients sent two or three of their friends. Now neurofeedback clients make up more than half of my therapy practice.
The history of neurofeedback therapy
Trainers have been working for decades to help their clients use neurofeedback to better live life the way they want. This has been done using protocol-based programs to train the brain to produce more or less of groups of electrical frequencies that are thought to correlate with different brain states.
More recently it became possible to train the brain in a different way. This method, using pauses in music, gives the brain feedback on what it’s doing moment to moment, which the brain then uses to reorganize itself.
In my experience, this latter method is very side effect free; but both methods can get very good results.
The Central Nervous System ("CNS") and Neurofeedback therapy
Neurofeedback works directly with the CNS, which is the brain and spinal cord. Your brain has around 100 billion nerve cells. If they were laid out end to end the line of cells would be more than two million miles long.
Amazing, isn’t it!
The number of connections in this system is a number that has probably 14 or 15 zeros after it. That makes for a lot of variety among our brains – and the uniqueness that makes you you.
I think of the CNS as the captain of the ship. It is always, whether you are awake or asleep, busy making sure the ship is functioning:
- Heart rate,
- Skin temperature,
- Integration of learning,
- on and on...
Most of this is happening below the level of your conscious awareness. This includes an amazing ability to take in information and use it to reorganize, heal and grow. Neurofeedback takes advantage of that ability.
What is neurofeedback helpful for?
Your brain is the most complex system on the Earth and is very, very good at organizing itself on your behalf. It is busy at this moment keeping track of both the external environment and your internal environment– it’s a terrific multi-tasker.
Because the CNS is integral to just about everything about being human, neurofeedback has been used to improve mood disorders (depression, anxiety, bi-polar, etc.), improve sleep, work with seizures and the autism spectrum, learning disabilities, peak performance – improving your golf game! – and more. People ask how one way of working can be helpful with so many things people would like to see change – it’s because we are training the CNS – the captain of the ship.
What happens in a neurofeedback session?
You’ll be sitting in a comfortable chair with several sensors attached to your head and ears, watching a monitor, possibly something that looks like a video game (this is the older form of neurofeedback), and/or listening to music.
Depending on what type of neurofeedback you’re doing, you may be trying to make something happen on the monitor, or it may be as simple as sitting and listening to pauses in music that provide the CNS with information to renormalize itself.
Is neurofeedback like biofeedback?
Health insurance companies put neurofeedback under the category of biofeedback, but it’s actually quite different.
Traditional biofeedback works with the Peripheral Nervous System (the PNS) – the outer edges of the body. With biofeedback, the client learns to make changes to the PNS (such as reducing muscle tension or increasing skin temperature). The client practices the skills on his or her own, with the expectation that learning those skills will affect the central nervous system in a positive way.
Unlike traditional biofeedback, neurofeedback works directly with the central nervous system. The CNS affects all of the body’s systems. Changes in the CNS will reflect in the PNS – and in your life.
I hope this has given you a sense of what neurofeedback is about and the possibilities for you and people you know. It’s an exciting field and a rewarding process to participate in – whether you’re sitting in the trainee chair or the trainer chair.
My favorite part is having people come back in reporting the differences they’re seeing in their lives – and knowing that we’ve made those come about by tapping into the amazing ability of the central nervous system to change.
Ayers, M., & Montgomery, P. (2007). Whispers from the Brain. Beverly Hills: AyersMont.
Hill, R. W., & Castro, E. (2002). Getting Rid of Ritalin. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing.
Larsen, S. (2006). The Healing Power of Neurofeedback. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Robbins, J.(2000). A Symphony in the Brain. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.
Steinberg, M., & Othmer, S. (2004). ADD: The 20-Hour Solution. Bandon, OR: Robert D. Reed Publishers.
Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and neurofeedback trainer in private practice in New York City. You can contact her at 212-877-6923. Or visit her website, New York Neurofeedback.
…because I’m gradually moving in the direction of all neurofeedback. Here’s the link to New York Neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback and Hormonal Problems
My question: I am suffering with high estrogen. I am 53 and pre menopause. I have anxiety low mood nausea and sleep problems. I am using natural bio progesterone cream and take 10mg of citalopram. I started Neurofeedback 4 weeks ago. I believe it started to work. Better sleep, better mood. The Neurofeedback Dr said we would probably have to reduce or stop meds because could cause symptoms to come back. Started feeling nauseous, dry sinus, headache front and top of head and pressure. I also increased progesterone 2 days ago and sleep has got worse. Now my neuro feedback Dr says she thinks the hormones are leveling out because of the symptons I am experiencing. But likewise the citrolapram could cause the same Problems. I would like to know which I should reduce. It could be I need to reduce both. Some advice would help me As I see my GP soon and need to discuss it with him. I definitely think Neurofeedback is helping. But because it is working it is Fighting the toxic meds. Some advice please Thanks
It does sound to me, too, that the neurofeedback is helping. I've certainly seen it help with hormonal issues. I've also seen instances where as the body/brain gets better at regulating itself, medication dosages can become too high and produce side effects. I can't address your questions about your specific medications and dosages, though, as I'm not a medical doctor.
Sometimes my clients have found it helpful to have their doctor and I have a conversation, especially if the doctor is not familiar with neurofeedback. Perhaps your two healthcare professionals could speak if they haven't already to help you sort it out.
Neurofeedback and Medication
I am interested in trying Neurofeedback for my depression and ADHD, however what does a person do when they take a large number of meds for these conditions and then decide to try the feedback? Do you start to ween off of them after you feel results of the neurofeedback? Will you know if the feedback is working when you are still taking medications that control your issues?
I hate being on so many meds and would very much like to stop taking them...but before I try this I need to know how patients who take medication work this out.
My Psychiatrist is not supportive of me stopping any of my medications...at all. I don't think she would be helpful in weaning me off, I would have to go to another doctor to help me with that because one other time I mentioned wanting to stop taking meds and she told me she would stop being my doctor if I did. I've not liked her very much since then but my choices are pretty slim around here.
Thank you for your help.
Many of my neurofeedback clients come wanting to reduce or eliminate medication use. In my experience, almost always they are able to make changes.
People often get a feeling that they can go down on a dosage or, for medications that are taken on an as needed basis, they find they are needing to take the medication less and less frequently. Sometimes they start to feel more medication side effects because their brain is healthier and needs less medication, and that is what tells them it's time. And it can happen quite seamlessly.
Of course, you are quite right that medication changes need to be under the supervision of an MD. I hope you are able to find someone you are more comfortable with.
If you decide to proceed with neurofeedback, you're welcome to contact me through New York Neurofeedback. If you give my your location I can see if I know anyone in your area.
I hope this is helpful.
Is Neurofeedback safe for cancer patients?
Yes, speaking for NeurOptimal® neurofeedback for sure, and probably for all neurofeedback, it's completely safe. It has also been shown to be effective with reducing side effects of chemotherapy. You can email me through New York Neurofeedback if you would like a copy of the research.
Help for Daughter
My daughter has had some anxiety issues. After sending her to a clinic because she stopped eating, she is not doing much better except she is eating, but she gets very little sleep & I am wanting to do what I can for her. I would like to know if this therapy could help her?
I think it very well may. Neurofeedback can be helpful with reducing anxiety and improving sleep. It may also help her in other ways.
It's becoming increasingly common for eating disorder clinics and other types of rehabs to include neurofeedback as part of their programs.
Depression and Anxiety
Does neurofeedback work for clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder?
I have seen neurofeedback help greatly with both depression - mild to severe, single episode, recurrent and chronic - and with generalized anxiety disorder, as well as with other anxiety disorders.
Neurofeedback can be thought of as a tuneup for the brain. In my experience, depression and anxiety tend to fall away as the brain becomes more stable, flexible and resilient.
Serotonin and Other Questions
Does neurofeed back work by increasing serotonin? Do you use different sensors for hypo active vs. hypertimulated on spectrum? Can it change the oscillation of eye movement?
We don't know enough about the brain to answer your first question. My guess would be that serotonin production might improve for some people as their brains begin to function in a healthier manner, but how neurofeedback works is a much more complex process than simple increase of a neurotransmitter.
Your brain has around 14 quadrillion neural connections (a quadrillion is one plus 15 zeros) and is the most complex system on the Earth. It's also, like all systems in nature, a non-linear dynamic system, so somewhat predictable and somewhat random.
I don't do the type of neurofeedback you're referencing in your second question. If you would like to read the What is Neurofeedback page of New York Neurofeedback's website, that will help to explain the differences.
I've heard numerous reports of neurofeedback being helpful with a variety of vision disorders. I don't have personal experience working with any eye conditions, though.
Not the precise answers you were looking for, perhaps, but I hope this is still helpful.
Concerns about Feeling Worse
I've had 5 sessions of EEG Biofeedback for OCD and PTSD and have had a few recent episodes of increased anxiety, having just woken from a night sweat. I've booked a course of intensive treatments (11 sessions over 7 days). I'm a little scared that my symptoms may be getting worse. Having once tried to solve my 30 year issues by going into my brain on my own, without a therapist, I got into a terrible state and I don't want to end up worse rather than better. Can this happen?
Also is it normal to have a night sweat and increased anxiety after 5 sessions? (My therapist has noted that the brain looks like it's decreased in anxiety, which is puzzling.) Also is it advisable to have an intensive course when I am getting side effects already or would I be best having more spaced out sessions?
There are many types of neurofeedback. Some are more prone to side effects than others but can still get good results. You can read about this on the What is Neurofeedback page of the New York Neurofeedback website.
It's also my experience that it can be a bumpier ride for some than others. Sometimes the brain seems to stir things up while working through them.
Every brain is so unique that there are no one size fits all answers to your specific questions. If you haven't already done so, discuss your concerns with your trainer and see how you feel about how he or she addresses them.
I do think neurofeedback is a good choice for both OCD and PTSD.
Children with ADHD
What experience or results do you have working with children with ADHD? My son is 11 and a therapist suggested this type of therapy to me.
Any thoughts or information you have on this subject would be greatly appreciated.
