Neurofeedback Therapy for Addiction Treatment

What is Neurofeedback Therapy?

Neurofeedback is a treatment therapy that has been utilized for over 60 years and is considered a safe and effective way to repair irregular brain patterns. Irregular brain patterns are known to cause ADHD, anxiety, and other challenging conditions. Neurofeedback is endorsed by the American Psychological Association as a Best Level support. Research on biofeedback dates to the early 20th century. Neurofeedback was popularized in the 1960s and by the early 1990s, it was being tested as treatment to help patients with the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This therapy teaches self-control of brain functions by measuring brain waves and providing a feedback signal. Neurofeedback provides the audio and video feedback. Positive or negative feedback is produced for desirable or undesirable brain activities, respectively.

Neurofeedback utilizes EEG biofeedback to identify irregular brain patterns using qEEG Brain Mapping. A computer system optimizes the irregularity by guiding the brain back into a healthy pattern. Repetition of this process over time causes the brain to learn how to stay in healthy ranges without the aid of the computer. Neurofeedback techniques train the brain to function more efficiently, helping the person being treated manage stress more effectively.

People in recovery participate in Neurofeedback Treatment to learning how to track changes in their brain activity. This information allows the person to change their response to emotional stress. Managing stress is a key component of addiction treatment because it allows the person to control their brain’s response to stressful situations.  These stressful situations have been known to trigger further substance abuse. Stress is a powerful trigger for those with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. By improving the regulating of the emotion impact of stress on the brain, the client has more control of their behavior and thought patterns, decreasing the chance of relapse.

There are five different types of brain waves all ranging from low to high frequency. Different frequency components are categorized into delta (less than 4 Hz), theta (4–8 Hz), alpha (8–13 Hz), beta (13–30 Hz), and gamma (30–100 Hz) where each represents a physiological function. We utilize this knowledge when we design neurofeedback protocols which dictate how the software will interact with your brain during a therapy session. Delta is the slowest frequency and is correlated with sleep. Theta brain waves are observed in meditative states. Alpha brain waves are linked to feelings of relaxation. Beta waves are the highest frequency brain waves and are measurable during motor activity. Gamma brainwaves are associated with learning, cognitive processing, problem solving tasks, and mental sharpness.



Focus of Neurofeedback Sessions

If you suffer from anxiety or PTSD, your neurofeedback would be focused on achieving a state of calm. If you primarily suffer from depression, your therapy would be focused on coaxing your brain waves to an aroused frequency. The number of sessions necessary to achieve the desired results will vary from person to person. At Pride Recovery Center, our Neurofeedback Therapists may start therapy using a minimum of two to three sessions per week, but up to five sessions per week is best for people with anxiety, PTSD, or depression as an underlying reason for addiction. Many clients report positive differences in mood and temperament after only 2 weeks of treatment.  The calming effect of Alpha-Theta therapy has been proven effective to treat people with substance abuse disorder due to its ability to have a tangible calming effect on the brain.



How Is Neurofeedback Treatment Performed?

Neurofeedback is performed by a properly licensed and credentialed therapist. When treating any medical or psychological disorder, you should only trust your health and safety to a licensed and credentialed health care professional. Our Neurofeedback specialists have extensive training and experience with this therapy, as well as clinical experience treating substance abuse disorder.


Neurofeedback is performed in 2 stages:

  • Stage 1: A Neurofeedback Therapist performs an initial assessment of the client in which a formal treatment plan is determined.
  • Stage 2: The client is subject to regular training sessions under the supervision of the therapist according the treatment plan.

At Pride Recovery Center, our Neurofeedback Therapist will perform a Quantitative Electroencephalograph (or qEEG) assessment of the client’s brain before beginning treatment. A qEEG is done by placing special sensors on the client’s head to record their brain activity. The results of the qEEG are compared to a database of EEG readings from the general population, which helps the therapist know which brain wave frequencies need to be adjusted. Using this data, the therapist customizes a treatment plan for the client’s neurofeedback training program.  Once the initial assessment is complete and treatment begins, the client follows a structured plan at regular intervals until the desired outcome is reach. The client is always monitored by the therapist the ensure the treatment achieves the desires milestones. During treatment, our clients learn and reinforce new capabilities. Certain disorders, such as dementia, Parkinson’s, and autism, require ongoing neurofeedback sessions for the training effects to last. Studies have shown that over time, neurofeedback works by inducing microscopic structural changes in the white and gray matter of the brain.



Benefits of Neurofeedback in Addiction Treatment

Neurofeedback therapy is used broadly to treat several stress and anxiety disorders. This therapy has become popular with addiction treatment programs since it helps to reduce a large contributing factor of addiction – stress and anxiety. The reduction of stress and anxiety is critical to help reduce the likelihood of relapse. By reducing stress and anxiety in a person with substance abuse disorder, they can better regulate their brain when they encounter stressful situations that could act as a trigger.

Benefits Include:

  • Emotional Benefits – Neurofeedback assists the client with focus, and therefore can help them focus on their addiction treatment.
  • Behavioral Benefits – Neurofeedback helps to reinforce positive actions to decrease the risk of negative actions triggered by reactions of the brain to stimuli. This is considered relapse prevention.
  • Stress-Reduction Benefits – Neurofeedback therapy provides relief to people with high levels of stress by helping to regulate the stimuli that are contribute to the underlying cause of their addiction.



Neurofeedback Therapy and Trauma

Neurofeedback training is recommended for people that have experienced traumatic life events and have not responded positively to other forms of treatment and therapy. The therapist that monitors the brain with neurofeedback equipment can compare your brain to information gathered from other people. This type of therapy for people in an addiction treatment program who suffer from anxiety, depression, and trauma is very important. Trauma may directly relate to the underlying cause of the person’s substance abuse problem. Issues within the brain can affect the person’s feelings and emotion response to stimuli, which may lead to addictive behaviors.



Do the Effects of Neurofeedback Last Over Time?

The short answer is “Yes”. Studies find the results of neurofeedback to be long lasting. Reinforcement sessions can also be performed over time to supplement the initial sessions. In summary, Neurofeedback techniques can help you to understand how your brain and body work. This is important information and a useful therapy for people with a history of traumatic life events, not only those with substance abuse disorder.

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