What is Neurotherapy?
What else out there can help my clients get better?
Neurotherapy, also called neurofeedback (NFB), EEG biofeedback, or brainwave training is a type of biofeedback that uses real-time displays of electroencephalography (EEG), and sensors placed on the head to record brainwave activity, so the practitioner can gather information about brain states (patterns and timing) which may assist and reflect why an individual may be experiencing certain symptoms.
States of neurophysiological over-arousal or under-arousal when compared with the client’s reported symptoms can oftentimes represent dysregulations in brainwave activity and contribute to why a client may be manifesting reported symptoms, and a variety of other stressful conditions where brain relaxation, mindfulness and inner stillness might assist in better brain self regulation. Once initial information has been gathered, neurofeedback can be used to teach the brain to operate more efficiently by providing visual, and auditory feedback utilizing a reward incentive to the client’s brain as their brainwave patterns improve and self regulation occurs. Oftentimes the incorporation of a normalized database of appropriate brain activity may accelerate the learning relaxation process.
How can Neurotherapy help my clients?
Neurofeedback is a learning tool that encourages brain self regulation utilizing the relaxation/concentration biofeedback process. These mechanisms encourage brainwave activity relaxation which allows the client to learn to be comfortable in a mindful or quiet brain state providing an enhanced opportunity to more efficiently move forward in the counseling process.
In addition, neurofeedback generally has been reported to motivate and encourage clients to better succeed in elevating possible yet challenging roadblocks in the counseling process and therefore initiate progress, with the help of a positive client/practitioner relationship.
Neurofeedback can be a suitable option for any individual, especially for those who do not respond well to medications, or who are looking for a natural alternative or an adjunctive choice to pharmaceuticals. In particular, clinical settings provide increased efficacy when clients’ simultaneously receive cognitive and emotional support during neurofeedback sessions. Neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback targets the underlying dysregulation in brain activity. By creating positive changes at the source of the problem, clients can begin to experience the benefits of increased cognitive function, lowered stress levels and more.
Neurotherapy or neurofeedback is oftentimes recommended by practitioners for individuals who:
- Do not respond well to traditional approaches
- Would benefit from neurofeedback as an adjunct to psychotherapy
- Are interested in increasing a more self regulated brain function to better improve attention, focus, cognition and to reduce overall stress
- Would benefit from learning mindfulness, inner quiet and stress-free brain states
- Those interested in improving peak performance or deeper meditative states
- Are looking for a natural alternative to medication choice
Neurotherapy is a process that includes:
- Observing brainwave activity and function giving information related to why and how a client may struggle with certain issues.
- Creating a training and learning program to better target underlying neurophysiological factors that may exacerbate symptoms or hinder progress.
- Assisting the brain to improve or change brain wave patterns by incorporating a positive reward incentive to better improve function using visual and auditory feedback, such as music, games, imaging and even educational or entertainment movies.
- Working with the client as functioning improves, providing emotional support and cognitive tools that help the client complete the process of improvement.
Why is Neurotherapy important to me as a practitioner?
In the rapidly developing field of mental health, an understanding of brain function and how it affects the mental, emotional and physical states of individuals seeking help is becoming critical to the quality of services being provided. Neurofeedback includes evaluation and effective options for individuals coming into your office with issues, while also providing a respectful level of scientifically validated and normed assessment methods. Neurotherapy offers evidence based choices that have been demonstrated to be effective over the last three decades.
What are Brainwaves?
At the root of all our thoughts, emotions and behaviours is the communication between neurons within our brains. Brainwaves are produced by synchronised electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other. Brainwaves are detected using sensors placed on the scalp. They are divided into bandwidths to describe their functions (below), but are best thought of as a continuous spectrum of consciousness; from slow, loud and functional – to fast, subtle, and complex.
It is a handy analogy to think of Brainwaves as musical notes – the low frequency waves are like a deeply penetrating drum beat, while the higher frequency brainwaves are more like a subtle high pitched flute. Like a symphony, the higher and lower frequencies link and cohere with each other through harmonics.
