What is Neurofeedback used for?

Neurofeedback addresses problems of brain dysregulation. These happen to be numerous. They include the anxiety-depression spectrum, attention deficits, behavior disorders, various sleep disorders, headaches and migraines, PMS and emotional disturbances. It is also useful for organic brain conditions such as seizures, the autism spectrum, and cerebral palsy.

Research asked hundreds of clinicians “how did you end up doing neurofeedback. What did they say?
1) They need more help than medications and psychotherapy can offer some patients.

Most experienced clinicians are well aware of the limitations of medications and psychotherapy.  But what are their options?   Biofeedback is not strange, and it’s not new. Few clinicians are aware of brain biofeedback and how far it has advanced. Once they hear about it and start to look into it further, you hear them say – “it made sense” or “I knew I had to look into this further.”  That’s true for even very conservative professionals. They just have to be willing to dig in.  Most clinicians who adopt neurofeedback already have 15-20 years or more experience. It’s clearly not the young clinicians who pick it up first.  It seems experienced clinicians are more acutely aware of the limits of meds and psychotherapy.

2) Clients are demanding an alternative.

Dr. Roura, the child psychiatrist in Miami was interviewed, talked and about his experience with patients.  He’s not untypical.  Parents in his practice often don’t want their children on meds. They’re concerned about side effects.  He as an MD is concerned about side effects. Parents and patients push for alternatives that work.  When they learn about neurofeedback, they’re often more open and interested initially than many clinicians.

3) It makes sense to regulate the brain.

Many clinicians say – they’ve always had an interest in the brain, and that the idea you can train the brain and improve self-regulation through biofeedback simply makes sense to them.  It’s obvious many patients have very dysregulated brains. How does a clinician help the client change the brain?  Meditation, yoga, or slow breathing helps clients change the brain.  But many of the problems patients bring need stronger interventions.  Biofeedback helps an individual learn to regulate their brain – to increase certain activity, and decrease other activity.

4) The neurophysiology is compelling.

Many clinicians are unconvinced or very cautious as they look into neurofeedback. But if they get to a really good course that makes the neurophysiology understandable, it can be an “aha” moment.  (Note – this isn’t simple stuff and it takes some effort to get it).  When someone changes their EEG you are by definition changing activation and timing patterns.  These affect many pathways and feedback loops in the brain, including the thalamocortical  axis down to the reticular activating system.  When you start to understand those mechanisms, neurofeedback becomes more compelling.

5) Watching symptoms change quickly.

Seeing someone experience a change rapidly that cannot be explained any other way never fails to amaze.  The brain can shift states very quickly.  As an example, in many training courses we’ve observed, by the end of several days of training, 80+% of attendees have noticed clear, significant changes in state.  Changes affect sleep, mood, alertness or attention. It’s not uncommon to see a migraine or headache stopped.  For some clients, changes occur in minutes – often quite unexpected changes.  Experienced clinicians quickly note these unexpected changes cannot be placebo, and can only be explained by the training..  NOTE:  Many training sessions are needed before any short term transitory changes can be expected to be hold.

6) The research is impressive.

Though the “lack of research” or it’s limitations is often cited, that’s usually from people who haven’t read much of it.  When clinicians read enough of the research, and look at some outcome studies, particularly with ADD, depression (small studies) and addictions, it’s very hard to dismiss. The size of the clinical effect is impressive, compared for example to the tiny effects you see in many studies on medications.

7) Hearing from other clinicians.

Many clinicians look into neurofeedback after hearing another good clinician talk about the impact of neurofeedback. We encourage you to listen to the clinicians we’ve interviewed (Listen to Experts).  They provide some excellent clinical insights.  These are experienced clinicians you’d probably never get a chance to hear otherwise (at least for years).

8) Family, friend or patient who’s experienced it.

Many clinicians enter this field because someone they personally met had an experience that was simply too difficult to dismiss.  It could be chronic refractory depression that’s no longer chronic.  Or a really out of control child who’s settled down and making great grades.  Those are two examples.  But what’s compelling about neurofeedback successes?  The changes tend to sustain over time. How many alternatives see changes sustain 2, 4, or 5 years later? Though it doesn’t always occur, it’s not unusual.

