By Megan Krause
Believe it or not, your brain really does want to be healthy.
It might not always seem like that, we know. Sometimes it seems like our brain is attacking us from a million different angles. We’ve been there, too.
Our brains have an innate ability to regulate and optimize themselves. Sometimes, a neurological or mental health disorder causes our brainwaves to get off track, and they need help getting regulated. That’s where neurofeedback comes in.
Neurofeedback, also known as EEG biofeedback, is a noninvasive therapeutic intervention in which sensors are attached to your scalp, and the sensors are attached to a computer program. The program assesses your brainwave activity, and then it uses sound or visual signals to reorganize and retrain your brain signals that are not working as well as they could be. In this way, people improve their brain function and find relief from a variety of mental health symptoms.
People like Samantha.
Samantha is a 27-year-old woman from Bayonne, New Jersey. She found herself in treatment for substance abuse—again—late last year. She’d been inpatient a number of times throughout her late teens and early 20s, but nothing “stuck.”
This time, her treatment plan included neurofeedback therapy.
“I don’t know if that’s what made the difference, or if I was just ready finally to get better, or what,” she says. “But I’m finally sober and actually, pretty happy. Neurofeedback was a great experience. I think it helped quiet my brain long enough so I could focus and do the work that was required of me. I don’t know, but whatever it was, it worked.
“I’d recommend neurofeedback to anyone looking to improve their life.”
Samantha wound up in Phoenix at age 23, seeking a geographical cure to what ailed her. Her entire adult life up to that point had been, she admits, a “trainwreck.”
“I just couldn’t get it together. I used pain pills and then heroin. I rebelled at any authority. I was in and out of rehab. I saw a number of psychiatrists, was on a ton of meds, tried a lot of therapy. I wanted to have a good life, but I couldn’t seem to follow through,” she recalls.
She began neurofeedback in 2017, doing it twice a week for about 12 weeks, until she graduated the treatment program. She admits she was skeptical at first, but she couldn’t deny that she started feeling calmer and sleeping better after just a few sessions.
“I wasn’t as angry, and I could focus in our group sessions more. My therapist explained that in and of itself, neurofeedback wasn’t going to cure me, but it could help retrain my brain to work with me as I tried to get sober and healthy. And she was right; I felt more peaceful, and I was better able to take advantage of the other things we were doing in treatment.
“I’m getting ready to pick up my year chip soon, so something’s working!”
During neurofeedback training
If you’re thinking about doing neurofeedback training, this is what a typical session looks like:
- Your therapist will attach sensors to your scalp. The sensors are attached to a computer.
- As you sit and watch content on the screen, the sensors send data about your brainwave function to the computer, including information on which areas of your brain aren’t functioning properly or working well together.
- While your brain receives feedback signals from the computer, the EEG program directs your brainwave activity to optimal, regulated patterns. These pulses “reboot” the brain and train it to function in healthier, more efficient ways.
The Benefits of Neurofeedback
Regular neurofeedback training actually changes your brain over time. As brainwave patterns improve, you should experience:
- Improved sleep
- Less fear, anger and anxiety
- Greater ability to focus and improved mental clarity
Samantha says she would definitely do neurofeedback again, if she felt she needed it. “I’m grateful it was available to me. Today, I want to be healthy. I want to be happy.”
Megan Krause is a recovered addict and freelance writer living an amazing, sober life in Phoenix, Arizona. Connect with her on LinkedIn.