Woman smiling and listening to music on her wireless headphones
Digital and technology, Mental health, Stress and anxiety

Neurofeedback: ‘More than an experience’

Jayasree Sampath, a neurofeedback and CBT therapist in Leicester, explores his training in biofeedback therapy

02 February 2024

Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback that can help with de-stressing the brain and healing emotional trauma. It uses an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine which sends signals in a specific frequency to the brain, with sensory modalities used to identify the suitable frequency.

What a session looks like

Service users can choose from a variety of protocols which suit their needs and taste. These include listening to music, watching videos, playing interactive video games, and holding a vibrating pillow integrated with a specific frequency, and are used as either standalone interventions or in combinations.

Special software is used, and signals are monitored, which are then converted in to waves indicating as alpha, beta, gamma and theta waves. This is a live recording where electrodes are connected to the scalp in specific identified regions to record the signals from the brain. Waves are recorded as the person engages in an activity using single or multimodal sensory stimuli.

The client will spend few minutes on a set frequency and will then be interviewed for physical and emotional symptoms. This will help the therapist customise the specific frequency that could de-stress the brain. Depending on the level of acceptance, where service users feel more relaxed will be identified for further sessions.

The location at which the electrodes to be placed will be decided by the therapist to suit the needs of the service user, based on the clinical diagnosis and presenting symptoms. A short course of 10 to 40 minute sessions will be provided depending on the diagnosis. The duration and frequency of the therapy is reviewed based on the outcome of the session.

The impact of training

During the training session, I was really amused to see the impact of set frequencies feedback to my brain which could calm myself down. Enhancements in my performance, alertness, sleep pattern and awareness were noted within a day or two. The effects were transformational on myself and my counterpart.

I tried different sensory profiles using music and video, which I preferred, and 'tactile'. I felt calm and de-stressed - it was more than an experience, which I could related it to my best day in my yoga practice. I also felt my problem-solving skills and behavioural responses were better in challenging situations while communicating to others.

The training included theory and practice to educate me on electrodes placement, identifying the placement of electrodes and recognising the right protocols, frequency and duration of the therapy. The goal of the therapy is to allow the brain to stabilise, de-stress and enhance the performance of the brain. This will happen once the premorbid trauma healing has happened, which is achieved through specific trauma healing protocols at the start and end of the therapy. Depending on the severity and clinical presentation the length of the therapy will be modified.

This neurofeedback therapy is an excellent way of retraining a neural circuit so that it can stabilise. It helps healing emotional distress, which can also have an impact of enhanced performance. I believe this could enhance fronto-temporal connections and other circuits and support behavioural interventions in service users with neuropsychological needs. I recommend every psychologist to try this!

Jayasree Sampath, PhD, AFBPsS, is neurofeedback and CBT therapist at Plans4rehab in Leicester, and a chartered psychologist.

Further reading: The Effectiveness of Using Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Systematic Review - Lisa S. Panisch, Audrey Hang Hai, 2020 (sagepub.com)