I don't personally work with children, but I have had adult clients with ADHD experience improvements in being able to focus and organize themselves. I also have colleagues who speak highly of their work with children with ADD and ADHD. Here are two of their websites:
The InnerAct link opens to a page with a video showing how neurofeedback changed the life of a boy with ADD.
Good luck with your son!
I have fibromylagia and my problem is I can't reach deep sleep because of delta eeg anomaly. So I ask can Neurofeedback treat this?
Fibromyalgia and many kinds of sleep problems do often respond well to neurofeedback. In my experience, sleep is often the first place that people notice improvements. If stress and anxiety are factors, those are also often helped by neurofeedback.
I have so many traumatic experiences in my life since 4 and a half years how will this help me....
I'm not clear if you mean traumas since age four and a half or traumas in the last four and a half years, but in either case I would expect neurofeedback to help you.
Typically, my clients who have experienced trauma report decreased reactivity. If sleep is a problem, that is likely to improve. Sometimes processing of old material occurs but as a therapist I find that it seems to be done more easily with neurofeedback. As always, our brains are such complex systems that the results are very unique to each individual.
I hope that's helpful.
Cleaning Out Old Wiring
Hello, my question is I was born in a very repressive home. Where joy and confidence was discouraged and sometimes crushed. Can neurofeedback help reverse the conditioning that I got in this situation? I now do it to myself out of fear from past.
Yes, I have seen that kind of positive change happen over and over. The end result in my experience is people being more who they were meant to be rather than who they learned they had to be to get through those kinds of childhood situations.
Panic and Anxiety
I was hit with a viral infection, like a flu bug that inflamed my inner ears a few years ago. That is really neither here nor there in relevance other than because the inner ear was effected for that time until the bug cleared out I was thrown into hypersensitivity, panic attacks to most everything. Light, noise, movement, commotion, stimulation, so therefore just being around people. It was as if my inner ears - which take in all our external cues - couldn't handle being bombarded so it set off the panic alarm. I have read the link between the inner ears being affected by a virus and causing a panic disorder due to hypersensitivity that occurs so it occurs to all stimui not just set triggers.
So basically, I have worked hard to try and normalize. Get my brain to not be so hyper reactive with adrenaline, for example, noise, but I have been left with a panic, anxiety disorder now simulating agoraphoia. The fear of having to endure panic or adrenaline, and just feeling anxious all day to get out of this disabling mind conditioned limitation. I have been trying to mind over matter it to create new pathways but not moving forward as I would like to.
I was wondering if you know of anyone in the Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Florida area or really anyone down in South Florida on the South-east coast that uses your type of neuro feedback method. The ones I have found want an intial EEG for evaluation which from what you have said is the old technique with protocols based on the finding of the EEG and not the one you use right? Am i understanding that right?
Would love to find one in my area who uses the technique you speak of without needing an EEG eval to go off of initially and no side effects.
Thank you sooo much!
Yes, you're correct about NeurOptimal® neurofeedback not needing the qEEG and also that it's virtually side effect free. I've seen very, very good results with anxiety and panic, so I think you're on a good track.
I'm not great with Florida geography, but there are two providers listed on the NeurOptimal® trainer list on Zengar's website. I also know Kira Nola at Path to Growth. If none of their locations are feasible, you could still call them. They may know other trainers that I don't.
Good luck to you!
If someone is being treated for depression with a combination of neurofeedback and therapy, what specific tasks are being done with the EEG setup. I understand the patient sits comfortably and can monitor their brain waves. But how does this observation change the alpha hypoactivity in the brain?
Have you visited the What is Neurofeedback page of New York Neurofeedback's website?
You'll read there that there are really two kinds of neurofeedback. In most forms the client watches a monitor and engages consciously in an activity, perhaps something like a video game. A reward of some kind is produced when the amount of alpha decreases (to use your example).
In contrast, the type of neurofeedback I do, NeurOptimal®, minutely interrupts a sound stream, usually music, when your CNS is about to shift state. It gives the CNS the opportunity to decide whether or not to make that state shift. If less alpha is what's needed, the CNS will make that change itself over time - below the level of consciousness. I find this state of the art form of neurofeedback to be at least as powerful as the others, and, because it's not prodding the CNS in a predetermned direction, it's virtually side effect free.
I couldn't tell for sure from your question which type you are being trained with, but I hope these descriptions are helpful.
I have a lovely, happy autistic son age 9yrs old. He is verbal and mainstreamed in school. We have had him on a gfcf diet x 2 years and haved cleared him of yeast and gut related issues . He has also been taking multiple supplements for 2 yrs. He continues to have severe stimming problems (hand stimming, humming, loud noises, etc.). This does not appear to be related to stress as he is generally happy. He also has issues with focus and attention. We are thinking about neurofeedback to help with these issues as the diet and supplements, along with ST and OT have not made much of a difference. I am worried that this Therapy will somehow change my son's personality and if it could worsen the symptoms. I have checked online for any major safety issues and have not found any. Other than he may be tired or somewhat irritable after each session. Any information on this would be most helpful. Thank you.
I don't have safety concerns either. Regarding the possible side effects of fatigue and irritability (which I would expect to be transient), you might want to read the What is Neurofeedback page of my website, which talks about the side effect question. The type of neurofeedback I use is virtually side effect free, but other types are also very effective.
Personally, I have only a small amount of experience with working with clients with autism spectrum conditions, and that has been with adults. I have seen positive changes (less anxiety, more connectedness, more eye contact, more humor) and my subjective experience has been that the clients become more themselves, not less.
Colleagues who work a lot with children and the autism spectrum report good changes as well, less anxiety, less self-soothing behaviors, increased verbal skills, for example. I have not heard of any loss of positives, such as your son's delightful temperament.
I hope that's helpful.
I've been doing NF with a psychologist in my area for depression and anxiety. I just finished session #14 and I'm wondering if I should continue.
Every time I'm done with a session, I feel strange. It could just be my considerable anxiety, but it's uncomfortable and difficult to work until the next day. I've mentioned it to the doctor and he blows it off.
My depression is a little bit better, but my anxiety seems a little worse and my symptoms are strange (more like derealization). I don't know whether to continue, stop, or look for another practitioner. I'm also in therapy and on medication.
If you feel your neurofeedback provider is blowing off your concerns, I would look for another trainer.
I don't know what type of neurofeedback you're being trained with. NeurOptimal®, the type I use, is very side effect free. What I think of as older forms of neurofeedback do tend to have side effects. (You can read more about this on the What is Neurofeedback page of my website.)
With the older forms of neurofeedback, providers can get very good results but they tend to use the reports of side effects to tailor what they are doing. I'm not sure if that is happening in your case.
Sometimes as the brain normalizes, it needs less of a medication. That can also feel like a side effect but that could be worked out with your MD who is doing the prescribing.
My expectation for my clients with a lot of anxiety is that that it is likely to be the first thing to respond (along with improvements to sleep), within a few sessions; but of course every brain is different. I personally have never had a client experience derealization. People generally feel more like themselves rather than less.
I hope that's helpful!
Is neurofeedback used for bi-polar patients?
Yes, it is. A typical response from neurofeedback training would be a smoothing out of the peaks and valleys. In my experience, most people are able to reduce the number and/or the dosage of medications.
Benzo Withdrawal and Bipolar
I am recovering from a protracted case of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome and so my nerves are extra sensitive & still easily overstimulated. I also have Bipolar 1 (primarily mania, including delusions). I also developed myoclonic jerks from various medications, which is why I am interested in this non-drug type of therapy. Do you think I would be a good candidate for neurotherapy? Or is there a risk of it doing damage to my over-sensitive nerves or worsening my bipolar or myoclonic jerks?
I do think neurofeedback may be helpful to you. I've seen good results both with bipolar conditions and with people who have come in because of medication side effects.
NeurOptimal®, the system I use, is both gentle and effective and is virtually side effect free, so it might be a better choise for you than traditional neurofeedback, which can have transient side effects. You can read more about the differences between types of neurofeedback on the What is Neurofeedback page of the New York Neurofeedback website. You can look for providers by geography via websites listed on the Links page.
Strange Side Effect
I have just had my 10th session and feel terrible - like my mind isn't attached to my body. Is this normal? Thanks so much.
That's not something I have heard from any of my clients, but that doesn't mean no neurofeedback trainers have heard of it.
If you are doing the kind of neurofeedback where you try to make something happen (with a video game or other goal) to increase or decrease a targeted group of frequencies such as alpha or beta, this can sometimes cause side effects.
There are no protocols needed with the neurofeedback I use (NeurOptimal®) and side effects are rare, so that may be why I haven't heard of what you're experiencing. But it sounds unpleasant. Please talk to your trainer, if you haven't already. He or she will likely want to make adjustments to the training protocol.
I have a child who is 14 years old and has Down Syndrome and also Attention Deficient and Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD). I heard that Neurofeedback could be useful for him, but it has some side effects. Could you please share your experiences and propose or not the Neurofeedback to us.
I haven't worked with anyone with Down Syndrome but I have had clients with attentional disorders and seen very good results.
Some forms of neurofeedback are more prone to side effects - please read the What is Neurofeedback page of my website to learn more about that.
One way to think about this is that neurofeedback's potential is to have all of us function at our brain's best. I would be surprised if it wasn't helpful to your child.
No Side Effects Guarantee?
During neurofeedback as several sensors are attached to our head and it works directly with the brain. I would like to know whether there will be any side effects to the brain. Can any one give me 100% guarantee that this therapy is harmless!!!! Please get back to me.
Most forms of neurofeedback provide information to the brain by pauses in a sound stream that the client is listening to or by the results of something like a video game. The sensors are there to read the electrical activity on the surface of your scalp, not to put anything in.
By "most" forms I mean that I can't speak for all forms of neurofeedback because I'm not familiar with all. In addition, there are some systems that are called neurofeedback that don't have a feedback loop - so they aren't true neurofeedback (in my opinion); and they do put something into the brain - such as a flash of light on the eyes.