Our brainwaves change according to what we’re doing and feeling. When slower brainwaves are dominant we can feel tired, slow, sluggish, or dreamy. The higher frequencies are dominant when we feel wired, or hyper-alert.
The descriptions that follow are only broadly descriptions – in practice things are far more complex, and brainwaves reflect different aspects when they occur in different locations in the brain. Brainwave speed is measured in Hertz (cycles per second) and they are divided into bands delineating slow, moderate, and fast waves.
Infra-Low brainwaves (also known as Slow Cortical Potentials), are thought to be the basic cortical rythms that underlie our higher brain functions. Very little is known about infra-low brainwaves. Their slow nature make them difficult to detect and accurately measure, so few studies have been done. They appear to take a major role in brain timing and network function.
Alpha Waves (8 to 12 Hz)
Alpha brainwaves are dominant during quietly flowing thoughts, and in some meditative states. Alpha is ‘the power of now’, being here, in the present. Alpha is the resting state for the brain. Alpha waves aid overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and learning.
Delta Waves (0.5 to 3 Hz)
Delta brainwaves are slow, loud brainwaves (low frequency and deeply penetrating, like a drum beat). They are generated in deepest meditation and dreamless sleep. Delta waves suspend external awareness and are the source of empathy. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state, and that is why deep restorative sleep is so essential to the healing process.
Beta Waves (12 to 38 Hz)
Beta brainwaves dominate our normal waking state of consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta is a ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, judgment, decision making, and engaged in focused mental activity.
Beta brainwaves are further divided into three bands; Lo-Beta (Beta1, 12-15Hz) can be thought of as a ‘fast idle, or musing. Beta (Beta2, 15-22Hz) is high engagement or actively figuring something out. Hi-Beta (Beta3, 22-38Hz) is highly complex thought, integrating new experiences, high anxiety, or excitement. Continual high frequency processing is not a very efficient way to run the brain, as it takes a tremendous amount of energy.
Theta Waves (3 to 8 Hz)
Theta brainwaves occur most often in sleep but are also dominant in deep meditation. It acts as our gateway to learning and memory. In theta, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within. It is that twilight state which we normally only experience fleetingly as we wake or drift off to sleep. In theta we are in a dream; vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond our normal conscious awareness. It’s where we hold our ‘stuff’, our fears, troubled history, and nightmares.
Gamma Waves (38 to 42 Hz)
Gamma brainwaves are the fastest of brain waves (high frequency, like a flute), and relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas. It passes information rapidly, and as the most subtle of the brainwave frequencies, the mind has to be quiet to access it. Gamma was dismissed as ‘spare brain noise’ until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love, altruism, and the ‘higher virtues’. Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that Gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of Gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.
What Brainwaves Mean to You?
Our brainwave profile and our daily experience of the world are inseparable. When our brainwaves are out of balance, there will be corresponding problems in our emotional or neuro-physical health. Research has identified brainwave patterns associated with all sorts of emotional and neurological conditions.
Over-arousal in certain brain areas is linked with anxiety disorders, sleep problems, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, impulsive behaviour, anger/aggression, agitated depression, chronic nerve pain and spasticity. Under-arousal in certain brain areas leads to some types of depression, attention deficit, chronic pain and insomnia. A combination of under-arousal and over-arousal is seen in cases of anxiety, depression and ADHD.
Instabilities in brain rhythms correlate with tics, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggressive behaviour, rage, bruxism, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, migraines, narcolepsy, epilepsy, sleep apnea, vertigo, tinnitus, anorexia/bulimia, PMT, diabetes, hypoglycaemia and explosive behaviour.
Altering Your Brainwaves
By rule of thumb, any process that changes your perception changes your brainwaves. Chemical interventions such as medications or recreational drugs are the most common methods to alter brain function; however brainwave training is our method of choice.
Over the long term, traditional eastern methods (such as meditation and yoga) train your brainwaves into balance. Of the newer methods, brainwave entrainment is an easy, low-cost method to temporarily alter your brainwave state. If you are trying to solve a particular difficulty or fine-tune your brainwave function, state-of-the-art brain training methods like neurofeedback and pEMF deliver targeted, quick, and lasting results.
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