A Trauma Perspective of Treatment

Most children and adolescents here at Mountain Youth Academy have multiple diagnoses. In addition to their primary diagnosis all students here also deal with either a perceived or actual traumatic event in their history. Developmental theorists state that when there is a perceived or actual traumatic event in the life of a child, they develop beliefs or lies about themselves that provokes their behaviors. These negative cognitions continue to build upon themselves with each acting out behavior, leaving them with a low self esteem and hopelessness about their future. Our clinical program here is designed to work towards breaking these negative cognitions and replacing these beliefs with the truth about who these children and adolescents are.

Our program begins with helping the students face their current life situations, dysfunctional behavior, emotional upheaval, false beliefs, and core wounding then we help them begin healing, looking at truth and acceptance, comfort and peace, empowered living and a hopeful future. Our program is based on a 12 month stay for the students during which time they will spend approximately two weeks on each of the following issues in individual and group therapy:
Boundaries, Identifying why life is not working, Identify behaviors that get you into trouble, Identify & Educate diagnosis, medications, side effects, behaviors on and off medications, Identify Emotional Intensity, Identify Traumatic Events – Real or Perceived, Process Traumatic Events, Grieve Losses, Forgiveness of Others, Forgiveness of Self, Family Dynamics, Roles of Victim Rescuer and Controller, Identify False Beliefs (self lies), Address Black and White Thinking,
Healthy relationships with others: Codependency, Interdependency, Dependency, Addictions, Anger, Depression, Real vs. Perceived Hurts ,Personal Values, Relational Values, Societal Values, Is Life Fair, Strengths, gifts and abilities, Identify Worth and Value, Games we play regarding Lies we believe (a. Try to prove to others we are alright. b. Having failed to prove to others or ourselves cover up the pain of failure c. Giving in to the lies, Life Skills and How authority figures have hurt and helped you in your lies.

We will also spend time working with the students about attachment to others. Dr. Bessell Van Der- Kolk has completed extensive studies after the 911 tragedies. His therapists did very detailed research regarding each person’s childhood history before they began treatment. The findings of this research clearly identified those individuals who suffered an acute episode of stress disorder (temporary) as those who had developed strong attachments in childhood. Whereas those who were diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder had poor attachments in childhood. This research is important to us as therapists to address the attachments of each student and teach them healthy attachments. This bears a huge responsibility as we want them to learn that people are not all good or all bad. It is a very sensitive subject in how we professionally handle the relationships that these students have or had with their families.

Dr. Collin Ross, MD., in his book “The Trauma Model” states: “The conventional definition of trauma is incomplete because it focuses too much on traumatic events, on bad things that should not have happened. For complex, highly comorbid patients, the bad things that happened in childhood are probably less important, less damaging, and less traumatic than the events which did not happen. It is the errors of omission by the parents, not the error of commission, which are the fundamental problem. The deeper trauma is the absence of normal love, affection, attention, care and protection. The trauma is not being special to mom and dad.”

Our job is to teach the students the truth about themselves, who they are and what they deserve. Our responsibility is to teach them to see themselves as lovable, worth affection, attention, care and protection and how they can now meet these needs for themselves. Mountain Youth academy will strive to teach each student how special they really are that they might internalize this and graduate from our program as a healthier person.

What does psychodrama look like?

Conceived and developed by Jacob L. Moreno, MD, psychodrama employs guided dramatic action to examine problems or issues raised by an individual (psychodrama) or a group (sociodrama). Using experiential methods, sociometry, role theory, and group dynamics, psychodrama facilitates insight, personal growth, and integration on cognitive affective and behavioral levels. It clarifies issues, increases physical and emotional well being, enhances leering and develops new skills.

The basic elements (operational components) psychodrama is:
  • The protagonist: Person(s) selected to “represent theme” of group in the drama.
  • The auxiliary egos: Group members who assume the roles of significant others in the drama.
  • The audience: Group members who witness the drama and represent the world at large.
  • The state: The physical space in which the drama is conducted.
  • The director: The trained pschodramatist who participants through each phase of the session.
In classically, structured psychodrama sessions, there are three distinct phases
  1. The warm-up: the group theme is identified and a protagonist is selected.
  2. The action: the problem is dramatized and the and the protagonist explores new methods of resolving it.
  3. The sharing: Group members are invited to express their connection with the protagonsist’s work.
Rules for Psychodrama
  1. Please do not leave once we have started.
  2. Please do not talk or whisper or have any side conversations.
  3. Please do not create any distractions.
  4. Please keep the content of the group confidential.
  5. Please give feedback to those who have worked.