What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a passive, non-intrusive method of training the brain. It is a type of biofeedback. Electrodes are placed on the head, to measure brainwave activity. No electrical stimulation is administered. Cygnet, a sophisticated neurofeedback computer program, translates the information from those brainwaves into visual, auditory and kinesthetic feedback. A person’s brain will recognize the signals as information about its own EEG activity, and use its own genius to modify brainwaves, toward self-regulation and stabilization. The brain is capable of changing as long as we’re alive.
How Many Sessions will I need?
Since each person’s is unique, every neurofeedback experience is different. Typically, 20 sessions are recommended for a good degree of symptom resolution. Initially, sessions twice a week are desirable, but it is possible to have them once a week. I recommend everyone commit to 10 sessions, and determine their needs again after that. During this time, the brain is developing a new normal. The process of accomplishing that new normal is unique to each person. We work to reduce undesirable symptoms, and thereby increase functioning. Usually this is seen within the first five sessions. After that, more sessions are often needed to address additional symptoms. Following the desired symptom reduction, a few more sessions lock in a new normal for the person. At this point, sessions may be farther apart, to test the brain’s ability to maintain the improvements. Then, after achieving symptom resolution, people may choose to have an occasional maintenance session. New trauma, or injury may be alleviated more quickly with a few follow-up sessions.
What is the Success Rate?
Our brains are made for learning and skill-acquisition. The Othmers, who have been doing this for more than 30 years, have reached the point of having very high expectations for success in training. When such success is not forthcoming, or if the gains cannot hold, then there is usually a reason for that, which needs to be pursued. (The Othmer’s report that reasons for poor success can include allergic susceptibilities and food intolerances, poor digestive function, and poor nutrition. Also, a person living in a toxic environment, in either the physical or the psychological sense, will have more difficulty retaining good function.) In the normal course of events, neurofeedback ought to work with everybody. That is to say, nearly everyone should make gains that they themselves would judge to be worthwhile. It can help people get out of a stress response, so other things can work better too.
Should Is top taking medication?
If you are already taking medication, please continue taking it as prescribed. This will make it easier to sort out changes that occur due to neurofeedback. You will complete a Symptom Checklist each time you do neurofeedback. On this checklist, you will rate each of your symptoms on a 1-10 scale. You will find that when your brain begins to work more efficiently, the same dose of medication will affect you differently. It is likely that people can reduce or eliminate their use of medication with the help of a medical professional, to monitor and titrate medications as needed. You are ultimately responsible for your use or lack of use of medication. With your permission, I can discuss your progress with your physician.
What happens during a Cygnet session?
The client will have a few computer sensors attached to their head with conducting paste. While connected to the sensors, a client can watch a movie, or look at a computer-generated scene. The image on the screen will shrink, and fade, the sound will vary, and a teddy bear held by the person will jiggle. This visual, auditory and kinesthetic feedback is like a mirror to the brain, showing the brain how it is functioning, so without conscious effort, the brain corrects itself. Over the course of training, the brain increases desirable functioning, as shown by a reduction in symptom severity and an improved ability to be resilient to life’s challenges.
What distinguishes the Othmer method (Cygnet) from others?
The Othmer method is symptom driven. The client’s symptom report is the guide and measure of success. The goal is to have the client feel and act better. Siegfried Othmer has used the analogy of a gardener (Othmers method) and carpenter (others) to further describe the differences between methods. A carpenter has a final design in mind, and works toward shaping the material toward desired results. The carpenter’s goal is to have the brain patterns match a pre-determined plan. On the other hand, the gardener prepares the soil, plants the seed, waters, etc. and is “tolerant at worst and expectant at best with regard to what nature might provide.” (Siegfried Othmer) In other words, an Othmer clinician uses the clinical tools to create an opportunity for the brain to produce it’s own healing. Changes in the brainwaves are not as important as changes in symptoms and functioning of the client.
Can you give me an example of someone who’s used multiple methods of neurofeedback?
Yes. A client came in, wanting to reduce his depression, and titrate off of anti-depressants he’d been on for several years. He had previously been to a Quantitative Electroencephalograph (qEEG) practitioner who, upon noticing that his alpha waves were low, performed a procedure designed to increase alpha waves. Unfortunately, it was very unpleasant for the client.
The same client then received 20 sessions using Cygnet. He felt good, and successfully weaned himself off medication (under the supervision of a medical professional). His alpha waves remained low, yet he met his immediate goal. When he was finished with treatment, he re-took the QIK test (a choice/reaction test). He scored at the top of the scale, further validating his progress.
Who provides Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is typically provided by highly trained clinicians, (MDs, nurses, clinical social workers, rehabilitation specialists, psychologists, family therapists, etc.). In Utah, in 2012, House Bill 294 was passed, specifically stating that licensed social workers and marriage and family therapists and social workers may practice neurofeedback.
Do Training Effects Last?
If the problem being addressed is one of brain disregulation, then the answer is yes. Neurofeedback involves learning by the brain. That brings order out of disorder. The brain will continue to use its new capabilities, and thus reinforce them. We are training for increased function, and that process reduces dysfunction. For more information, see Are We Training Function or Targeting Dysfunction, written by Siegfried Othmer. Matters are different when we are dealing with degenerative conditions like Parkinson’s or the dementias, or when we are working against continuing insults to the system, as may be the case in the autism spectrum. In such cases the training needs to be continued at some level over time. Allergic susceptibilities and food intolerances make it more difficult to hold the gains. Poor digestive function, will pose a problem, as does poor nutrition. A person living in a toxic environment (in either the physical or the psychological sense) will have more difficulty retaining good function.
What are basic nutritional recommendations to support neurofeedback?
The brain needs fuel to function optimally. You may want to do your own research about nutritional information. Most people will benefit from a healthy diet of meats, fruits vegetables and healthy fats. The three supplements I hear recommended most for brain function are: Omega 3’s, Vitamin D3 (best taken with Vitamin K2) and Magnesium. A consultation with your choice of a nutritionist or other health professional with expertise in this area can be helpful to assess your particular needs.
Where can I learn more about neurofeedback?
EEG Info – For more information about neurofeedback and the Othmer Method Homecoming for Veterans–http://www.homecoming4veterans.orgInformation about and for veterans who have been helped through neurofeedback. A directory of clinicians who can participate in the program across the country can be found here. These clinicians provide free neurofeedback sessions to veterans.
Homecoming for Veterans – Information about and for veterans who have been helped through neurofeedback. A directory of clinicians who can participate in the program across the country can be found here. These clinicians provide free neurofeedback sessions to veterans.
Brians Legacy by Siegfried Othmer (2013) – The life story of Brian Othmer, oldest son of Sue and Siegfried Othmer. Brian experienced epilepsy, Tourettes, Aspergers, and ADHD. He began using neurofeedback when he was in high school, after a long struggle with school and relationships. Within a month, he began improvments. He was able to go on to college, where he was thriving. Tragically, a night-time seizure ended his life during his Senior year of college. His father uses quotes from Brians journal and his own memories to tell the story of their familys experiences. (available in the SL County Library System)
“Symphony in the Brain” by Jim, Robbins (2008) – An account of the development of neurofeedback. Also available in the SL County Library System.