Some types of neurofeedback do potentially have side effects. The type I use, NeurOptimal®, is virtually side effect free, so you may want to look into that if side effects are a concern. You can read more about the differences between the two types on the What is Neurofeedback page of my website.
All of that said, I don't think anyone should give you or anyone else a 100% guarantee that any form of treatment won't have side effects or could never cause harm. Human beings are simply too varied. Most treatments do something unwanted in addition to helping - even a bandaid has an "ouch" side effect when it's removed!
Neurofeedback and Substances
I am currently having neurofeedback and my last session is coming up. They told me that I should not drink or do recreational drugs three weeks prior to my last session. I smoke marijuana sometimes on the weekends and drink. Will this really affect the results of the neurofeedback treatment? I also smoke cigarettes and was wondering if that will affect anything also?
Well, these are substances that affect the brain. Otherwise,people wouldn't use them. : )
My own experience with working with clients is that as the brain gets healthier people naturally make better choices for themselves, so I don't give instructions such as you mention, although I often do provide information about substance use to my clients.
However, I'm using a different type of neurofeedback with my clients than the type you are likely being trained with. You can read enough about that on the What is Neurofeedback page of my website for you to be able to tell.
In any case your trainers likely have good reasons for these recommendations. If you haven't asked them the same questions you've asked me, I think you should.
Can neurofeedback help in recovering from a concussion?
I've worked with a few people with concussions and one with TBI (traumatic brain injury), and neurofeedback has been quite helpful to all.
A colleague worked for several years primarily with people who had been in car accidents. As you can imagine, there were a lot of head injuries in that group. She reported consistently seeing their symptoms reduced or eliminated.
Neurofeedback for a Third Grader
I have a second grader who is struggling in school mostly I think because of anxiousness and not able to focus and/or concentrate, My friend recommended neurofeedback since it helped her son do better in school. Should I have my son tested for any learning disabilities before trying neurofeedback or I can go with the therapy regardless?
That's going to depend on what type of neurofeedback you take him for. In protocol-based neurofeedback, the trainer is likely going to want to have the testing done in order to choose which protocols are the best fit to help your son.
If you go to a NeurOptimal® trainer, the context the neurofeedback is done within is different. Rather than training the brain to produce more or less of certain frequency ranges, the brain is given information on what it's doing that it uses to re-organize itself. I like this method better because it relies on the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to do what it does very well: Organize itself to run more efficiently and with minimum discomfort.
Protocol driven neurofeedback is more likely to produce side effects because the brain is being pushed or pulled in a direction. But that doesn't mean it won't produce good results.
Whichever you choose - which may depend on who is available locally - I think your friend's advice is good.
How Does Neurofeedback Work?
What are tools used in Neurofeedback? What is database used in neurofeedback? Are database and the tools different for different diseases?
In other forms of neurofeedback than the one I use, there are protocols based on what conditions the client wants to see change. With NeurOptimal® - the system I use and which I think is the state of the art - that's not the case. NeurOptimal® provides information to the client's CNS (central nervous system) that the CNS uses to change itself.
I personally think that's the better way to train brains. Your CNS, like all systems in nature is a non-linear dynamic system. Any form of neurofeedback that uses protocols, no matter how complex the protocol, is essentially imposing linearity on a non-linear system. That is not to say that you can't get good results with those systems, but they do tend to be more side effect prone. You can read more about these differences on the What is Neurofeedback page of my website.
All true neurofeedback systems read the EEG (electrical activity on the surface of the scalp) and use mathematical transforms to organize the data so that feedback can be provided, also using complex mathematics.
Not being a mathematician myself, or a programmer or a neuroscientist, that's about the limit of the detail I can provide you.
What Kind of Improvements?
I have been receiving neurofeedback training for 20 sessions now and I can not tell if it has made a difference. What are some improvements I should expect?
I don't know what kind of neurofeedback you're doing; but with NeurOptimal®, the type I use, I typically see changes after the first one to four sessions. If I'm not seeing changes, we start to look for what might be blocking them. But whatever type your trainer uses, 20 sessions seems like a long time to train without some evidence of change, although I have seen it take that long a few times.
As to what kind of improvements to expect, that's very unique to the individual. I most often see changes first in improved sleep and decreased reactivity. Sometimes the changes are subtle, and sometimes the changes feel so normal that the person doesn't notice them until someone else points it out! .
Single Mother with Depression and Anxiety
I have stumbled upon the thought of neurofeedback in looking for treatment for what might be depression/anxiety. I do not want to go on medication because I don't like all the side effects. I have a history of depression/anxiety from the time I was raped at 18, I have been through therapy, on medication, will feel better, take a break then feel I might relapse only with different symptoms. I am now 35 and a 100% single mother. I would like to return to school, and previously was a good student but am doubting my abilities now from the lack of focus I am experiencing. I'm not sure my life is overly stressful, but it sure seems that way. As a result it is taking its toll on my mind. I can not think very clearly, I am very forgetful, and I am always consumed with what I need to get done instead of just enjoying life with my daughter. I feel it is having a negative impact on our relationship as well. Would Neurofeedback help with this? I was reading that there may be some side effects to this, such as permanent headaches, foggyness, etc. Is this the case with your version of neurofeedback. I would hate to go through this spend the money and be worse off in my life and for my daughter.
I think neuroeedback is quite likely to help you with what you describe. I've had many clients experience lessening of depression, anxiety and problems with focus, as well as with PTSD symptoms, which might also be relevant for you.
NeurOptimal® does tend to be quite side effect free. I personally have seen side effects only rarely and they have been transient. You can read more about this on the What is Neurofeedback? page of the New York Neurofeedback website.
If you decide you want to look for a NeurOptimal® trainer near you, you're welcome to email me for suggestions through the Contact page of the website.
I hope that's helpful!
14-year old with ADD
Hi from Long Island, NY. My daughter 14 years old diagnosed add -neurologist put on her medicine. I will take her for a second opinon because eeg was normal. Neurofeedback would be permanent solution or not? Any side effect like medicine? She has Fidelis Care insurance can cover. Do you know any doctor from Long Island for this? Thanks a lot.
It's most typical for people to go for a series of neurofeedback training sessions, stop, and have the effects last. A small number of people come back occasionally for a "tune up" and an even smaller number need consistent training.
Side effects are more common with some forms of neurofeedback and very uncommon with the type I use, NeurOptimal®. You can read about these differences on the What is Neurofeedback page of my website. In any case, any side effects should be short-lived.
You would need to ask Fidelis directly about their coverage - there's often considerable difference between various plans from the same insurer.
I'm sorry I don't personallly know anyone on Long Island. You can scroll down on the Links page of New York Neurofeedback for some NeurOptimal® provider lists. You can also just do a search for "neurofeedback" plus your zip code. If you need to go inside the Fidelis provider network, looking for "biofeedback" may bring up some results.
Just as an inform, some neurofeedback trainers are MDs, but many more are psychologists or therapists like myself.
Good luck to you,
OCD and Aggressive Anxiety
We're 10 sessions in with neurofeedback for a teenaged son with severe OCD and aggressive anxiety disorders, and he seems worse. Is there hope for a breakthrough with many more sessions? We are desperate to help this child (he also is on 2 medications).
My own experience of working with people with OCD is that it tends to take more sessions for change to start happening than with less complex anxiety. It wouldn't surprise me to not see change in this by ten sessions.
Often a symptom getting worse is the first sign that it's changing for the better. I know that sounds odd, but it's almost as if the brain is bringing out the problem in order to work on it.
Of course, every brain is unique; but I'd expect to see shifts in the aggressive anxiety sometime soon - less frequent episodes perhaps, or less intensity, or the periods of anxiety are shorter in duration.
With OCD, often the first thing you see is that the person's process around the OCD behavior changes before the behavior itself does. Here's an example (details changed for confidentiality).
I had a client who'd had moderate to severe OCD for decades. One of his most exhausting rituals had to do with tying shoelaces, so to avoid it he always wore zippered boots or loafers. One day he came into his session wearing laceup hiking shoes. I asked him if something had changed about his lace-tying ritual. He said, "No, but I decided it wasn't going to choose my shoes for me anymore." Sometime later, the need to do the ritual itself began to loosen up.
You could also watch for anything else changing for your son, unrelated to the two anxiety disorders. Any change is likely to be a sign that his brain is incorporating the neurofeedback. The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) doesn't always implement change in the order we'd prefer! But it will be the order that is right for him.
Good luck to you and your son. I know it's hard to be a parent and watch a child struggle.
How long does it usually take to be effective on add symptoms? How often does one need to see the practitioner?
The answer to your first question is that, because of the complexity of each of our systems, it's unique to the individual. I've seen people with attentional problems have positive results after the first session, and almost always by the fourth or fifth session.
Most neurofeedback providers in my experience see people, at least initially, twice a week. Some feel three times a week is best. But I personally wouldn't hesitate to start someone at one time per week if that's what they could afford dollar or time-wise.
Questions about Neurofeedback
Where could I get treatment or the equipment to use neurofeedback? How much does it cost, and how many sessions do you need?
If you want to look for a neurofeedback trainer near where you are, on the Links page of the New York Neurofeedback website are links to three different provider lists for NeurOptimal®, the kind of neurofeedback I use. Or you can just do a search for "neurofeedback" and your ZIP code or city's name.
There are many different neurofeedback systems on the market. There are also systems marketed as neurofeedback that are not really neurofeedback at all because they push or pull the brain in a direction - that's not the same as giving the brain feedback on what it's doing.
Some systems are designed for personal use at home. The good quality systems - whether for professional or personal use - that I am familiar with cost several thousand dollars. Going to a trainer for sessions rather than buying equipment may be more economical. I can't tell you what any particular trainer charges. There is considerable variety based on geography and other factors that affect the cost of running a business.
The number of sessions you need depends on how many things you'd like to see change and how long they have been in your life. I've seen people get what they wanted in as few as eight or nine sessions. 15 to 20 is probably more typical.
I hope that's helpful.
