Neurofeedback is a pain-free, non-drug, non-psychological treatment method which teaches the brain to become more healthy, stable, and balanced. Well-developed technology measures individual brainwaves, encourages ideal brain patterns, and rewards the brain for creating the specific brain patterns that allow it to perform and function optimally.
For example, clients may play games or watch movies during a session. When the brain creates an optimal rhythm, the technology allows the game or movie to continue. If the brain falls out of the desired pattern, the game or movie will slow or stop until the brain returns to the more efficient pattern. In essence, it is much like exercise. With neurofeedback, we are exercising the brain and teaching it to maintain healthy patterns through repeated practice. By receiving feedback rewards, the brain changes itself so it creates more of the rewarded healthy pattern with greater consistency.
Similar to biofeedback, neurofeedback listens to the electrical activity in the brain and teaches the brain to regulate itself through a reward response.
What conditions are helped my neurofeedback?
Many conditions can be helped with biofeedback and neurofeedback, and our website offers a list of conditions we routinely work with. More importantly, we find that focusing on conditions or disorders doesn’t tell the whole story.
The key aspect is that, with neurofeedback technology, the brain changes itself to create healthier patterns. When their brains are working better, clients notice a positive impact on sleep, mood, emotional regulation, cognitive functioning, reduced tension, and improved decision-making.
They have better relationships, feel more comfortable overall, and notice increased mental and emotional flexibility. Life is just easier when your brain functions better. When neurofeedback is added as part of any strategy to change behavior or mood, the entire strategy is more successful because the brain functions more efficiently.
What is a neurofeedback session like?
Initially, your neurofeedback provider will do a thorough intake to learn about certain challenges or symptoms you may have, any prior head traumas, sleep patterns, diet and exercise routines, and general information about how you function and process information. The intake typically includes some review of the EEG, and may include a full EEG recording. Often, the first neurofeedback session is done directly after the initial intake.
A neurofeedback session averages 25 to 30 minutes, although some can be longer and some shorter. During the session, the clinician will hook small electrodes to specific places on your head depending on your unique needs, and you’ll play a game or watch a movie on a computer screen. Through careful tuning, the neurofeedback technician adjusts the settings so that you receive rewards based on optimal brainwave patterns.
The electrodes only receive information from the brain and reward certain healthy brainwave activity; they do not send anything into your brain. Clients generally feel nothing during the session or they feel a general sense of well-being and calm. The clinician will ask for feedback during the sessions to make any necessary adjustments and provide a positive session as you train your brain.
In many cases, people wonder if they’ve done anything at all, and, just like exercise, over time, the brain stays more healthy and balanced. Results from brain training can be noticed during sessions or in the days following a session.
What is the success rate of neurofeedback? Do the effects really last?
The success rate commonly quoted by clinicians for neurofeedback success is 75%-80%. While scientific research has been published for certain conditions, more neurofeedback research needs to be done to accurately state efficacy rates. For other conditions, much of our knowledge about success rates comes from clinician experience and client reports. Fortunately, the field is expanding, and more research is underway.
In the majority of clients, symptoms improve with neurofeedback. However, we cannot really know to what degree symptoms will improve for any individual — everyone’s brain is unique. The vast majority of people who commit to neurofeedback training experience some relief in their symptoms.
Over time, the rewarded activity becomes the new, normal, adopted brain pattern. Once established, these new patterns have a lasting effect allowing the brain to work better, more efficiently, and more easily. Generally, once the brain has adopted a new pattern, the results last.
On occasion, when confronted with unexpected life challenges, some clients come in for maintenance sessions or “tune-ups”. This can help help calm the effects of stress and restabilize the brain.
Which healthcare providers tend to offer neurofeedback? Is it regulated?
The majority of neurofeedback providers have been mental health professionals, including social workers, counselors, therapists, psychologists, and neuropsychologists. Additionally, more doctors, nurses, chiropractors, speech therapists, and occupational therapists are also receiving training in neurofeedback.
Many of these professionals are interested in neurofeedback because they seek more effective ways to help their clients and patients, or they have direct experience with neurofeedback’s effectiveness. It is important to ensure a chosen neurofeedback provider is well-trained in neurofeedback and meets any state licensing requirements. In most states, proper licensure or the supervision of a licensed clinician is required to use neurofeedback to help treat diagnosable conditions.