How Do I Know Neurofeedback Is Working?

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If you have ever experienced neurofeedback or if you are interested in neurofeedback, some questions may arise. You may be wondering “how many sessions will it take?” “how will I know my symptoms are improving?” or “are there any side effects?” Like all treatments, it is important to have an understanding of what the process will look like and to have the majority of your questions answered so you can feel confident that this is a treatment for you.

As soon as you begin neurofeedback, it is our hope that you will notice positive changes as the amount of sessions increase. Using a symptom tracker, each week you will be asked to rate your symptoms on a scale of 1-10 (1 being no symptoms that week, 10 being highly problematic symptoms that week). Over time, you will have a visual graph of the progress being made in your neurofeedback sessions for each initial symptom.

You may also be wondering whether there are any side effects to neurofeedback. Like many treatments, you may experience some minor side effects. Neurofeedback uses various frequencies to keep the brain comfortable. You can think about frequency in terms of clothing. When you go to the gym, you want to be comfortable. You may wear a t-shirt, sweatpants, and sneakers. If you were to work out in jeans, for example, your body will still be benefiting from the exercise, but you yourself may feel uncomfortable while exercising. Frequencies act in the same fashion. If it is too low, your brain is still benefitting from neurofeedback but you may experience heavy eyelids or grogginess. If the frequency is too high, you may experience irritability or agitation. Each individual starts on the lowest possible frequency and neurofeedback specialists will periodically check-in with you to make sure you are at a comfortable frequency and that you are experiencing little to no symptoms.

Another common question people ask is in regards to how many sessions are needed to improve symptoms. Because neurofeedback is a completely individualized process, it can change from person to person, and can even vary within an individual’s multiple symptoms. Typically, people feel at their best and notice less problematic symptoms within 20 sessions. At this time, some people choose to stop doing neurofeedback, while others make the decision to continue their treatment. It is advised to talk to your neurofeedback specialist and determine a plan that works best for you. Once your neurofeedback treatment has ended, know that if needed, you can always come back for a few “tune-up” sessions with your neurofeedback specialist.

Neurofeedback can be a great way to reduce the amount of problematic symptoms in your life. If you feel that you could benefit from the services neurofeedback has to offer, consult with your doctor today or contact us here at the San Diego Center for Neurofeedback for a consultation.

Myths about Neurofeedback (Part 2)

In Myths about Neurofeedback (Part 1), we addressed five misconceptions about neurofeedback and what it does (or doesn't do). Here are five more common myths about neurofeedback.

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Myth: Anyone can administer neurofeedback.

Fact: In order to achieve optimal results with neurofeedback, it's crucial that you work with a neurofeedback specialist who is properly educated and trained in administering neurofeedback. All of our neurofeedback specialists have advanced degrees in psychology and have spent thousands of hours working with clients in therapeutic settings. Neurofeedback specialists use their clinical judgment to develop comprehensive treatments plans, and their clinical judgment also enables them to make adjustments in frequency to maximize your comfort while training.

Myth: Neurofeedback can make symptoms worse.

Fact: Everyone trains at different frequencies, so what works for one person may not work for another person. Neurofeedback specialists will start training at the lowest frequency and increase the frequency as needed based on symptom tracking information provided by clients. If the frequency is too low, clients may experience a dull headache or feel groggy soon after a session. These symptoms disappear within 24 hours, and existing symptoms will not permanently worsen as a result of training at too low of a frequency. As long as there is open communication between clients and neurofeedback specialists, the right frequency can quickly be determined to maximize comfort while training.

Myth: Neurofeedback works the same way medications do.