Neurofeedback for a Four Year Old
My son is 4 years old and receives PT/OT and therapy in his special education preschool for what they suspect is ADHD (although he has not officially been diagnosed yet). He is struggling in a classroom of 8 with 4 teachers, and next year will be entering kindergarten. I am a Registered Nurse, and my friend introduced me to neurofeedback therapy. I was wondering if you have had any experiences working with children and how successful it's been? Also, is there a window of opportunity in which it'll be more successful if started now rather than when he is older?
I don't work with children myself but I have many colleagues who do. I especially love hearing about the differences neurofeedback can make with kids. So, yes, it can be very helpful for children with attentional problems and many other learning difficulties.
Neurofeedback could potentially help your son anywhere along the way. There isn't a window of opportunity that closes. My thinking would be to get the training for him sooner rather than later, though, so that he has the best possible school experience and the least amount of struggling and impact on how he feels about himself..
All of our brains are plastic (able to change), but children's are especially so, and the younger the better in that sense. I have known of toddlers getting neurofeedback - sitting on a parent's lap - with good results.
If you decide to go ahead with neurofeedback for your boy, you're welcome to contact me - I may know someone near you who works with children.
Tourettes and a New Tic
Can neurofeedback cause a new tic with tourettes? My son 17 yr old has had 7 sessions and nexilan. The nexilan 10 times. Thank you.
Each of our central nervous systems (the brain and spinal cord) is what is called a non-linear dynamic system, as are all systems in nature. That means that they are somewhat predictable but also somewhat random - and that they are dynamic, ongoingly responding to what they're presented with.
This and the immense complexity of the human brain makes it difficult to predict what any given individual's process will be. Sometimes the brain seems to kind of "stir things up" while resolving an issue. That might be what is happening with that new tic your son has.
Some forms of neurofeedback are more side effect prone that the type I use, and I am less familiar with the paths trainers take to navigate that. I encourage you to discuss any concerns you have with his neurofeedfback trainer. You can read about these differences on the What is Neurofeedback? page of my website.
I have never heard of nexilan, and an Internet search did not turn up the name, so I can't comment on that part of your post.
I hope this is helpful!
No Breaks Allowed?
I am concerned about a person I know who has been doing neurofeedback for 2 years for a total of 800 or so sessions where the practitioner continues to tell her she needs to keep working and will not permit her to take a two week break from neurofeedback to see if it has "stuck" or not. The neurofeedback practitioner is not a licensed therapist with any certification. He is a neuroscientist who claims to have done 11 years of his own neurofeedback and when he misses 2 weeks, he slips back. I am concerned about possible abuse as this person is very vulnerable. Thank you for answering my question!
In my experience, the vast majority of people who do neurofeedback complete a number of sessions and are done. A few do need to come back for an occasional refresher.
There is a very small subset of people who need to continue neurofeedback as maintenance. Without working with this person and knowing what he or she started the neurofeedback for, what changes have been experienced, and so on, I can't say if that's the case here.
However, even with this group of people, I would expect a two week break to be fine. It makes no sense to me to not try the experiment. After all, if there's slippage the person can call up and make an appointment.
If this person is reporting the trainer's behavior accurately, that sounds like a lot of inflexibility on the trainer's part. I would recommend a second opinion. You or the person you're writing about are welcome to email me through the New York Neurofeedback website and ask if I know someone local. Just refer to this post.
Neurofeedback and Schizophrenia
Please, I wish to know whether neurofeedback could treat schizophrenia. Thanks.
I haven't personally worked with anyone with szhizophrenia. I do have a colleague who told me he'd had positive experiences with a few clients with this condition. For example, he told me that one person became able to tell that the voices he heard were the szhizophrenia, not real.
Here's a page from the eegSpectrum website with a number of related articles.
Neurofeedback in Nigeria
How can i get your services for my 15 year old daughter who has moderate mental retardation? We live in Nigeria.
I think it's very likely neurofeedback training will result in noticeable improvements in your daughter's functioning.
Nigeria is difficult, though, in terms of finding a trainer. I didn't have any luck doing an Internet search; but you should try, too, if you haven't already. With more specific information about where you are, you may get better results than I did.
I do have another idea if you don't find a trainer local to you. Zengar Institute - which makes the NeurOptimal® neurofeedback system I use - will be making a personal unit available to lease soon. You could keep an eye on their website and consider purchasing a unit. This type of neurofeedback is quite easy to learn to do, and they provide all the instructions and supplies you will need in order to be able to train your daughter.
I hope that proves to be helpful!
Neurofeedback Trainer in Mexico
Do you know of any therapists practicing this therapy anywhere near Cabo San Lucas Mexico?
I don't personally know anyone, but on the Links page of my website you can get to three international provider lists. Of course, you can also try doing a search for Cabo San Lucas neurofeedback. A lot of people find me by doing that kind of search.
I just began neurofeedback (completed 4 sessions). I am mostly going for sleep issues. In the 4 days after i slept through the night 2 of the 4 nights! that is with NO sleep aids at all (i usually switch it up, Advil PM, Benedryl, herbs... something each and every night). to me this is huge.
Does the "work" of the neurfeedback stay with you for the rest of your life? i am so afraid to stop now!
I love your synopsis of Nfdback. Cannot wait to show my son who hates going! He is a huge athlete but also has ADD. I have seen huge improvement with him but he thinks it does nothing. Again, if you can just confirm your findings that it changes your brain for life.
Many thanks, Natalie
It really is huge to be sleeping normally and without aids. I suspect that will be the new norm for you.
And, yes, I also expect it to stay that way. The brain likes running more efficiently and with less discomfort. I can't say that I have tracked any of my clients "for life," but I have followed up six months, a year, even a few years later and been told that the changes had stayed in place.
We can all get thrown off by life, but in my experience most people who have had neurofeedback training find that they bounce back quickly. Occasionally, when someone encounters many stresses at once they might come back for a couple of sessions as a tuneup.
Sometimes the changes feel so natural the person doesn't even remember the way they used to be. That may be the case for your son. I expect you will see even more benefits for both of you.
When you are facing a terrible headache, does it mean that the CNS has a problem?
I have seen neurofeedback be very helpful for migraines and tension headaches, which certainly suggests that that there may be CNS problems going on. But I’ll leave the theorizing up to the experts.
Fewer headaches, shorter headaches and headaches that are milder are what I’ve seen happen for my clients – sometimes they have no headaches at all as a result of their neurofeedback training.
That said, if someone were to experience a sudden piercing pain in the head, I would want them to seek medical help right away.
I should probably point out that when you visit your doctor or other health care provider, he or she may not be familiar with neurofeedback. Rest assured, neurofeedback is complementary to most medical and alternative approaches. In other words, you can usually use both neurofeedback and traditional medicine side by side.
I have a seven year old daughter. She is a twin and was a premature baby. She had a pretty rough start from the beginning but has turned out to be a happy healthy little girl. However, we have been told that she may possibly have a learning disability. She has some issues at school particularly in mathematics. She also has issues with remembering things that she did a week before with schoolwork.
Can nuerofeedback help my daughter with this type of disability if she is in fact diagnosed? Any information would be greatly appreciated.
With or without a diagnosis of a learning disability, neurofeedback is likely to improve your daughter's functioning in school and in life. It's been used with good results with children who are even younger than your daughter.
I do know some people who are terrific with children. If you'd like to email me with your location, I'll let you know if I know anyone in your area.
I'm having a hard time finding information on the effects of neurofeedback for those diagnosed with schizophrenia.. what do you know about the effects of neurofeedback for people with schizophrenia?
I haven't personally worked with anyone with schizophrenia, but I do know someone who has in a mental health clinic setting. He found it to be helpful. I remember him telling me one anecdote, for example, in which the client after a number of neurofeedback training sessions reported that she still heard voices but that she knew what they were and didn't pay attention to them. I don't know how much more happened with subsequent sessions.
Neurofeedback is really about training anyone's brain to function at its potential. I certainly think it would be well worth trying for schizophrenia.
Neurofeedback for a Three-Year Old
My daughter will be 3 in June...I have been researching the difference between the "difficult" child and the "strong willed child." I truly believe she is strong willed.
My friend recommended neurofeedback training for her. Do you think she would benefit by this treatment/ training? Is she too young?
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions...
I agree with your friend. Neurofeedback is really about tuning the brain up to its potential, so it could be quite helpful whether your daughter is difficult or strong willed.
I can't speak for other forms of neurofeedback, but I do have NeurOptimal® colleagues who work with children as young as your daughter. They would probably have her sitting on your lap for the training.
If you'd like to look specifically for NeurOptimal® trainers, on the Links page of my website you'll find connections to two provider lists. You can also just do a search for neurofeedback plus your ZIP code. And it sounds like your friend may know someone already.
Personally, I think it's wonderful to do neurofeedback at as young an age as possible. Children's brains are so capable of change! Ours are, too, but it can take us a bit longer.
I have a younger sibling who is currently in a drug rehab facility for opiate abuse, is this recommended in such a case.
There is a history of neurofeedback being used with addictions that goes back to the 1970s. It's currently being used by a number of rehabs as part of their programs.
You can learn a bit about this in this video about neurofeedback and addictions, which does a good job of summarizing what you might expect.
Depression and Marijuana
Was it your experience with Depression and the use of Marijuana to mask depression?
I can't say I've worked with anyone who came in with that combination. What I have seen is marijuana used to alleviate anxiety. I'd expect the experience with neurofeedback to be similar to that, meaning that it would be helpful.
People do often experience that their mood lightens and therefore there is less need for prescribed anti-depressants, possibly including being able to eliminate the medication entirely.
What you're describing sounds like using a non-medical drug as a self-prescribed treatment. It's also been my experience that there's a very natural kind of way that with neurofeedback training it becomes easier to do what is good for your system and easier to avoid what isn't.
I hope that's helpful.
My therapist is recommending neurofeedback. Do you think it would be helpful for me? I have been diagnosed with anxiety, addictive behavior problems, and depression.
How many sessions do you recommend and what is the average price range per session? He is charging me around $120 for a 30 minute session and my insurance doesn't cover it - thus I'm trying to see if it is worth the investment.
He also recommended I do around 40 sessions which would equal roughtly $5,000. Is that too many sessions? I live in Northern Virginia.
