by Rob Kall
| Biofeedback is a coaching and training process which helps people
learn how to change patterns of behavior-- physiological response patterns--
to take greater self responsibility for their health and for their mental,
physical, emotional and spiritual functioning.
In all biofeedback, some form of technology is used to provide extra
information beyond the ability of normal senses about some bodily
(physiological) function. The person first uses the information as feedback
to increase awareness or consciousness of the changes in the body/mind
function. Then, the feedback is used to learn to develop new levels of
voluntary self control over the function.
Biofeedback training usually involves the following body measures:
EMG (electromyograph= muscle) for relaxation, muscle pattern optimization,
EEG (electroencephalograph= brain waves,) Attention, mental clarity,
relaxation, pain, meditation
thermal (blood flow in fingers and toes,) relaxation
Respiratory (breathing,) relaxation
SCL (Skin Conductance Level= related to sweat gland activity,) relaxation
HRV Heart Rate Variability-- based on the effects of your
breath on your heart rate.
Studies have shown that after adequate training, including training to
transfer the self control skills to real life, people automatically and
effortlessly use the skills they've learned in biofeedback.
Usually people use the skills to bring aspects of their life into better
balance and to functionat a higher, more optimal level. If they have
anxiety, stress, attention, or performance problems, these will often
respond very well to biofeedback training, usually either disappearing
altogether or decreasing in frequency, severity, intensity and duration.
Once you learn to voluntarily control what were previously involuntarily,
subconsciously, or habitually controlled behaviors, you then go on to
develop new, positive automatic self-responsible habits. It's like riding a
bike. Once you learn it, you can do it. You don't have to re-learn it,
though you may be a bit wobbly if you don't ride for ten years.
With biofeedback you learn skills which you will use and practice on a
regular basis. It is not a treatment that is done to you. It is a learning
process which you integrate into your repertoire of inner strengths and
skills. A good trainer will combine biofeedback with the activities which
challenge you, such as reading, studying, problem solving, concentrating.
You learn to recognize how it feels when you are focusing more effectively
and when you are spacing out, allowing yourself to become distracted.
If you exercise in a gym, lifting weights and using muscle building
machines, after 30 or forty sessions your muscles will be bigger. If you
keep at the exercise, they will stay that way. If you just stop exercising
altogether, the new muscle tissue will go away. It is believed that with
brainwave biofeedback, a similar process occurs. Over the course of thirty
or forty sessions, more blood lows to the areas of the brain being trained
and eventually, more blood vessels grow there, increasing the
vascularization of that part of the brain. PET scan studies seem to support
If you continue to use your brain-- ie., keep exercising it-- at the new
level, then the improvements are retained-- even without the continued use
of biofeedback for most people.
When it comes to ADD, the results are sometimes good enough so people can
stop or reduce meds. Sometimes the results are only improvements in aspects
meds don't help.
The same is true for other forms of biofeedback. Sometimes hypertensives get
off all meds, sometimes they cut back, sometimes the blood pressure just
becomes more stable. Headache sufferers whose headaches have been occurring
because of less than optimal physiological balance and susceptibility to
stress often rid their lives of headaches.
One variable in all this is responsibility . Biofeedback requires that the
client work at it, do homework and take self responsibility for practice. It
is not something one passively has done to oneself. This is often the reason
for failures. The biofeedback process is not going to work if you don't . Of
course other valuable things, like freedom, intelligence, opportunity are
like that too.
On the other hand, some people do not respond to biofeedback through no
fault of their own, for various reasons. But it's worth a try.
The biofeedback approach offered at the Center for Optimal Living is
oriented toward helping the individual learn skills which empower him or her
to take greater self responsibility for health and all the other dimensions
of functioning life. It is not a treatment or therapy. It is a coaching and