In addiction recovery, there are many kinds of therapy that help you get back to a sober lifestyle. One of them is called neurofeedback therapy. This procedure works by training you to control your brainwaves, in turn promoting positive mental states. It does not require surgery or medications, so it’s basically painless.
If you’re curious as to how neurofeedback works to help you recover, read on.
How does neurofeedback therapy work?
Neurofeedback therapy is actually a subset of a type of procedure known as biofeedback. In principle, biofeedback therapies collect information about the body through machines, then appropriate methods are applied to correct any abnormal patterns.
In the case of neurofeedback, it uses a machine known as an electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor brain waves. Think of it like an electrocardiogram (EKG), but for the brain.
Brain waves vary with different moods and emotions. If you’re relaxed, for example, your EEG pattern would be different than when you’re sad or stressed out. Learning to recognize brain waves associated with negative emotions is the first step. Later on, you will know how to reduce those negative brain waves and enhance the positive ones.
During therapy sessions, a licensed neurofeedback therapist will work with you. Over the course of 30 to 40 sessions, you should be able to regulate your own brain rhythms, maximizing your creativity, concentration, and focus.
Why should I choose neurofeedback therapy?
This procedure does not rely on medications or surgery. With that, there are no known negative side effects to the therapy. Also, it’s painless; some patients even report their neurofeedback sessions as pleasurable.
Also, neurofeedback therapy is supported by a good deal of scientific evidence. Much research has shown it to be effective, and around 80% of patients respond well to the therapy.
Neurofeedback therapy has good long-term outcomes as well. For most patients, they retain the skill of self-regulating their brain patterns long after their last therapy session.
What’s the principle behind neurofeedback therapy?
Your nervous system can become dysregulated because of conditions like stress, anxiety, or addiction. This dysregulation may cause your nervous system to be overstimulated or understimulated. If it’s overstimulated, you become irritable, easily agitated, and find it hard to concentrate, among other things. On the other hand, an under stimulated nervous system will make you feel tired, unmotivated, and restless.
Neurofeedback therapy aims to correct that dysregulation, putting your brain rhythms back to normal. In turn, you will feel more relaxed, focused, and calm. The therapy would also allow you to overcome addiction-related symptoms like drug cravings, low mood, and many others.
What happens during a neurofeedback therapy session?
First, your therapist will place a number of wired patches around your scalp. These are electrodes, which measure your brain’s electrical activity. You’ll then see your brain waves as graphs on an EEG.
Then, you’ll be asked to interact with a computer program using only your brain. In most cases, you’ll be controlling a video game. But it’s unlike the video games you play on consoles or PCs, because the neurofeedback game would respond according to how well you can control your brain activity. For example, let’s say the game involves a car. The vehicle will only speed up when, say, you concentrate harder. When the car accelerates, you know immediately that you’re concentrating more intensely.
As you feel your way through the game, you simultaneously train your brain to increase certain brain waves that are beneficial to your mental well-being. With immediate feedback and reward, this kind of brain training is quite effective.
In other words, the therapy makes you aware of how your own brain works, and it lets you control your brain to get the thought patterns that you want.
What are the advantages of neurofeedback over other psychotherapies?
According to Dr. Siegfried Othmer of the EEG Institute, conditions like PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and others require physiological therapies to remedy, not just psychological therapies. Neurofeedback deals directly with the brain, which makes it a physiological therapy. Also, according to Dr. Othmer, neurofeedback trains the brain to go back to its healthy state in ways that psychotherapies cannot.
You may think of neurofeedback therapy as replacing a broken steering wheel in your brain. With that new wheel in place, you can better “steer” your brain back towards a healthy state. That way, you will no longer fall victim to the symptoms of a dysregulated brain. Instead, you can enjoy longer periods of positive and productive mental states.
Because many neurofeedback therapies use games for brain training, it can also be a fun experience. In fact, many patients have said that the sessions are enjoyable. Not only do they get to “play a game,” but they also help their brains recover from the effects of addiction and other mental health conditions.
How does neurofeedback therapy help with addiction recovery?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a form of brain disease. As such, treatments that deal with the brain, including neurofeedback therapy, are useful in addressing addictions.
Addictive substances hijack the brain, making you behave in ways that you normally would not. Over time, as you keep taking drugs, they will cause changes in your brain’s structure and function, locking you into a cycle of addiction. Because of these changes in your brain, you would often find it very hard to control drug-seeking behaviors.
Through neurofeedback therapy, your therapist can map your brain and find out which areas have abnormal activity. Any areas that are inactive, underactive, and overactive can then be trained to go back to normal. As different substances have varying effects on the brain, neurofeedback sessions can be customized based on your specific needs, targeting those areas of your brain that need help.
Neurofeedback therapy is not meant to be used alone. Usually, when you’re in addiction recovery, this therapy is used along with others. That way, you have better chances of living a drug-free lifestyle later on.