Neurofeedback is a brain-training technique used to improve the brain’s ability to self-regulate and thus to become more flexible and resilient. In neurofeedback therapy, technology is used to measure the brain’s activity via sensors placed on the person’s scalp. These measurements are then used to provide visual and auditory feedback via games or films shown on a computer screen.
Prior to neurofeedback training sessions, the clinician conducts a thorough clinical and qEEG assessment to determine suitable training protocols.
During training sessions, the client plays a computer game or watches a film, and they receive real-time visual and auditory feedback about their brainwave activity. The brain adjusts its brainwave patterns in order to continue to receive positive feedback.
Through regular, twice-weekly training sessions, the brain becomes better regulated, and this has cascading effects on the client’s symptoms.
Over time, positive changes are observed in the client’s psychological, cognitive and behavioural functioning, leading to better mental health and better quality of life.
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Case Vignette: Martin
Martin is a 19-year-old young man who presented for treatment suffering from a number of PTSD symptoms as a result of refugee-related trauma. Martin had trouble sleeping and he experienced debilitating nightmares. He also had flashbacks and ruminated on war-related themes, which further isolated him from others. In the initial sessions, Martin was withdrawn, often with averted eye-gaze, low mood and blunted affect. Martin appeared quite lethargic and dissociated.
Neurofeedback training with Martin was used to stabilise his nervous system, to improve his mood and raise alertness levels.
After several sessions he became more engaged and present in sessions. He reported reduced nightmares and improved sleep. His family reported that he was more engaged with them at home. Martin’s mood was visibly better in sessions and he was able to joke and discuss a wider variety of topics. He began drawing as a way of expressing his ruminations and flashbacks.
By the 20th neurofeedback session, the content of Martin’s drawings changed. One of his last drawings showed a calm scene; completely unrelated to war or destruction. The picture also featured a smiling figure which was significant as the first ‘happy’ character that he had drawn. The change in the content of his drawings suggested that his mind was less ‘stuck’ in the trauma memory; and that he was able to notice and engage with others and with himself, in more diverse ways.
Through the use of neurofeedback, Martin’s internal ‘universe’ and his nervous system became more stable, more alert and less stuck in the loop of his traumatic memories. In essence, it was as if he gradually peeled away layers of curtains that he was hiding behind, such that his personality could shine through. The use of art enabled Martin to process some of his painful memories and express his feelings.
** Client name has been changed, and some details of the story have been modified to protect his identity.