Neurofeedback Therapy

Addiction generates and reinforces unhealthy communication patterns in the brain. Many people who struggle with substance abuse disorder have probably wished that they could just retrain their brain to ensure a successful recovery. Neurofeedback therapy offers that ability. It’s not magic; it’s an evidence-based technique that has been developed in recent decades for treating mental health disorders, including PTSD and ADHD. Using neurofeedback as part of addiction treatment can resolve underlying emotional and psychological issues and help people regulate their emotions without using drugs.


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What Is Neurofeedback Therapy?

Neurofeedback therapy is a type of biofeedback. This method uses involuntary signals from the body to help you practice regulating your central nervous system. With neurofeedback, professionals use an electroencephalogram, or EEG, to monitor your brain patterns. The brain activity is gathered from non-intrusive sensors that are placed on your scalp. As you listen to audio or watch a video, you can watch what your brain is doing. This feedback allows you to notice unusual brain activity. Using practices such as breathing and relaxation techniques, you can change the way that you would typically react to that type of brain activity. With some types of neurofeedback, the sensors don’t transmit any signals to your brain. You regulate your own brain patterns consciously and subconsciously. But the software that the practitioners use offers subtle rewards when you respond in a positive manner. For example, a movie on the screen may become brighter and sound clearer when you generate favorable brainwaves. This lets you know that you’re on the right track and makes it easier for you to achieve that type of regulation in the future. Direct neurofeedback does transmit an imperceptible signal to your brain. It doesn’t stimulate or inhibit brain function. However, it does disrupt the electrical activity so that the brain reorganizes itself into a balanced state.

Why Does Neurofeedback Therapy Work in Addiction Treatment?

Neurofeedback therapy can help you change your thinking and behavior by rewarding constructive shifts in your subconscious processing. It has been studied for its value in treating ADHD, PTSD, insomnia, anxiety, epilepsy, migraines, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. When studying the effects of neurofeedback therapy on anxiety and behavioral concerns in people with substance abuse disorders, scientists found that the technique enhanced self-control and reduced drug use. Neurofeedback protocols have been used throughout the four decades to treat patients who are undergoing addiction treatment. The clinician can monitor distinct areas of the brain, depending on the behaviors and mental patterns that are negatively impacting your recovery. Some people need to regulate the brain regions that are associated with depression. Others may need help rationalizing intrusive thoughts. The neurofeedback equipment picks up on the areas in which there is dysregulation and helps you balance brain activity in those regions. Therefore, it’s an individualized approach that helps you address the triggers and distressing emotions that are unique to your situation. Many people who use substances to cope with mental health disorders find that they can manage their lives without using after undergoing neurofeedback. This type of therapy can also help you shift impulsive responses to stress and drug cravings.

Benefits of Neurofeedback Therapy

One of the primary benefits of neurofeedback therapy is that it gives you the tools for achieving mental harmony. Unlike some other mental health disorder treatments, such as dialectical behavioral theory or art therapy, you don’t have to do much during the session. In fact, it helps to be relaxed and have an open mind while you undergo neurofeedback therapy. Essentially, neurofeedback is a type of operant conditioning that promotes the self-regulation of brain activity. Every time you balance your brainwaves, you are rewarded whether you meant to do it or not. You train your brain to respond positively in situations that you struggled with before. Some of the other benefits of neurofeedback for addiction treatment are as follows.

Form New Connections in the Brain

You may feel as though your addiction controls your brain. In many ways, it does. Substance abuse changes the chemical messengers in your brain, which is one reason that you end up with counterproductive brain patterns. But you can change the way that your brain operates. Your brain solidifies networks that are associated with repeated experiences. This is why practice makes new skills feel easier over time. It’s also why you may reach for drugs to cope with difficult emotions. Your brain has established a pathway from routine exposure. As you eliminate certain experiences from your life, your brain prunes away the connections that contributed to those situations. Therefore, as you stop reacting to stress by using drugs, your brain stops looking for substances as a solution. Establishing a new response to stress helps you manage intense emotions in the future. That’s what neurofeedback helps you do. As you produce constructive brainwaves in response to certain mental patterns, you’ll strengthen the healthy pathways that help you react that way more consistently. Adding neurofeedback to your addiction treatment helps to re-wire your brain for success.

Reduce Anxiety

Neurofeedback trains your brain to relax. As you go through the process, you’ll receive feedback when your brain activity is erratic or off balance. Controlling your thoughts, regulating your emotions and achieving physical balance will produce positive feedback. Practicing this with a clinician who is tracking your brain activity teaches you what it feels like to calm yourself down in the face of anxiety. You can use this skill outside of the therapy session to relax when you’re feeling stressed.

Reduce Drug Cravings

Because drugs activate the reward centers of the brain, they produce cravings. You become hard-wired to perform drug-seeking behaviors to satisfy the reward circuit. Neurofeedback not only reduces cravings but also teaches you how to avoid acting impulsively when you do have a strong urge to use. It may shed light on the regions of your brain that are activated when you have a craving or the emotions that lead to the desire. But when you’re in a neurofeedback session, you can’t respond to a trigger by using substances. You learn how to regulate your emotions, calm your nerves and use rational thought instead. With regular sessions, your brain should automatically begin to use these coping skills to help you stay clean.

Is Neurofeedback Right for Your Addiction Treatment?

There are many practitioners who use neurofeedback in slightly different ways. Neurofeedback does require some consistency. Any kind of training requires practice, and your brain is a muscle that responds to repetition. However, studies and self-reported anecdotes show that many patients begin to experience benefits after one session. Getting regular neurofeedback therapy strengthens the new brain patterns that you develop during sessions. You’ll take what you learn with you, applying the skills that you learned from neurofeedback to your life. Neurofeedback is an excellent type of therapy to add to your addiction treatment regimen. It complements some of the skills that you’ll learn in psychotherapy and support groups. There are few side effects associated with neurofeedback. However, some patients say that it makes them feel dizzy, mentally foggy, fatigued or depressed. An experienced practitioner can help minimize side effects by using the best practices for your situation. At Burning Tree, we co-create treatment plans with patients to ensure that they receive personalized care. For many, neurofeedback therapy is an effective addition to addiction treatment.


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We are here to help you through every aspect of recovery. Call our admissions team to find the best for long-term recovery.

(866) 287-2877