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Counseling Center

Biofeedback/Neurofeedback Training
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The Counseling Center offers Biofeedback Training for stress management, anxiety, depression and optimal performance.  Only currently enrolled UW-Seattle students are eligible for this service.

What is Biofeedback Training?
What Are The Limitations Or Side Effects Of BFT?
What Is Biofeedback Used For?
Can I Use Medications Or Counseling While Engaged In BFT?
How Long Does BFT Take?
How Do I Explore Biofeedback Therapy?
What Does BFT Cost?
Where Can I Learn More About Biofeedback Training?

What Is Biofeedback Training?

If you know how to ride a bike you're already skilled at using one form of biofeedback.  Learning to go straight ahead and stop, rather than ending up in the flower bed or scraping your elbow on the sidewalk, involved learning to notice signals about your state of balance coming from your inner ear, muscles, and eyes.   Gradually, you developed an ability to respond to these signals by making small muscle movements that kept you upright. You   didn't think about which muscles to move, you just noticed what worked, and learned to do it consistently.   After a while, this learning became so ingrained that you stopped even being aware of the constant process of reading body signals and responding accordingly.  You just did it.

Biofeedback training, like riding a bike, involves developing the ability to self-regulate some aspects of your body's functioning that you normally cannot consciously control.   You do this by making subtle physical or physiological adjustments in response to a continuous flow of information from your body about how you're doing (feedback).

The aspects of your body's functioning that are of particular interest in biofeedback training are your states of arousal and attention.    For example, if you become so stressed when taking a test that you are unable to recall what you've learned you are over-aroused and unable to focus your attention on conscious recall.   In contrast, if you habitually fall asleep while reading, or exhibit a flat disinterest in virtually everything around you, you are under-aroused.

Biofeedback training (BFT) uses simple video games, images, and music to give you information about aspects of your physiology - like respiration rate, skin temperature, muscle tension, and brain wave patterns - and teaches you to self-regulate these aspects of arousal.

What Is Biofeedback Used For?

BFT is currently being used as an effective treatment for a number of concerns, including attention deficit disorder, chronic pain, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression, substance abuse recovery and recovery from brain injuries.   In the Counseling Center it is being used to provide assistance for:

How Long Does BFT Take?

The amount of training required depends on your goals and how quickly the learning takes place.   Significant improvement in your ability to relax when stressed can usually be achieved within six, one-hour sessions.   Making progress with depression, or increasing your ability to achieve and sustain peak performance takes longer, perhaps 20-40 sessions.   Since this is a learning technique, two sessions per week, rather than just one, are recommended.

What Does BFT Cost?

BFT sessions are one-to-one interactions with a trained professional and charges are the same as those for other individual counseling services.   At present, these charges are $15.00 for an initial BFT intake assessment, and $30.00 per session thereafter.

What Are The Limitations Or Side Effects Of BFT?

Concerns such as depression and stress are sometimes understandable responses to difficult life circumstances.   In these situations BFT can help you manage your symptoms but other actions are probably necessary to resolve the source of the problem.   Counseling is likely to be more effective in getting you “unstuck” in such circumstances.  Similarly, if your body is sleep deprived, BFT will not "trick it” into getting by with less.  BFT is more likely to be the treatment of choice when you are experiencing a more chronic problem that seems to be more or less unresponsive to changes in life circumstances.

For most forms of BFT, there are no known negative side effects.   Neurotherapy, which is BFT using brain wave patterns, can sometimes produce short-term reactions such as increased or decreased sleepiness, headaches, or agitation.  Such reactions disappear within hours or, at most, days.

Can I Use Medications Or Counseling While Engaged In BFT?

In general, yes.   Medications, such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs, will not interfere with BFT, and BFT will not produce interactive side effects.   If BFT is effective, you may discover you can reduce the dosage of such medications.   Participating in counseling and BFT at the same time is often the very best treatment plan, since many problems involve a combination of life management problems and chronic states.  

How Do I Explore Biofeedback Therapy?

BFT begins with an initial assessment or “intake”.   During this session your trainer will gather some information about your concern and your history, and use sensors placed on the surface of your skin to monitor baseline levels of aspects of your physiology that might be used in training.  On the basis of this information, your trainer will make a recommendation as to whether BFT is likely to be helpful, and, if so, what kind of training might be most effective for you.  Your trainer may also suggest additional or alternative responses, such as personal counseling or medical referrals.   You can then make a decision about how you wish to proceed.

If you are already working with a counselor at the Counseling Center you can ask them to refer you for a Biofeedback intake.   If you are new to the Center you can specifically request an intake for Biofeedback services when you contact the Center in person or by phone.

Where Can I Learn More About Biofeedback Training?

BFT is an emerging technology and there are presently few generally available print resources that provide useful introductions.   There are, however, a number of good sources of information available on the web.  Here are some useful sites:

The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback
Kansas State University Biofeedback Center
Mental Health Source
Mental Health Resources
EEG Spectrum International, Inc

Future Health, Inc.

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