About Neurofeedback training: “There’s nothing I know that can do that. When you see something like that, you pay attention. Can my psychoanalysis to that? Can my acceptance and commitment therapy to that? Can my friends who do EMDR or Somatic Experiencing do that? No. Nothing I know of can do THAT. ”
Bessel von der Kolk, M.D.
Trauma Expert, Researcher, and Medical Director
The Trauma Center, Brookline, Mass.
Author: The Body Keeps the Score: Mind Brain and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that results from the experience of a terrifying event that threatened death or grave harm. When thinking about trauma, we are used to focusing on PTSD, where it is easily identifiable and its criteria have been established.
Developmental trauma occurring in or throughout childhood is everywhere in our culture and has a devastating and pervasive influence on the overall development of those who are affected by it. We have to widen our awareness of what it is to know it in our own lives; trauma has affected most of us. Briefly, violence or abuse in the household between and from parents or siblings, molestation, and neglect.
Trauma not only affects psychological and emotional wellbeing, it also affects the brain. It is as if the brain received a physical blow. The brain becomes unbalanced, and communication between brain areas is disrupted, with some areas becoming overactive, and others underactive. Access to memories is blocked due to these disconnections and dysregulation so that the person is unable to process the trauma. The treatment of trauma through medication and psychotherapy has been difficult for these very reasons.
Neurofeedback is now being recognized as an essential component of trauma therapy because it directly addresses the disruptions in the brain in a way that no other therapy can. With the EEG/qEEG assessment, brain trauma dysregulation and disruption can be identified and targeted for treatment with traditional and active forms of neurofeedback.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled this our largest public health issue. From this perspective, the longer-term effects of trauma result in chronic unemployment, family violence, drug addiction, incarceration, and vastly increased utilization of medical, social service and educational resources. The long-standing framework of approaching this disorder in terms of biochemical disruption and thus developing drugs as a solution was critiqued by a former Director of the US National Institutes of Mental Health, who observed that after 40 years, development of over 20 antipsychotics and over 30 antidepressants have not demonstrably reduced the morbidity or mortality of mental disorders, and perhaps shifting to another paradigm or approach will be more fruitful.
The recent revolution in neuroscience, spurred by computer imaging technologies including the use of EEG/qEEG, points to dysregulation of underlying neural circuitry associated with abnormal brain wave patterns and neural connectivity, and suggests that the work in the field of neurotherapy shows promise in this regard. Trauma expert, researcher, clinical director of The Trauma Center, Besel van der Kolk, has become more aware of our field over the past ten years, has been doing research with it and employing it in his clinic. He supports this approach: “I think Neurofeedback is the future. The possibilities are limitless….” And “Neurofeedback training may one day surpass medications in treating mental health issues”.