Lifeworks Recovery and our neurofeedback therapists assist sex addicts to begin understanding their disease, and stopping the harm from their behavior. Helping addicts get in touch with their ability to self-regulate by using neurofeedback as one of the tools that Lifeworks Recovery offers.
Biofeedback is an intervention which allows you to see directly certain aspects of your body functioning (like heart rate and brain waves) in order to change them for the better, which contributes in significant ways to psychological health. Biofeedback gives you the power to access the physical in order to change the mental – to strengthen your mind-body connection and recruit other parts of yourself to speed you along the path to healing and the life you want.
Most biofeedback involves connecting to non-invasive sensors, like a pulse monitor on a finger or ear, or sensors placed on the scalp, and watching a computer display which shows you readouts of how you are performing from moment to moment. Together with your biofeedback clinician, you’ll learn which kinds of activity are connected to the states you’re trying to change, and you’ll gain greater awareness and ability to notice and voluntarily adjust that activity while getting immediate feedback. When you are trying to relax through meditation, for example, and you wonder to yourself, “Am I doing this right?” biofeedback can provide an answer to the question. In fact, I often refer to biofeedback as “machine-assisted meditation.”
Think of the process of biofeedback as working to create a road map to a particular mental state, perhaps free from anxiety, depression, addiction, ADD/ADHD, mental fog, difficulty relating to others. If you’ve never experienced what it’s like to be free of these symptoms, biofeedback can act like a compass to your destination and help to guide you there. I also know that through biofeedback, you can gain a greatly improved sense efficacy/agency – how wonderful it is to learn that you can control aspects of yourself which you thought you could never change!
There are many types of biofeedback, and at LifeWorks Recovery, we offer heart-rate variability (HRV) biofeedback and neurofeedback (also called EEG biofeedback or brain-wave biofeedback). We believe that biofeedback together with counseling is a powerful combination for healing, and each enhances the other. The formal definition of biofeedback as adopted by the most influential organizations in the field is: “Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. These instruments rapidly and accurately “feed back” information to the user. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument.”
Approved May 18, 2008 by: Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR).
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective treatments for sexual compulsivity. The approach works on thinking, as well as behavioral interventions to arrest the symptoms of sex addiction. Sex addicts suffer from emotional dysregulation, and sex addiction is rooted in an impaired early bonding experience in childhood. Cognitive behavioral therapy assists the addict in understanding the distortions in thinking, and helps reduce shame by acknowledging and accepting cycles of abuse and neglect in their lives.
Sex therapy is more than just understaning sex. Sex therapy is a process of identifying the origins of sex addiction, understanding the distortions and affective dysregualtion components, and using cognitive behavioral therapy, emotional regualtion, mindfulness, neurofeedback, group, experiential and narrative approaches to give the greatest chance of success for the entire family system.
HRV biofeedback is a type of biofeedback which access heart rate as a way to monitor and learn to adjust physiological and psychological/emotional states. HRV biofeedback has been proven helpful through many studies in working with a number of conditions including asthma, fibromyalgia, PTSD, depression, and hypertension. (Wheat & Larkin, 2010) For any number of presenting issues, training HRV is an excellent way to increase self-regulation, self-awareness, and coping strategies while reducing stress and stress-related illnesses. The heart is an excellent access point to the nervous system, and training heart function can help strengthen the branch of the nervous system which helps you relax. Improved HRV creates flexibility in the way we respond to stressors. (Aldao, 2014)
In your first HRV biofeedback session, you will meet with the clinician to give a brief physical and psychological history along with aspects you hope to improve or address. She will orient you to the process and answer any questions you have. Once you start training, the clinician will attach a pulse sensor to your finger or ear. You will watch a computer display showing your heart rate and get coaching from the clinician about your breathing as well as how to improve HRV through what you are thinking and imagining. The software will provide feedback with tones and colors to show you how you’re meeting objectives. The clinician will walk you through the process, help you interpret your information, and provide suggestions for you as well as ways to practice in between sessions to maximize the benefits of training.
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback which accesses brain waves to increase regulation and reduce the experience of certain symptoms in different parts of the brain. Many kinds of psychological diagnosis are associated with certain brain wave patterns which can be trained using neurofeedback. This kind of biofeedback has been proven useful in working with conditions including addictions, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, cognitive function/memory enhancement, depression, headaches and migraines, insomnia, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and optimal performance for sports and performing arts. (Hammond, 2011)
The first time you come for neurofeedback, your clinician will take a brief physical and psychological history and ask you about what you hope to resolve through the process. Our neurofeedback training is guided by a QEEG (quantitative electro encephalograph) or “brain map,” so you will then come back for a thorough measurement of your brain wave patterns.
This process, like neurofeedback, is completely non-invasive. You’ll put on a cap, much like a swimming cap, that has sensors attached to it to measure activity at different sites, and the clinician will make a recording. We’ll put together your history, your concerns, and your brain map, and come up with a plan for how to approach treatment. We’ll meet to go over your results and talk about the plan with you.
When you first come for training, 1-2 small sensors are stuck to sites on your scalp and clips are stuck to your ears with special conductive paste. The sensors are able to “read” brain wave activity happening below the surface, and the data they collect is presented on the computer screen. During the training, you might watch a display of graphics which changes based on your brain wave data. For example, you might “play” a race game where your player moves faster the more your brain produces the waves we’re trying to train. You might also watch a movie which dims or gets clearer the better you’re meeting goals for the session. In each case, you’ll hear tones which the brain learns to interpret as a reward. Your clinician will coach you during the session, go over your results with you, and make recommendations for things to do between sessions in order to get the maximum benefit and maintain the changes the brain is making.
Neurofeedback is like exercise for the brain. As with HRV biofeedback, how quickly training progresses depends on the severity of your symptoms, your ability to regularly and consistently come for training, and your willingness to try new things to support your gains in between sessions. The good news is that gains typically are not lost after completing a full series of training sessions. People often see initial progress in as few as 10 sessions. Though it varies by individual, often lasting change can be achieved after 30-40 sessions. Your clinician will work with you throughout your training to monitor your progress, adjust your training, and make sure you are involved in the process.
Nothing requires that you stop taking medication during the training, though often people find that they require fewer medications or lower dosages depending on what is being training. Some people pursue neurofeedback in order to stop using medications. We require that our biofeedback clients notify their prescribing doctors that they are going through biofeedback and may experience a need for change in medication.
here are very few risks associated with neurofeedback. It is a non-invasive treatment, free from many of the side effects associated with medication. What side effects may occur are generally mild, rare, and last for a short time, such as brief headache, tiredness, agitation or irritability, or sleeplessness. (Hammond, 2011) Your clinician will check in with you each time you come in for training, and she can make adjustments as needed.
Whether your biofeedback can be covered by insurance is a question for your provider. Some insurance companies do cover some services, and we would be glad to provide whatever information is necessary to facilitate your claim.
Comprehensive Neurofeedback Bibliography
Clinical Outcomes in Addiction: A Neurofeedback Case Series