Mon, January 28, 2013
What Does Neurofeedback Feel Like?
Some people ask whether I do Neurofeedback on myself.  I sure do.  I think it’s an important part of being a clinician – to experience the process one’s self, both to better understand it and to try out new and different approaches.  Plus, it feels good to me, and I know I’m enhancing the way I move through life, personally and professionally!
When a client does Traditional Neurofeedback, specific parameters are set in the software to help over-active and “stormy” frequencies in the brain to settle, or to help activate slower or “under-functioning” ones.  When the client’s brain naturally produces the desired frequency states, tones will sound, or images will move on the screen.  It’s a fun and very non-invasive process.
In my case, I receive a beep every time I make less high-frequency activity in my temporal lobes.  I don’t really know how to make less high-frequency activity (we’re training the brain, not the mind)!  So, I just sit and wait, and when the tones come, I know that I am doing that.  And somehow, my brain figures out how to do it more, and over time, I get more tones. 
Occasionally, a person can make a concrete connection to what their brain is “doing” to receive the reward tones in a Neurofeedback session.  In my case, after several sessions of doing the temporal lobe setting, I saw an image of a darkened room with light shining under the door.  When I thought of that, it helped my brain to be in the state where it was achieving more rewards.  Another client described seeing “purple puffs of smoke” when she started relaxing during a Neurofeedback session, and was able to call on those images to help her relax outside of session. So, it’s a pretty abstract thing.  We don’t always come to a more concrete awareness of what our brain is being asked to do, but it’s kind of fun when it happens.
Some people wonder, “Does it hurt?  What does it feel like?”  Occasionally, there is fatigue or a slight pressure in the head for a little while afterwards.  I liken it to going to the gym and having worked a muscle – it can be tired afterwards.  The pressure can sometimes be due to an increase in blood flow – generally a good thing, as this carries the toxins out faster, and brings the nutrients in faster, for a more efficient brain. 
Clients may or may not feel more relaxed in the session.  But more important is what happens outside of sessions; whether their responses to their environment don’t seem to affect them in the way they used to, or they are concentrating better, or having less headaches – everyone comes in with different symptoms and goals. The process can be subtle and gradual, and often times someone will realize after the fact: “Hey, that would’ve gotten me really upset, before!”
One client used to not be able to sit through a movie or a church service because of various sensitivities.  At a certain point in the Neurofeedback process, they realized they had been making it through settings like these, for a few weeks!  It happened gently and subtly, and almost wasn’t detected.  And yet, it is a huge shift.
Another client, who uses the LENS Neurofeedback, says they don’t feel anything in the session – very common for this process.  However, this person reported after a few sessions that “It’s like hopelessness was always waiting in the front room when I got up each morning, and now it’s like it’s waiting on the front porch.”  Again, a subtle, yet profound shift – maybe not palpable in an instant, but over time.  And a sign of gentle and positive change in the brain and nervous system.
There are others who feel a profound shift during the session; gripping stress or pain can lessen or change, energy can rise, or excess energy can settle.  I’ve even seen sense of smell come back in a couple of cases.  
Neurofeedback is not always a linear process (there can be ups and downs, like any therapeutic process) and is also generally a gradual one. It takes time and commitment.  However, it can be a wonderful process, and can bring more flexibility, function, and hope to many!
Tune in next time, for more specific information on how Neurofeedback works!

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