top of page

…in the present experimental study we examined the effectiveness of neurofeedback in comparison with MMT/BMT (Methadone or Buprenorphine maintenance treatment} in two groups of opiate dependence patients, with a pre versus post treatment evaluation. This study focused on general psychological health and opiate craving in patients. Neurofeedback was shown to decrease the craving to use substance and improve general mental health in opiate dependence patients…
…Our results, combined with those of others, suggest that neurofeedback training over a long period may be more effective than pharmacotherapy alone in treating substance use and in promoting mental health. Although pharmacotherapy can lead to some improvements in patients, side effects, instability, and the high risk of relapse, are some of the main limitations of using pharmacotherapy alone (Fagan, 1994; Gossop et al,. 2002). Neurofeedback attempts to address the fundamental operational functions of the brain and acts as a mechanism for the brain to self-regulate. Its goal is to correct irregular brain functions and consequently improve psychological abnormalities. Furthermore research confirms the stability of neurofeedback effects and its prevention of negative side effects (Hammond, 2005).

Dehghani-Arani, F, Rostami, R., & Nadali, H. (2013), Neurofeedback Training for Opiate
Addiction: Improvement of Mental Health and Craving in Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback,
June; 38(2): 133-141. Published online 2013 Apr 20. doi:  10.1007/s10484-013-9218-5

The Science
After the initial study produced by Peniston and Kulkosky, a series of studies with neurofeedback training have found an average of 50% to 80% abstinence rates in inpatient settings, and 70% in outpatient settings. While the studies employed differing definitions of what constitutes recovery or relapse, these results are still impressive.

Neurofeedback training has been applied to different substance addictions with varying success rates. Representative of these are: Kaiser, et al achieved a 77% abstinence rate with poly-substance abusers that was maintained at a one year follow-up. A study of homeless crack cocaine addicts produced 49% total abstinence, 40% partial abstinence (use of substance 1 – 9 times), and only a 10% relapse at the end of a year.


This body of research also demonstrates that intensive neurofeedback treatment exerts a positive influence on many factors contributing to chemical dependency including stress levels, anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder. Because anxiety and stress are directly related to whether a client relapses, neurofeedback's ability to reduce these factors may be central to the important contribution it makes to successful recovery.


Our Approach
“Alpha/Theta training” is a unique form of neurofeedback training that was pioneered in the mid-70’s by Elmer Green at the Menninger Institute. It was further developed by Eugene Peniston to successfully help veterans struggling with alcoholism, substance abuse, and post traumatic stress disorder. Ellen Saxby was trained in this approach by Peniston, and in 1991, with Dr. George McKechnie, developed an Alpha/Theta program on the Monterey Peninsula. Their program produced a study, authored by Ellen Saxby and Eugene Peniston, that replicated Peniston’s earlier work. It was published in 1995 in the peer reviewed Journal of Clinical Psychology (it is available in the Research and Other Reading section). Ellen Saxby created the foundation of our recovery program and now works as a consultant for the program.  She has brought a depth of experience with this approach that is unmatched. 


The Alpha/Theta approach to recovery is now available on the Monterey Peninsula at our Center. It is effective when used in conjunction with a 12 step program. While 12 step recovery addresses the psycho spiritual issues of addiction, Alpha/Theta neurofeedback addresses and helps to reprogram the neural deficiencies that usually occur with the use of addictive chemicals.


Alpha/Theta has been likened to a form of deep meditation and is best experienced in a fairly condensed program of approximately 6 weeks with several training sessions per week. While there can be moments in which painful memories surface, the overarching experience is usually one of a gentle, quiet euphoria and a sense of well-being. The process produces long term benefits due to the brain’s amazing ability to learn completely new ways of coping with life and its challenges.

If a client is already in an inpatient or outpatient recovery program, or is under the guidance of recovery experts, then consider augmenting your recovery treatment. Neurofeedback training can dramatically enhance your chances of success.

bottom of page