Do you have anyone you would recommend - I'd like to compare prices with someone else.
I SINCERELY appreciate your time!
Neurofeedback is certainly used for anxiety, addiction behaviors and depression. I suspect a lot of trainers would predict around 40 sessions, although of course I'm saying that without knowing your particular details. Even if I did know you better, though, it's still only roughly predictable as each brain is unique.
Comparing that price per session to New York City prices, which are much higher, it sounds again like what I would expect. If you would like to look for other trainers in your area you can look at either of the provider lists on the New York Neurofeedback Links page.
Those lists are trainers who use NeurOptimal® neurofeedback. Or you can just do a search for neurofeedback plus your ZIP code.
Good luck to you!
Autism Spectrum and Neurofeedback
My 11 year old son was recently diagnosed with being on the "spectrum" for Autism. He got a brain map and just started neurofeedback along with hyperbaric oxygen treatments.
It is very expensive as we are going 3x a week to both treatments. I will do anything for me son, but I am wondering if what I am doing is correct.
Is 3x a week for neurofeedback enough to see results? He is on his 7th treatment.
I do think neurofeedback is a good choice for autism spectrum disorders. I have done a small amount of work in that arena and have seen some nice changes, and colleagues who see many more autism spectrum people than I have reported good things as well.
Your son is getting a different type of neurofeedback from the kind I use; I can tell by the fact that he was given a QEEG (the brain map). That makes it hard for me to respond to your questions about frequency and what to expect - that and the fact that each brain is so unique (100 billion neurons in each brain makes for a lot of variety).
With the type I use, there would be no reason I know of to do more than three times a week; but if you have any reason to be doubtful it would make sense to get a second opinion from someone using the same type of equipment. You can likely do that by going to the system's website and looking for a provider list.
Los Angeles Neurofeedback
Two of my sons may have adhd and I was wondering if it would help. I live in L.A. near LAX do you know of a nearby place?
Neurofeedback has a good track record with ADHD. If I were a parent of kids with attentional problems, I would definitely want to try it for my children.
I'm not very familiar with Los Angeles geography and don't have anyone specific to recommend, but there are links to two lists of neurofeedback providers on my website.
Good luck to you and your boys!
Borderline Personality Disorder
Does NC teacher State BCBS cover this?
Would this be effective on a teenager with borderline personality disorder who struggles mostly with emotional immaturity and the need for immediate gratification?
Neurofeedback can decrease reactivity and impulsivity so, yes, I think it could be a good choice for this teenager.
As far as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the insurance carrier needs to be asked directly. BCBS offers so many different policy configurations, and even with the same employer there are often different levels of coverage available.
The questions to ask them are do they cover neurofeedback and for what conditions. Biofeedback is where they classify neurofeedback, even though they are quite different, so you may need to mention that if they don't know what neurofeedback is. Insurance coverage for neurofeedback can be iffy - my guess would be it's about 50/50.
It is great to get children and teenagers started with neurofeedback - their young brains typically respond quickly.
Neurofeedback for Stuttering?
Does this treatment have any proven success in correcting stuttering?
I don't have personal experience working with people who stutter, nor do know of anything like the controlled, randomized well-designed research that you are probably looking for. There is certainly anecdotal information available, such as what is described on this page of eeginfo.com.
At the very least, neurofeedback should help with reducing anxiety and whatever role it has come to play in the problem.
A Ten-Year Old with ADD
My son just turned 10, he was diagnosed with ADD. We are apprehensive about giving him stimulants.
Would neurofeedback benefit him - help him focus and be less forgetful in school? Is he too young for neurofeedback? Any advice would be greatful!!
It's so hard to see him struggling daily.
Neurofeedback has a good track record with ADD and ADHD, and it's common to see young brains like your son's respond quickly. He's definitely not too young. If you'd like to email me through the New York Neurofeedback website and let me know where you are located, I can tell you if I know anyone in your area.
I think it's quite possible for your son to have a much more positive educational experience than what you're watching him deal with now.
Paranoia and Bipolar I
Can it help with paranoia? my mother has this and bipolar1.
I don't know how serious your mother's symptoms are, but I think neurofeedback cold be a helpful part of her overall plan.
Personally, I haven't worked with anyone with Bipolar I or symptoms of paranoia, but I have seen good results with Bipolar II, which is often harder to medicate.
In general, the feeling I have gotten from my colleagues is that people with bipolar conditions will always have some degree of swing, but that neurofeedback can help make that milder and in some cases reduce the need for medication.
An overall way to think of neurofeedback is as tuning the brain up to its potential, so it could help your mother achieve whatever that potential is for her.
I hope things go well for both of you.
Sensitivity to Sound
My question: does neurofeedback work on sensitivity to sound - living in a house & being agitated by the sound of the traffic outside?
If you came to see me as a client I would have questions about whether or not you had ruled out any mechanical problems with your hearing and any other related medical concerns. That said, my expectation is that neurofeedback would help you.
NeurOptimal® neurofeedback, the type I use, is in my experience very good at decreasing reactivity and reducing anxiety. For example, I had a client last baseball season who was enjoying going to the games much more than in the past because the volume of noise wasn't upsetting her. It had become just loud (this was Yankee Stadium) instead of unsettling and upsetting.
If you'd like, you can go to my website for two links to neurofeedback providers who use this system. Certainly, you may also get good results with other types of neurofeedback.
Good luck with getting relief from this!
Reactive Attachment Disorder
Hi- I'm a therapist and have been seeing a lot of RAD kids recently. I live in Colorado and it seems there has been an influx of Romanian & Russian adoptees- I have training in HeartMath- you might know this system- and am very interested in your neurofeedbak system.
Can it be used with young children? What type of training would I need to use it in my practice?
Looks very intriguing. thankyou
Yes, NeurOptimal® is used with children, including those young enough that they need to sit on a parents lap for the training. I don't work with kids myself, but I've heard very good reports on work done with children with RAD.
Zengar does most of their training online now. Tech Cert, the basic training in how to run the system, is four days long. You would complete that knowing how to use NeurOptimal® with your clients. It is not at all a hard learning curve. There is additional training available and wonderful subscription-only Forums as well as a free Yahoo Forum. It's a very interesting, active community and people are very generous with their expertise.
I am familiar with HeartMath, although I don't use it myself. I think you would find NeurOptimal® very useful with this population.
How Many Sessions?
How many sessions does it take the average person to feel like the therapy is working? I realize everyone is different, but on average how long does it take? This treatment would be for depression and anxiety.
Thank-you very much,
There are a number of different neurofeedback systems in use - you can read more about that on the What is Neurofeedback page of my website - and you'll probably get different predictions from trainers based on those differences. That said, I think that NeurOptimal®, the system I use, is state of the art neurofeedback. My answer to your question about how many sessions to expect is based on my experience as a NeurOptimal® trainer.
Many of my clients see change after one session and almost all start to see changes by the fourth or fifth session. Occasionally, it takes longer. Every brain is different - those 100 billion neurons in there make for a lot of variety - but I would expect to see you feeling calmer within a few sessions. Anxiety and depression are deeply linked for most people, so improvements are generally experienced in both.
Number of total sessions tends to vary with how long the problems have been around. Twenty is pretty average, but I've seen it take less. And some people keep coming because they want to really optimize their functioning. It's really up to individual clients how many sessions they want.
Depression and anxiety are excellent reasons to do neurofeedback. If you'd like to see if there is a NeurOptimal® trainer near you, you can check two provider lists by going to the Links page of my website.
Good luck to you!
Research with Substance Abusers
I am working on developing a research program for a Neuropsychiatry practice looking to assess the efficacy of Neurofeedback treatment in conjunction with other treatments for improving executive functioning and impulse control among substance abusers. I found your website helpful but I have a question I have been unable to find an answer to.
What is the typical or suggested schedule of Neurofeedback treatment sessions? In other words, how often are sessions conducted and how much time is needed in between sessions?
If you could provide me with any links or point me in the right direction I would greatly appreciate it.
If you haven't already looked at the What to Expect page of my website, there's some general information there. I don't know of any links or research specifically on the question of frequency and spacing of sessions. You will find lots of variety in the neurofeedback community in terms of how people work with their clients.
That said, if I were designing a study, I would schedule people twice a week for ten weeks, with the sessions spaced two or three days apart. There's really no one size fits all with people's central nervous systems, but that kind of pacing should work well for most. Twenty sessions is commonly thought of as a typical amount to allow for integration of change.
Good luck with your research project. I think neurofeedback has a helpful role to play in recovery from substance abuse.
Neurofeedback and HEG
Hi there, I work in South Africa on Neurofeedback HEG and would like to know whether the therapy that I do is the same as Neurofeedback EEG, and whether the results is the same or not.
Does HEG and EEG therapy work for the same ailments or what is the difference?? Please advise as soon as possible.
HEG - hemoencephalography - is a form of biofeedback that aims to improve functioning by improving blood flow to the brain. It works via measurements produced by either infrared thermometers or sensors that shine light through the head to assess brain flow by observing the color of the brain tissue.
Neurofeedback measures the EEG - the electrical activity on the surface of the scalp - and provides feedback to the brain about its own activity. The brain reorganizes itself based on this feedback.
Biofeedback works with the peripheral nervous system (the PNS), utilizing blood blow, skin temperature, etc., with the intent of improving the functioning of the central nervous system (the CNS). Neurofeedback works directly with the CNS.
I can't speak to results of HEG as I've never worked with it, although there are neurofeedback trainers who do both. HEG and neurofeedback are used with similar conditions, such as depression, anxiety, migraine and TBI (traumatic brain injury), so there is a lot of overlap in that sense.
Good luck with your work.
Will the Changes Last?
Will the changes be permanent? I know I have limbic issues and get emotionally negative with thoughts that get 'stuck' and have a small bit of impulse control.
Those sound like good reasons to do neurofeedback. To answer your question, in my experience for most people the changes are lasting. The brain seems to like running itself more efficiently, with more flexibility and resiliency.
