Retraining the traumatized brain


Brenda McCreight
Focus on Adoption magazine

Neurofeedback is a safe and non-invasive alternative treatment for issues such as trauma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, and anxiety. Here Brenda McCreight, adoptive parent, therapist, and author, describes how it works.

Our understanding of the way the brain develops and functions has grown phenomenally in the last five years. The capacity of the brain to change in function and in structure as it adapts to new information has proven to be astounding. Neurofeedback is based on this new understanding and makes use of current technology to help people to improve their brain function and to resolve chronic conditions of the central nervous system as well as past trauma.

Neurofeedback can be effective with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, migraines, depression, anxiety, and stress-related problems. Neurofeedback trains the brain to function in a different and more effective manner. It works much like learning a new skill. That is, the brain learns as the client interacts with a computer-based feedback system that monitors brain waves by use of sensors placed on the head. The sensors don’t hurt, and they don’t send anything into the brain: they simply show which parts of the brain are most active at a particular point in time during a particular activity. The client’s role is to focus on the task on the computer screen, such as keeping an image of a lotus flower open and floating in space. This teaches the client to change brain wave and nervous system reactions and, after several sessions, these skills become automatic.

Neurofeedback can help reduce the long-term symptoms of trauma. When trauma happens, we develop response patterns that impact how we perceive every new situation. Sometimes we perceive interactions and events appropriately, but, sometimes, the long term impact of the trauma causes us to behave in ways that are dysfunctional and lead to sleep problems, insecurity, depression, or chronic illness. Neurofeedback can calm the “flight or fight” response that is a common after effect of trauma and the client can learn healthier, more effective means of responding to life.

Sometimes, neurofeedback opens the client up to other problems in his or her life, and so traditional therapies, such as therapy, counselling, or EMDR, might be an option as well.

Neurofeedback is not a quick fix. It generally takes 12 to 20 sessions for the changes to become automatic. But, it is shorter, and less intrusive to your body and mind, than years of medications.

And, as a caution, no one should go off medication without first consulting with their prescribing physician.

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