Liz Neve, MSW, RSW, BCN
Neurofeedback (NFB) trains the brain to become healthier, stronger, more resilient and more flexible, just like exercise does for our body. From childhood on, our brains develop certain habitual ways of responding to our environment. However, with repetition, those habits can become so strong that our brain becomes less flexible, less adaptable, and less fit. That response might have made sense when we were 8 years old, but it doesn’t make sense at 21, 35, 47, 60. NFB invites the brain to try out different responses, becoming more flexible, stable and resilient as it moves out of its rut. You are then able to respond more flexibly and appropriately to life’s variety of experiences. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, addictions, ADHD, migraines, insomnia and optimal functioning/peak performance are just a few of the issues that respond well to NFB.
How Does It Work?
Usually, we use medication to try to help the brain – anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, Ritalin, etc. Medications work with the brain’s chemistry. Neurofeedback, on the other hand, works with the brain’s electricity. The brain sends and processes information and decisions by making electrical connections between neurons. NFB machines are capable of detecting these electrical changes by placing sensors on the head, much like ECG sensors pick up the electrical changes of the heart. And just like an ECG is not doing anything to your heart, but is just reading the electrical information, NFB sensors are not doing anything to your brain, but are just reading the electrical charge your brain is emitting.
NFB gives the brain information through visual and auditory feedback about new electrical patterns that can take it out of the rut it is in. The new pattern we invite the brain to try will have a particular electrical pattern. While monitoring your brainwaves, a computer plays a video or some music if the brain is producing the new pattern and stops the video or music if the brain stops making it. That is the only feedback the brain receives. But our brains are incredibly amazing things, and they figure out what this information – this stopping and starting – means really quickly. Because the brain doesn’t like the stopping and starting, within a couple of minutes, the brain starts making more of the new pattern in order to make the video or music play!
If you feel calmer, more alert, less depressed, as a result of this new pattern, then we continue to train it. And once the brain has had sufficient training, it will be able to access this new pattern on its own, without any more NFB input. We have a more flexible, stable and happy brain!
What Will Happen When You Come for Neurofeedback
First, we will do an assessment. I put a few sensors on your head that can read the electrical current your brain is producing. I will ask you to close your eyes, or open your eyes, I will move the sensors around to see what different part of your brain are doing, and then you are done. The actual assessment only takes a few minutes; it will take longer for me to put the sensors on your head than to do the actual assessment! I will combine the information I get from this with information you tell me about the issues you want to work on, to come up with a “training” plan for your brain.
When you come for your first training session, I will again put sensors on your head to monitor your brain waves. The computer will then stop and start the video or music to give the brain the info it needs to change its habitual electrical pattern. You do not have to try to make that happen. All you do is look at a computer screen, or, if it is training that requires your eyes to be closed, you just listen to music.
The assessment gives us a starting place, but because every brain is unique, our first job in training is to take the assessment info and narrow in on the particular brain waves that your brain responds well to. After that, we continue to train until we reach the desired level of change. And once we have that, we train a bit more, to ensure that the brain has taken the new pattern on as “new normal”.
People usually begin to feel positive effects within the first 1-5 sessions, and typically may need between 20-80 sessions for lasting change.
How Much Does It Cost?
The assessment will take 1-2 hours and costs $180.
Sessions are about 45-60 minutes each,
I am able to issue receipts for neurofeedback as a Social Worker (NBASW). Please talk to me about whether your health plan includes these options. Unfortunately, EFAP companies do not cover neurofeedback.
For any questions, or to book an appointment, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org