There is a small subset of people who come back occasionally for a tuneup, particularly if they have a lot of life stresses all at once. I also usually have a few people who keep coming because they have something going on in their lives that challenges their system. Rotating shift work would be an example of that. People who have a condition like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's often benefit from ongoing neurofeedback to help them be at their best as their disease progresses.
For most people, they come in, do their sessions and leave when they feel they've gotten what they came for. If I check back with them later, they're doing fine.
I hope that's helpful. You can read more on the New York Neurofeedback website.
Is This a Fair Price?
Hello, I liked your article. EEG was suggested to me for sleep problems and anxiety. The sessions were quoted at 6,000 for everything (initial exam and I think they recommended 30 sessions). Their system of integrating a 'specialist, MD' to review the initial map and working with the tech to determine a path forward sounded well thought out.
The price seems high and I wanted your thoughts or recommendation for treatment.
Sincerely, Mary G
There are basically two types of neurofeedback. From your description, the older type is being recommended to you, which requires a qEEG (the brain mapping you were told about).
qEEGs are often interpreted by a separate specialist, just as you described, and cost from around $500 to $1500. The protocols used are based on the interpretation of the qEEG (and probably other factors, such as information you provide) and may be adjusted based on what you report back.
Providers of these types of neurofeedback can get very good results; but there are often side effects, because the brain is being pushed in pre-determined directions. If side effects happen, that information is used to adjust the protocols.
The type of neurofeedback I use is Zengar NeurOptimal® which operates in a different paradigm, providing the brain with information that the brain uses to normalize itself in the way and at the pace that is right for each person. Because of this different approach, no qEEG is needed; and the training is virtually side effect free, as well as being very effective.
You can read more about the differences in the two philosophies on the What is Neurofeedback page of the New York Neurofeedback website. If you would like to look for a NeurOptimal® provider, there are two lists you can go to from the Links page.
The number of sessions needed tends to vary with the number of things the person would like to see changed and how long those conditions have been present. Rather than predict a specific number, I usually tell people the range of what I have personally seen. 30 sounds a bit high to me, though; but I'd need more detail to weigh in. And - every brain is unique and will respond in its own unique way.
Good luck to you! Less anxiety and better sleep should make a big difference in your life.
Is It Too Late to Start?
My son is 17, diagnosed PDD-NOS. The main concern I have for him is his ability to have conversations, make friends and socialization skills.
Is it too late for him to start neurofeedback therapy??
I definitely do not think it's too late. If he was my son, I would want him to get neurofeedback.
The human brain retains neuroplasticity, the ability to change, thoughout our lifetimes. In addition, at 17 your son's brain is still developing. Our brain doesn't become mature until sometime in the mid to late 20s. It may be even later than that - as we become better able to observe the brain through the various types of scans now available, we keep seeing developmental change happening at older ages.
My expectation is that you will see helpful changes with your son.
Cost of Becoming a Trainer
Where can I receive training (as a clinician) in neurofeedback? How much does a unit cost?
There are a number of neurofeedback systems available, so cost of the system and the training would depend on which system you decide on.
My bias (with no financial interest whatsover) is toward the Zengar NeurOptimal® system, the one I use. You can read about current costs for their system on the Zengar website. I'm not familiar with current pricing of other systems; but my guess is it would be pretty similar. EEGSpectrum is another system that is also widely used.
As far as training goes, it generally takes longer to learn other systems since they are protocol based, which NeurOptimal® is not. You can read more about the differences between the two types of systems on the What is Neurofeedback page of my website.
Zengar does their technical certification and other courses online, and other system makers may do so as well.
People also sometimes do further study with a more experienced trainer. I sometimes have beginners come for a few sessions to learn more about taking a neurofeedback intake, working with clients as changes start to happen, how medications interact with neurofeedback, and so on.
I hope that's helpful. It's a very interesting, rewarding profession. If you decide to go forward with it I wish you the best.
Can neurofeedback therapy control seizure activity?
I haven't personally worked with people who have seizures, but I know a number of colleagues who have and who report good results with reduction of seizure frequency and intensity, sometimes down to none, and also with being able to reduce medications.
There's a fair amount of information online if you do a search for neurofeedback + seizures. If you're interested in finding a neurofeedback trainer for yourself or someone you know, you can look on the two provider lists on the Links page of my website. Or you can email me - I may know someone in your area.
Finding a Neurofeedback Trainer
My question: how to I find someone in my area (joliet, Illinois, USA) that does neurofeedback for ADD?
You can look on the Links page of my website for two provider directories for the type of neurofeedback that I do, Zengar NeurOptimal®. If there isn't anyone near you, you could also look on EEG Spectrum's provider list - that's another neurofeedback company with a lot of trainers.
You can also google "neurofeedback" plus Joliet, IL or your zip code and see who turns up. Most neurofeedback providers have worked with ADD so that part should not be a problem.
Electroshock is Not Neurofeedback
Is this electroshock therapy? My grandmother had it done in the 60s and my mother believes it made her depression and bipolar disorder worse.
Is the brain doing all the work or is any outside electrical impulses or shock being applied by the "trainer"?
I certainly understand your concern, given your grandmother's experience. Neurofeedback and electroshock are completely different treatments.
Electroshock itself, as it is done today, is different from when your grandmother was treated with it. It's milder and there are more precautions taken to provide safety. It's typically used when nothing else has worked.
Basically the answer to your questions is yes, the brain is doing the work, and no, there are no electrical impulses or shock being applied. But I'm going to actually answer a little more than you asked.
That said, neurofeedback is completely different. There are a couple of treatments that are called neurofeedback which put something "into the brain," e.g., a very tiny impulse similar to a radio frequency, or light frequencies applied by looking at equipment that produces light in various frequency ranges.
The premise is that the impulse/frequency experience will push the brain out of a maladaptive state and/or pull the brain into a better state. Entrainment CDs that have music, tones, etc., in various frequency ranges operate in a similar way. I don't personally consider these methods to be neurofeedback because there is no feedback loop.
With what I consider to be true neurofeedback, the brain is given information about what it is doing so that it can reorganize it (this is the type I use) or it is trained by a reward system to produce more or less of particular frequency ranges. You can read more about this on the What is Neurofeedback page of my website.
The sensors on peoples' heads are there to read the electricity on the surface of their scalp - the electricity that all our brains are producing. No electricity is put in. The brain does the work - and it does it masterfully. We have a very powerful ability in our CNS (Central Nervous System - the brain and spinal cord) to take in information and use it to normalize what is maladaptive - and to operate at our potential. Neurofeedback is terrific at providing that information.
I hope that answers your concerns.
Have you ever used Neurofeedback to help relieve Trichotillomania? If so, what did the success look like? How many sessions did it take?
Also, are there any patients that Neurofeedback DOES NOT help?
Hi, Marilyn,I've only had two clients come with trichotillomania, both women, so it's a pretty small sample to report on, but I'll tell you what my experience was. For one woman, the trichotillomania became much less frequent and with the other it went away completely. Both had other things respond first (sleep improvements, decreased anxiety). That's typical of compulsions in my experience - that they take somewhat longer to respond, perhaps 15 or 20 sessions, but that the person is feeling better in other ways much sooner.As to your other question, I've been doing neurofeedback professionally for several years; and I've only had one client who had no improvement and there were some very unique circumstances there. Neurofeedback is really about tuning your brain to function at its potential, so pretty much everyone will benefit. That's why it helps with such a broad range of conditions. You can get a sense of this by reading the Client Comments
Neurofeedback for OCD
I am clinical psychologist, working in clini, please tell me about treatment of OCD with Neurofeed back.and guide me which device is better?
Personally, I believe the system I use -NeurOptimal® - is the state of the art. Other forms of neurofeedback push or pull the Central Nervous System (the brain and spinal cord) in a predetemined direction, whereas NeurOptimal® gives the CNS feedback about what it is doing dynamically, in the moment, and specifically to the individual. The CNS uses that information to reorganize itself towards more resiliency and flexibility. I think this is as powerful or more powerful, and it's much less prone to side effects. You can read more about these differences on the What is Neurofeedback? page of my website.
That said, other types of neurofeedback get good results. Some of it is personal preference and how the system fits into your own philosophy of healing.
As far as OCD goes, I've seen good improvements. Generally people see overall anxiety going down, and that leads to lessening of the compulsions and obsessions.
I hope that's helpful!
Does it Last?
Hi.Just wondering if the results are very long lasting and if the brain needs to be 're-trained' further down the track if that is possible? Also if one was able to reduce ritalin from daily to occasionally would that be not harsh on the treatment? Also would moderate alcohol consumption on the weekends be ok.
In my experience, the results from neurofeedback are long lasting. The brain likes running more efficiently. Occasionally, someone comes back for a tuneup, usually when they've had an unusual amount of life stressors or have something going on - a new job, for example - that they want to be at their best for. Sometimes people come back just to see what else might change.
I'm not sure what you mean about reducing Ritalin being "harsh on the treatment," but I can tell you it's very common for people to be able to reduce or eliminate the various medications used for ADD and ADHD. Neurofeedback can be very helpful with increasing focus and decreasing distractibility. (The same thing is true with anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.)
As far as alcohol goes, every brain is different. If you were a new client in my office asking that question, I would say that we would just have to try it and see. Too much alcohol could put a limit on how much progress can be achieved. It's also true in my experience that people often find that they quite naturally don't want as much alcohol (and other substances that can be problematic) as they used to before neurofeedback. It happens in a very organic way. You can look at the Client Comments page on my website for things people have said that relate to this question.
I hope that's helpful!
OCD and Panic Attacks
hi my name is sagar, im 22 yrs old and right now im about to do masters in engineering.
well it started about four years ago, that due to my excess studying with tremendous amount of concentration that i was able to generate and due to this, less & less sleep (this routine continued almost for an year), suddenly at the time of exam when preassure got even bigger and i kind of always had the feeling of not been able to accomplish my goal, use to eat, sleep and drink only study; one night i experianced one of unsual feeling that i had ever got, i was concentrating on a numerical,and suddenly my mind got stuck in a repetative pattern of thought (which came in terms of the ticking sound of my table clock) and the more i tried to shift my mind the more it got stucked, so that compeled me to make the watch stoop, even though concsiously i knew that was crazy, but my brain to tell me to do that.
suddenly i didnt know what was happening and i suffocated so much that i tried of several suicide attempts while my exam was going, coz i was failing to concentrate and remember my studies.
