What is Neuroptimal® Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is another name for EEG (Electroencephalography, or electrical brain activity) biofeedback. It refers to a process whereby the brain and central nervous system (CNS) receives feedback about its own activity. This gives the brain the opportunity to change inefficient patterns that have developed over the course of a lifetime and even as the result of multigenerational family patterns of reacting to internal and external stimulation.
Much like using a mirror during exercise to provide feedback about one’s posture, balance, and form, the neurofeedback gives the brain information about how it is functioning. The brain then has the opportunity to respond differently when functioning is not optimal. Suboptimal functioning can be indicated by patterns of over-responding or under-responding like:
- hot temper
- panic attacks
- poor sleep
- poor memory
- low energy
- poor focus
- substance use
Neurofeedback teaches the CNS to become more flexible and oriented to the here and now, instead of stuck in rigid patterns.
How does Neurofeedback work?
Brain activity is measured by sensors that are placed on the scalp and ears. These sensors read electrical activity generated by the brain and CNS while the individual is also listening to music. Very brief interruptions in the music are generated as the “feedback”. These interruptions, which sound like static, are triggered when the EEG registers that the brain is shifting from one state to another. The brain uses this information to learn new patterns of reacting that reflect increased flexibility and more of a here-and-now orientation.
Training can take place one of two ways:
- Relaxed training: Listening to the music and watching a computer-generated image or just closing eyes and meditating or dozing.
- Active training: Listening to the music and receiving feedback during a talk therapy session. (It is surprisingly easy to do both at once, and from a family systems perspective, probably the most effective method.)
Combining relaxed and active training may be the most efficient way to reach an optimal number of sessions.
Why do I need neurofeedback in addition to talk therapy?
Presenting issues in talk therapy are a result of many generations of patterns that have developed in the family. It may be challenging to think of one's functioning as being determined largely by all the people who have come before, but this is accurate. These patterns are firmly engrained and are likely to be inefficient in certain ways. Talk therapy using Bowen theory is what might be called an outside-in process that goes like this:
- Learning new ways of thinking about a situation or problem
- Practicing new behavior in the family and other settings based on that learning
- Benefitting from changes in the brain (and the family) that result from the new behaviors
Brain training with neurofeedback allows the brain and central nervous system to work more efficiently. This enhances the ability to learn new ways of thinking about the situation and problem, and facilitates efforts to practice the new behavior in the family and other settings. In Bowen theory terms, neurofeedback helps with efforts to self-regulate and work on differentiation of self because it works directly with the brain and central nervous system.*
Will my symptoms go away?
While Neuroptimal® neurofeedback has empirical evidence supporting its effectiveness, there are no guarantees, particularly regarding specific results. Many neurofeedback users report improvement in their initial concerns. What also tends to happen is that users experience unexpected benefits that add to overall quality of life.
How many sessions will I need?
It’s not possible to give an exact number. Some people notice differences after one session, but most need a few to begin to recognize that it’s working. 20-30 training sessions are typically recommended to solidify results. Many people continue to come in for “tune ups” periodically, particularly during times of increased stress.
How long is a session?
Training on the equipment takes 33 minutes. Appointments are 50 minutes, whether for relaxed or active training.
What is the cost?
Pricing depends on whether you are training alone or as part of your talk therapy. Various options are available:
Discounts for pre-purchase. Refer a new client and receive a training session for free. Contact me for more information.
Is Neurofeedback Safe?
Neuroptimal® neurofeedback is the safest form of neurofeedback:
- There can be no human error.
- Nothing is going into the brain. The only intervention is the information the brain receives about its own activity via minute interruptions in the music.
- Neuroptimal® is brain training, not treatment for disorders. People commence training because there is a problem they want to address. However, the specific problem is not relevant to the training. Neurofeedback is oriented toward peak brain efficiency, no matter the presenting issue.
a. Other forms of neurofeedback involve the trainer “diagnosing” the problem and gearing the training toward specific areas of brain activity. This can result in side effects. Other methods also ignore the fact that brain activity is highly variable from moment to moment and over time. Neuroptimal® responds to the brain in the here and now, with every session uniquely based on what is happening in the moments of training.
b. Every trainer uses Neuroptimal® exactly the same way, every single time.
Can this be used for children?
Absolutely! Children often respond quickly to brain training and it is completely safe for every age. Sleep problems, headaches, digestive difficulties, anxiety, and attention/focus issues are known to respond favorably to training.
Lorna Hecht, MFT, MFC35604 | Clinical member of AAMFT and CAMFT | NeurOptimal® Certified Advanced Trainer
Lorna received her license in Marriage and Family Therapy in 1999 and has maintained a private practice since 1995. She has participated in advanced training in Bowen Family Systems Theory since 2006. Lorna attended Southern California Training in Bowen Theory from 2006 - 2015 for individual coaching and group consultation, and the Postgraduate Program at the Georgetown Center for the Study of the Family from 2012 - 2015. Lorna sends out a quarterly newsletter and blogs regularly about applications of Natural systems theory.