Fact: Medications use various mechanisms to force your brain to work differently, whereas neurofeedback gradually trains your brain to work differently by utilizing operant conditioning. When your brain functions within an optimal range, it is rewarded with more engaging visual, auditory, and tactile feedback. For example, with our popular jet ski game, the jet ski will go faster, the jet ski rider will perform more tricks, and the music's volume will increase. When your brain does not function within an optimal range, it is not rewarded. The jet ski will continue to move slowly, the rider will not perform tricks, and the volume will remain low. Instead of forcing the brain to work differently, neurofeedback will encourage the brain to try other approaches in order to optimize performance, which in turn reduces physiological and emotional symptoms over time.

Myth: Since neurofeedback is treated as "experimental" or "investigational" by insurance companies, there must not be any research to support it.

Fact: As mentioned in Myths about Neurofeedback (Part 1), not all insurance companies are up-to-date on the latest neurofeedback research. As a result, some insurance companies will deny reimbursement for neurofeedback sessions depending on the diagnosis provided. Whenever possible, we submit appeals to insurance companies and educate them on the overwhelming amount of evidence indicating the effectiveness of neurofeedback! Our resources page contains links to many informative handouts, books, and research articles on neurofeedback and its use in treating dozens of physiological and emotional symptoms.

Myth: Once neurofeedback sessions end, the improvements in symptoms don't last.

Fact: The brain is incredibly powerful and capable of learning new ways of functioning. Once the brain has had ample time to practice a new way of functioning, it will remember what it needs to do once neurofeedback sessions end. To use a well-known proverb, "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." When medication is used to reduce symptoms, the underlying cause of the symptoms is just concealed, not resolved. This means that when medication is discontinued, the symptoms manifest once again. With neurofeedback, the brain is taught how to self-regulate, which can be sustained indefinitely. In some cases, people will experience traumatic events later on in life that dysregulate the brain. A small number of follow-up neurofeedback sessions can quickly direct the brain to self-regulate itself once again.

Myths about Neurofeedback (Part 1)

There are many misconceptions about neurofeedback and what it does (or doesn't do). Here are some of the common myths about neurofeedback.

Myth: Neurofeedback specialists can see what I'm thinking about or read my mind.

Fact: Neurofeedback specialists use computer software to look at brainwave activity. Our computer software cannot tell us what you are thinking about, nor can the software "manipulate" or "control" your mind. When the frequency of training is adjusted during sessions, it enables us to focus on different brainwave patterns. This leads to improved self-regulation, and it does not give us the ability to read your mind or put unwanted thoughts in your brain.

Myth: Neurofeedback feeds electricity into your brain.

Fact: During neurofeedback sessions, electrodes are applied to your scalp in order to monitor the electrical activity in your brain. Reputable universities and research labs use these same electrodes when conducting sleep studies. The electrodes are harmless and do not feed electricity into your brain.

Myth: Insurance companies don't cover neurofeedback.

Fact: Not all insurance companies are up-to-date on the latest neurofeedback research. As a result, some insurance companies will deny reimbursement for neurofeedback sessions depending on the diagnosis provided. San Diego Center for Neurofeedback will work with you to ensure you have the best possible chance of being reimbursed for neurofeedback sessions. Initial intake sessions are covered by insurance companies due to the different billing code that is used, so we encourage you to come meet us and learn more about how neurofeedback can benefit you!

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Myth: Neurofeedback will work better or faster if you "try harder."

Fact: Your brain will do all of the work for you during neurofeedback sessions; therefore, there is nothing you can do to improve or speed up the process, other than remaining physically relaxed and attentive to what is happening on the television screen. We encourage clients to submit feedback via the symptom tracker within 24 hours of each session taking place; however, there is very little you can actually do during sessions in order to make your brain improve at a faster rate.

Myth: Selecting games is better than selecting movies (or vice versa).

Fact: During neurofeedback sessions, you will be offered the option of playing a game or watching a movie. Both options are equally effective, as the computer software will provide visual, auditory, and tactile feedback in both situations. We encourage clients to select the option that is more appealing to them, as this will enable you to remain attentive to what is happening on the television screen.

Stay tuned for "Myths about Neurofeedback (Part 2)"!