Where Direct Neurofeedback, Psychotherapy and Yoga Intersect
Although there is research that supports the efficacy of each of these healing modalities on a stand-alone basis for the symptoms of trauma, including anxiety and depression, imagine what might be possible when a more holistic approach is taken. In fact, the research has shown that body-based psychotherapy that integrates trauma-informed yoga practices into psychotherapy has proven beneficial effects in reducing PTSD symptomatology, such as chronic anxiety and depression. In addition, the research has shown that combining neurofeedback with heart rate variability training (e.g., deep, slow abdominal breathing utilized in yoga) has proven beneficial effects in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression in both adults and children.
When living with the aftershocks of trauma, where the body and mind experience uncomfortable feelings such as chronic anxiety and depression, I imagine most of us would wish for a magic pill that would eliminate all the painful symptoms without any side-effects. Unfortunately, although prescription medications can be effective in helping to manage such symptoms, the body tends to experience undesirable and unpleasant responses to such medications.
Sanctuary for Compassion and Connection is committed to providing the most effective treatments for addressing the leading causes of chronic mental health conditions. Recognizing how vital it is to support the body’s natural ability to heal itself and work toward optimal health and wellness, adding direct neurofeedback to body-based psychotherapy when working with clients to strengthen their body-mind connection and support their journey of exploration, growth and ultimately transformation can facilitate the healing process. Clients can now choose just therapy, yoga or direct neurofeedback, or they can consider some combination that might work best for them, knowing that all three treatment options work to bring balance to the nervous system by focusing on alleviating the symptoms of nervous system dysregulation through inner transformation. Direct neurofeedback is a painless, non-invasive, completely safe and fast acting treatment that is very effective at treating anxiety, stress, panic attacks and depression without drugs.
Below is some additional information that might help in making the decision where to start. As direct neurofeedback, body-based psychotherapy and yoga all promote growth and healing of body-mind-spirit symptoms of trauma, simply starting with one is the most important step. Otherwise, you can’t really go wrong.
If I am already doing yoga, why might I want to start talk therapy or try direct neurofeedback?
Research has shown that yoga is the perfect complement to talk therapy or neurofeedback, especially in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. When we begin to combine effective approaches to enhancing wellbeing, we can create a powerful, synergistic interaction between the body and mind, possibly facilitating the healing process. It will be important to maintain your regular yoga practice even if you decide to start counseling or want to try direct neurofeedback.
When considering your choice between talk therapy and direct neurofeedback, think about what might be most important to you in the present moment. If we look at direct neurofeedback as a way to reset the brain, then talk therapy might be viewed as a way to explore why the brain needed a reset in the first place. If you sense that you would simply prefer your symptoms to be reduced and you don’t feel a need to know why you are experiencing those symptoms in the first place, then direct neurofeedback might be recommended. If, on the other hand, you typically need to understand the root cause of a problem or why your symptoms developed, then talk therapy might be recommended.
Although these healing options work very well together, they also provide change, growth and transformation individually. If you are happy with the results you are experiencing from any of these healing methods, then additional treatments may not be necessary. If you are not getting the results you want or you would like to explore the possibility of facilitating your healing and growth, then considering adding either direct neurofeedback or counseling is a good starting point.
Why might I decide to try talk therapy after direct neurofeedback?
One of the most frequently cited benefits of direct neurofeedback is clarity. This clarity can enhance a person’s ability to process experiences, thoughts and emotions that they were not consciously aware of previously. A normal, natural adaptive human response to trauma is dissociation, which is a way to numb ourselves to our pain and suffering in order to function in our daily lives. We might develop impulsive behaviors to reinforce the dissociation or numbing, such as using work, drugs, technology, or some other form of addiction as a distraction. As direct neurofeedback begins to bring back balance to the brain, the mind becomes aware of feelings in the body and emotions that are underneath the symptoms or behaviors. With this movement from the subconscious to the conscious, the mind may begin to find a need to make sense of what is coming up. It’s at this time that many people seek out talk therapy to support this part of their healing journey.
Why might I need direct neurofeedback during talk therapy?
Sometimes, as we are traveling along on the path of wellbeing, we find ourselves getting stuck in the process of exploring our inner landscapes to make sense of our emotions, reactions, and thoughts. We might even believe we understand why we behave the way we do and/or discovered the roots of our thoughts, yet still can’t seem to change the way we are in the world. We could also be experiencing “the perfect storm” in our lives in the present moment, activating our sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for the “flight, fight, freeze, faint” survival response in the body, which shuts down our ability to be introspective or reflective in therapy.
If you feel as though your progress on your journey of discovery has slowed down or stopped, for whatever reason, direct neurofeedback might help to restart the momentum in talk therapy by helping both the brain and the body to relax as it enhances the parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for the “rest and digest” response in the body. By creating space for the body and mind to slow down and breath so to speak, direct neurofeedback supports the work being done in therapy by keeping all parts of the brain “on line” and communicating more effortlessly.
When clients integrate all three healing options, the growing emotional awareness and insights gained in therapy are reinforced at the level of the nervous system by direct neurofeedback and yoga, finding that they are better able to maintain the changes they are making in their lives. Put another way, direct neurofeedback and yoga create the space for clients to more easily and effectively navigate the deeper realms of their minds.