From that time onwards i became an average scorer,even though deep inside me i know that i can still be the person i used to be, once someone can help me to fix the improper functioning of my brain.
well the disorder that im having is OCD.the reason for my explanation above is only to make you understand exactly how i have got my OCD (which has a tendency to get stronger when i go to concentrate on anything),this would help you to explain to me what could have gone wrong with my brain, and whether Neurofeedback can cure this completely?'.
please reply ,as im nearly dying of the resulting panic attacks that i experience due to OCD.
It seems things have been pretty tough for you. I can imagine that you might wonder if you will ever get back to your old self. So, let me assure you, we've seen neurofeedback be helpful with both OCD and panic attacks.
Nonetheless, because each person and each brain are unique, it's not possible to predict whether particular conditions will go away completely, just be helped, or remain unchanged (although the last would be surprising).
For the same reason, I wouldn't attempt to explain to you what's gone wrong. I don't know whether you've consulted anyone in healthcare. You may want to work with someone local who can look at your history with you in more detail and help you to better understand what's happened and what's needed. It's important that you get support with your problem. No one need suffer on their own
On the Links page of my website you'll find two provider lists for the kind of neurofeedback I do. You can follow those links to look for someone in your area. Neurofeedback may very well be a big part of your feeling better.
I wish you the best in your efforts.
What are the side effects?
A "side effect" is the term we use to identify any negative consequences of a particular treatment. For example, dry mouth and diminished libido are two common side effects of taking certain anti-depressant medication.
Neurofeedback treatments may also have negative side effects. Occasionally someone might experience a headache or fatigue after a session or become tense rather than relaxed.
As I mentioned in the article, older forms of neurofeedback were designed to train the brain to increase or decrease certain frequency ranges. Side effects arose if the brain was "pulled" too far in one direction, or the protocol chosen wasn't correct.
The type of neurofeedback I use - NeurOptimal® - gives the brain information that the person's system uses to reorganize itself towards more stability, flexibility and resilience. Because this process proceeds at a pace that is right for the person, it's virtually free of any side effects.
Note that a side effect is defined as a result of treatment. For example, a client might feel "tired" after a neurofeedback session, but this is not necessarily a negative side effect. It's usually the case that the client just relaxed enough to become aware of how tired he or she actually was. In other words, the tiredness was already lying underneath the client's hyped, wired or anxious energy, and was not a side effect of the treatment.
Though it happens rarely with neurofeedback, side effects such as a headaches or anxiety simply mean that for that the amount of feedback needs to be reduced for that client (ie. "less is more").
I hope that's helpful!
Neurofeedback and Psychotherapy
I have had over 200 hours of Neurofeedback and Pshchodynamic Psychotherapy. I was hoping to feel like a new person after this long.
I left my therapist in a really bad way. My intense transference his intense counter transference. Neither of which he knew how to deal with so he began to be mean to me. I started therapy because of severe, life threatening anxiety attacks, that were causing my blood pressure to hit 210 over 110 even though I was in excellent shape. Which then caused a phobia at having my pressure taken.
My Doc felt Neurofeedback would greatly help. Do you think the Neurofeedback has helped and I just don't know how to tell. I still can't handle the thought of having my blood pressure taken. I also wish I could find a new therapist and keep getting Feedback to keep me from using Alcohol to put out the constant emotional misery. That I spent 35000.00 to fix.
Every brain is unique so it's not easy to predict what any one person's experience is going to be. I have certainly seen people with anxiety and panic helped greatly by neurofeedback, but there's no way for me to evaluate your results. What's clear, though, is that you want to feel better!
There is more than one type of neurofeedback, and it's possible you might have more clearcut results from a different type than the one you've tried.
There are a lot of providers (including me) who do both neurofeedback and psychotherapy, but sometimes it's better to separate the two. That could help to minimize transference and countertransference and make it easier to tell what's helping.
Good luck to you,
When to Expect Results
I would like to know how fast you can expect results from sessions with Zengar neurofeedback? How many of these sessions can you do within one day?
I can only speak for the type of neurofeedback I do (NeurOtimal™), but most people start to see change happen from as early as after the first up to four or five sessions. If it takes longer than that we have to start figuring out what's blocking progress.
There's generally no reason to do more than one session in a day. Usually people start out with me coming twice a week, or once a week if that's what their budget and schedule allow. I do know of cases where people come twice a day for a week or two when they have to travel far to find a neurofeedback provider, but I haven't worked that way with anyone myself.
I hope that's helpful.
I have a 17 year old son, with several issues, including believing smoking marijuana helps his anxiety/impulsive behavior, adhd, etc.
He was seen by a doctor who did recommend neurofeedback. He told my son he had to commit to no smoking for several weeks, so the therapy could work.
Have you encountered this in your practice? Any advice?
I don't myself make that request of people, and I haven't found continuing an addictive behavior to interfere with neurofeedback. Instead, the neurofeedback helps people make better choices. Often an underlying condition (such as anxiety or depression) clears up, and the need for the substance goes away.
I've worked with pot smokers, food addictions, and alcohol abuse, but not other illegal drugs (so far). People also come in with dependencies on prescribed drugs. Sometimes there is an educational role I can fill which may help them choose better for themselves.
Here's what usually happens:
Most people come to the conclusion on their own that they don't want to continue using the substance. This has a very natural, organic way of happening: "I realized I didn't really want that second piece of cake." Or, "I don't like the way I feel the next day; it's not worth it anymore."
As their CNS (central nervous system) gets healthier, the person starts to gravitate toward different, healthier things. For your son, that may mean that as he has less anxiety and is better able to focus, etc. -- common results from neurofeedback -- so that the need for the marijuana will decrease, even goes away.
Every brain is different, so it's impossible to predict; but that's what I would expect to see happen.
It's possible that a client will bump up against choosing between the new healthy state and the addiction and not yet be ready to leave the addiction behind. In my experience, it's much more common that they choose the new, healthier road. But even if they aren't ready yet, they are still leaving neurofeedback with a brain that is in better shape and therefore, I believe, closer to making a different choice.
If you'd like me to see if I know someone in your area, you can email me directly through my website with information about where you live.
Good luck to you and your son!
Can Neurofeedback help people with Tourette's Syndrome and do they listen to music that emits Alpha, Beta, Theta, etc soundwaves?
I haven't worked with anyone with Tourette's myself but there has been research done showing success in reducing tics and other symptoms. I've also heard from colleagues who have had clients with Tourette's who responded well and were able to reduce or eliminate medication. If you do a search for "neurofeedback and Tourette's" it will turn up quite a bit of information.
Music that emits sounds at Alpha, Theta or other frequencies is actually not neurofeedback, although some trainers do use them together. That kind of music or use of tones is called entrainment.
Entrainment means a process that attempts to pull the brain in a direction that is seen to be positive or pull it away from something negative. It's done by means of light and other stimuli as well as tones and music. The hope is that the brain will be trained in the desired direction and learn to go there on its own. Nothing about what the brain is doing is fed back to the brain - that's why it's not neurofeedback.
A lot of people like entrainment. Many products such as CDs for sleep, relaxation or creativity are using entrainment. Personally I think neurofeedback is more effective and a better fit to the uniqueness of each brain. I also know of some cases of side effects from entrainment although I don't think that's common.
I don't recommend it to my clients - I don't think it adds anything - and would be inclined to discourage its use with any kind of serious condition as it can be destabilizing. But you will find many providers who offer it and report good results.
If anyone in my life had Tourette's - adults or children - I would certainly want them to do neurofeedback.
I hope this is helpful!
What Do the Pauses Do?
Could you explain how the pauses in the music cause the CNS to adjust?
And my neurofeedback therapist said my peak alpha is 9.6 and should be 10.4 and that this would compromise my immune system and also she said if you were elderly which I am not she would wonder about dementia with this score??
I am not understanding this. I do have ADHD and anxiety and wonder about the connection of ADHD and dementia.
Thanks Mary Claire
Hi, Mary Claire,
The type of neurofeedback you are doing is done in a very different framework from Zengar NeurOptimal™. Other forms of neurofeedback generally use protocols in which the provider has determined that the client needs more or less of a frequency range or combination of ranges.
With NeurOptimal™ the system reads your EEG in 16 different frequency ranges, monitoring for instances where the CNS is transitioning with too much turbulence from one state to another.
At those points, there is a pause in the music. The pause brings the CNS back to the present moment where it can assess, "Is it safe?" "Do we really want to go where we were heading?"
Of course, it's safe in the trainer's office (or should be), so instead of going into the less flexible, less resilient state - anxiety, ADD, etc. - the CNS relaxes and, most importantly, learns from the experience to "not go there."
You can read more about the differences between the two types of neurofeedback on the What is Neurofeedback page of my website.
As for a possible correlation between ADHD and dementia, I don't personally know of one.
Thanks for your question, Mary Claire; and I hope that's helpful!
Anxiety and OCD
I suffer from anxiety and ocd and have a ton of symptoms if I were to start, after how many sessions would i feel results?
Anxiety and OCD are great reasons to be considering neurofeedback. Of course, everyone is interested in knowing how soon they'll see results, so that's a good question. Every brain is unique so it's not possible to predict how soon or in what order symptoms will improve, but I can still give you a general answer.
I'm speaking from my experience with my own clients and using the NeurOptimal™ neurofeedback system. That said, if you were my client, I would expect I'd hear you reporting positive changes as soon as after the first session. Almost everyone starts to see changes by the fourth or fifth session.
Again speaking generally, most often I hear about changes first in sleep improvement and decreased reactivity (including decreased anxiety). In my experience, OCD and depression symptoms can take longer to begin to change. How many sessions needed overall is again unique to the individual. How long the symptoms have been around and how many things the client would like to see changed affect number of sessions.
I hope that's helpful!
P.S. Here's a website for more information about the NeuroOptimal™ System.
Tics and Neurofeedback
Does this type of therapy help Tics?
I haven't personally worked with anyone with tics but many other neurofeedback providers have reported positive results. I would expect to see at least lessening of frequency and severity and less anxiety and discomfort around the fact of having tics.
If you do a search for "neurofeedback and tics" you will turn up quite a bit of information. I don't know where you or the person you're writing about are located, but there are some clinical trials going on regarding neurofeedback and tics, which might be something to look into also. The same search should turn up information on those as well.
I am very interested and willing to try neurofeedback therapy, but where can i go to receive this? My g.p or personal therapist?? Please help. Many thanks.
There are about 10,000 neurofeedback providers in the world, so it's possible but not too likely that your GP or therapist provides neurofeedback - although the number of providers is growing rapidly! There are a few MDs who offer neurofeedback, but it's mostly therapists and biofeedback providers.
If you go to the Links page of my website (there are two places to click to get there if you scroll up on this MyShrink page), you'll see links to two lists of trainers for the kind of neurofeedback I do.
You can also email me through my website with where you live, and I'll be happy to tell you if I personally know of someone close to you. Or you can do an internet search for "neurofeedback" plus your location.
Good luck to you!
Many thanks for your time 🙂
The main reason I'm asking is because i become very nervous when interacting with people (apart from work) and my head/neck shake a lot, i feel tense in my chest and it's really getting to me, i dont want it to get worse and become a hinderance.
I think this shaking is definately psychological (it doesnt happen at home when i'm relaxed and comfy) but could it be physical? It only occurs in my neck, though not any other part of my body, my hands are fine. I want to become more positive, stronger and confident in life instead of insulating myself at home/work. I find university (FD intergrative counsellling)very interesting and I enjoy it a lot, but am ashamed of the shaking, i cant seem to controll it and it's very embarrasing, it has become a real challenge for me.
Once again many thanks for your help,
I would recommend you check out the shaking with your G.P. just to rule out any other causes if you haven't already done that. If your intuition is correct, you are surely on the right track looking to neurofeedback to be part of your healing process.
Even if there was another cause, I would still recommend neurofeedback as it has the potential to train your brain to be at its best. For example, it's used with people with Parkinson's and other neurological disorders. It doesn't stop the disease with Parkinson's, but it helps people function at the best possible level along the way.
And yes, I've seen the kind of shaking you describe to be "just" psychological. I would expect that to respond very well to neurofeedback. I'd also expect to see you getting much less nervous - probably even comfy - in your interactions with others.
Reply by Shrinklady
Hi Alison, Shrinklady here. I saw your post and thought I would add to the conversation. As Catherine says it's always a good idea to check with a health practitioner, either a naturopath or a GP would be fine. There could be a neurological or organic reason that's causing this to occur. And I also agree with Catherine, neurofeedback therapy can be a tremendous aid to your progress.
I've actually seen this shaking many times in my practice. As a body psychotherapist, I refer to symptoms such as these as "psychophysiological" as it better reflects the workings of the nervous system.
Here's how a body psychotherapist understands it. When your nervous system maxes out its capacity to process stimulation, it needs to discharge the energy. Discharge is a normal human function of the nervous system through which it attempts to reach homeostasis (i.e. a balanced state).
Social interactions can be very triggering for some folks. Social situations are often unstructured and are not like some workplaces where the environment has defined certain expectations (i.e. work can contain our energy). Therefore, it's common for some nervous systems to be going through a heightened arousal pattern in the company of others (i.e. increased heart rate, muscular tension, shortness of breath etc.).
The shaking response is very likely your nervous system's attempt to settle. Here's one suggestion. Rather than become fearful or upset that it's happening, take comfort in the knowledge that the nervous system is doing what it needs to do to keep healthy. Then when you are alone, allow it to happen i.e. give yourself permission to shake.
It's often the fear of it happening that sets the pattern on a negative feedback loop. The energy never gets to discharge properly. If you allow your mind to focus on it, over time you may find it ceases to do it. By interrupting this fear response, you are in effect, bringing the brain into the present moment and allowing it to do what it naturally wants to do...discharge properly.
Hope that helps,
ADD Success Story
Wow! You can't imagine how wonderful it is to read about neurofeedback from someone who not only implements it, but has also had success in their own life. My son is about half way through a neurofeedback program right now. BTW, he is being treated by Dr. Mark Steinberg, the author of ADD: The 20 Hour Solution.
My son is 19 and has incredible insomnia, anxiety and major depression. We have tried EVERYTHING for the past three years, with minimal results. My son was tired of trying drugs and talking to therapists and Psychiatrists, and was losing hope. We as parents were also losing hope. Neurofeedback seems to be our last hope that he will be healed.
I am seeing shifts in his behavior and he is sleeping better and seems not to be depressed. My problem as the parent is that I am so afraid to let down my guard. I want to believe that the shifts I am seeing are lasting shifts, but I have been fooled before by drugs or therapy, and then when things come crashing down around me, I have difficulty coping. I know that this is my problem and that I have to change my way of thinking.
At this moment, I want to shout from the highest mountain that neurofeedback is the answer to my prayers, but my fears for my son keep me from doing that.
Thank you Catherine Boyer for writing this article. You have lessened my anxiety, just a little bit. And you are keeping my hope alive. Is it ok to let my guard down now?
Hi, Puppy Lover,
It's wonderful that you're seeing these changes in your son, and it is absolutely my expectation that he will continue to have increasing benefits and that they will stick. Personally, I love when young people come for neurofeedback. Their brains are still developing and they don't have decades of "stuff" that has collected around the problems they've experienced. Typically, they respond relatively quickly and then go on to start their adult life in a whole new way.
Here's some additional information that may help you with how you think about the process as it unfolds:
Typically, progress continues in the usual slightly up and down way that humans live their lives but with an overall good trend. Sometimes during the course of neurofeedback symptoms come back temporarily. It is my experience that the brain seems to be revisiting the symptoms in order to deconstruct them at a deeper level. This is good news!
It's also true that, given enough stressors, we all can regress. Occasionally I have a client come back who was done with his or her neurofeedback training but then hit a tough life period. We call it getting a tuneup, and usually a couple of sessions will set them right again. Sometimes people come in for a tuneup because of some big opportunity in their life that they want to be at their best for.
It's also true that if progress seems to stop that there may be an extrinsic (but correctable!) factor in the way. Not getting enough exercise (needed by the brain, not just the body), or too much of something (caffeine, alcohol, etc.), or other factors. Your son's neurofeedback doc should be able to help sort that out, if that's the case at any point.
So, yes, I would let my guard down and enjoy the results. I also often suggest that the parents of a client get neurofeedback for themselves. The problems you've been dealing with for years now have affected you, too; and neurofeedback can be terrific for anxiety!
Puppy Lover read Catherine's response and sent this message along:
Thanks Catherine for your thoughtful response. You have helped me to realize that I need to look at the positive results as just that. POSITIVE. And not to always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am seeing my son's behavior in a different light now and celebrating his progress. I know that this is also helping me to cope better, and that is therefore a benefit to my son.
I am so up in my head
Hi Catherine I'm undergoing neurofeedback and have had 8 sessions so far. I have anxiety due to a few traumas in my life however despite the traumas (dealing with a mentally ill mother, operations and drowning when much younger, seeing family members argue etc) I was always a goal oriented bright girl who loved going out and travelling all over the place. Last year I had a panic attack and then later a near death experience crossing the road which I believe 'tipped my nervous system and anxiety over the edge'. From there I struggled with sleep (used to be an amazing sleeper) confusion and suffered a lot of excessive thinking about death and existentialism. I believe I then developed depersonlisation and derealisation symptoms. Everytime I think of something exciting for the future like travelling or planning a wedding or anything that used to make me excited before I am struck with anxiety and very bad nervous system symptoms. When i go out for dinner with my partner or just out socially my thoughts and feelings are worse and I feel like I cant connect with people because I am so up in my head. The neurofeedback has helped sleep and some other very minor changes I often go from feeling ok to then bad again then ok again etc (notice I say ok' and not good). Is this normal? Should I have felt significant changes by now or is it still early stages? Thank you for your time and help Sarah
Hi, Sarah,It's very common for the brain to first utilize what it is learning in the area of sleep. Sleep is a major priority for the brain and body, so that's not surprising. Other changes can take longer. How much longer is impossible to say with any precision because every brain is so unique and everyone's history is different. Generally speaking, though, I find that the more things a person comes in hoping to change and the length of time those things have been part of the client's life affect how many sessions are likely to be needed.Positive change to sleep is in my mind a significant sign that your brain likes what you are doing. In my experience, clients have responded well to the types of things you describe. Catherine
I may not want to fix all my irregularities
I just got my initial brain scan and I am confident nuero feedback can help me with my PTSD amongst other things- my concern is that I may not want to fix all my irregularities. The way I see things in the world- clairvoyance, dreams, medical intuitive faculties might be because my brain works differently than the normal range- I don't want to lose this but I am definitely needing help with other cognitive functions- is there a way in the therapy to know which irregularities are ones to keep?
Also... I am curious if you ever suggest people rent to own the software so to do the therapy at home.
Traditional, protocol-based neurofeedback does target different brain states. If that is the kind of neurofeedback you are getting, you can talk with your trainer about that aspect. NeurOptimal, the system I use, is different. It gives the brain information about what it is doing. The individual brain uses that information to regulate itself in whatever way is right for that person.
I have never ued protocol-based neurofeedback, so I can only speak from NeurOptimal results over the last 13 years. I have never seen anyone lose a skill or trait that they liked, other than very transiently while the brain was making changes. It's also been common to have people report increased intuitive abilities of all kinds. That has been true for me personally.
Results with PTSD have been very good, so I agree that you are on the right track.
Yes, I do often suggest a home system. NeurOptimal makes a splendid one that is very easy to use. Sometimes families purchase a system because it's more economical if several want to train. I've also sold many to people who want to be able to train indefinitely because of a medical condition or just to always be at their best.