Are you considering neurofeedback? Do you know how neurofeedback systems work?
Do you know how to select the best neurofeedback system? Are you confused about how to choose the best type of neurofeedback for you?
Once you identify a modality of neurofeedback, how do you decide on a practitioner?
These are some of the questions you might begin to ask yourself as you start to search for a neurofeedback provider. When it comes to answering these questions and finding the best type of neurofeedback that is most suited to your needs, it is important to recognize that there are many different types of neurofeedback with varying degrees of efficacy.
In this article we focus on the difference between a “one-size-fits-all” approach versus an individualized assessment approach. We argue that an individualized approach offers more powerful results than the alternative.
The Beginning of Precision Medicine
Modern healthcare is an ever-growing field. As we continue to learn and discover new phenomena about the human body and the human mind, we continue to adapt our treatment methods and approaches.
One such adaptation that has steadily taken root over the decades is the move to individualize each person’s treatment, taking into account his or her treatment goals, physiology and past life experiences.
Research has shown that a one-size-fits-all approach does not yield the most efficient modalities of patient care, nor does it improve overall prognosis. This realization has been acknowledged across the board, from prenatal care to mental health care, with modern technology as the driving force behind it.
Neurofeedback, a fusion of behavioral and learning psychology and EEG technology, successfully encapsulates this shift towards individualized healthcare, a field referred to as “precision medicine”.
Even within the field of Neurofeedback there is a divide between a one-size-fits-all approach and an individualized approach, the method we embody here at Neurofeedback Services of New York. We believe this individualized client focus that employs a range of assessments and neurofeedback interventions is what separates us from the rest of the field.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a one-size-fits-all approach versus an individualized treatment plan. We will look at these differences through the lens of neuro-assessment, specific symptoms and conditions, and face-to-face practitioner care.
Neuro-assessment: Every person is different, therefore, every brain is different.
The human brain is one of the most complex systems on the planet. While we all share the basic fact of having a brain, this organ and the way in which it grows and behaves over time is infinite in its variation.
A recipe of genetics, experiences and daily lifestyle gives shape to our individual neurological architecture and overall level of functionality. Considering the brain is central to who we are and how we develop throughout life, it would only make sense to design neurofeedback techniques that work to resolve dysregulation according to each unique set of neurological patterns.
Neuro-assessment involves a set of tools that allow for the examination of your personal neurological thumbprint. It allows practitioners to look within the brain and asses its functionality from multiple vantage points.
At the heart of NFB lies the original assessment of the brain’s activity, referred to as “EEG” or electroencephalography. An EEG simply detects the electrical activity occurring across and within various regions of the brain by non-invasively placing sensors on the surface of the scalp.
The EEG information can then be quantified and analyzed in order to understand which aspects of the brain’s activity may be dysregulated, leading to what we experience as symptoms and pervasive disorders. The specific neuro-assessment tool for this is called the “QEEG” or quantitative electroencephalography.
A QEEG, also know as a brain map, takes the raw information from an EEG and compares it with an age-normed database, painting for the practitioner a colorful map depicting brain function. When combined with your reported symptoms, concerns and treatment goals, practitioners are able to design specific protocols that personally fit your clinical needs.
Some Neurofeedback offices choose not to utilize neuro-assessment tools in their practice. In fact, some practitioners even find the QEEG and the information derived from it to be irrelevant to patient care and treatment outcomes.
Instead, a client’s pursuit for treatment is met with a one-size-fits-all protocol that may or may not correct dysfunction within the brain or relieve symptomatology. Such approaches, while simple and easy, may not be efficient in providing the best possible treatment plan for each individual person.
At NFS of NY we find the QEEG to be a central aspect of our treatment philosophy and individualized approach to neurotherapy.
Rather than blindly influence the brain with a one-size-fits-all intervention, we are able to quantitatively capture a sample of your personal neurological profile and compare it alongside healthy individuals in your age group.
We also utilize a number of neuropsychological tests, such as attention, anxiety, memory and depression scales, in order to establish an individual baseline that will inform the treatment plan while allowing us to monitor changes and improvements objectively.
Applicability: Treating a wide range of symptoms, conditions, and disorders
People seek mental health treatment for a multitude of reasons. From low energy and poor sleep to post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, practitioners must be trained and equipped to deal with whomever walks through the door.
While some of these concerns may appear relatively simple, such as persistent headaches, our biology can often mislead us when attempting to determine the source of any given symptom. Other concerns, such as symptoms related to a traumatic brain injury, are not to be taken lightly in terms of the complexity of their etiology.
For this reason it is extremely important for properly trained, licensed practitioners to conduct thorough assessments of their clients and employ a number of different treatment modalities that are both eclectic and customized in their design.
The issue with many neurofeedback practices, particularly those that offer unregulated and unmonitored take-home training sets for the general public, is the lack of applicability and specificity.
For example, the one-size-fits-all approach of many modern neurofeedback methods meets all presented concerns and underlying dysfunction in the brain with the same strategy: decrease variability in the overall activity of two specific regions of the brain.
What this means is that any spikes in activity that lie outside a general average of the activity within these regions are downregulated, or conditioned out, via the audio feedback.
Although this type of protocol could certainly provide relief for some clients, and may have, it is very limited in its ability to treat a wide range of mental health conditions.
In fact, many if not most of the DSM diagnoses may be far too complex for such a simple intervention. Furthermore, symptomology can arise from various locations across the cortex.
Training only two sites on the scalp and expecting an alleviation from symptoms that may have their origin in other regions of the brain is not conducive to positive outcomes, and may even prove contraindicated.
The construction of individualized treatment protocols at NFS of NY and the various modalities for which they can be designed allows for a variety of options and opportunities for all clients.
We utilize various biofeedback measures to help achieve optimum results, including heart rate variability, skin conductivity, and skin temperature, as well as different types of neurofeedback such as Infraslow Fluctuation Training (ISF), Z-score training, sLORETA, Hemoencephalography, and traditional neurofeedback.
One-on-One Sessions With a NY-Licensed Psychotherapist
Of most importance in our approach to neurotherapy is the ability to provide patients one-on-one sessions with licensed mental health professionals. One-size-fits-all neurofeedback practices often consist of a mix of technicians and clinicians, with the majority of the visit being spent with someone trained only at the technician level.
In addition, some offices can even employ a set-it-and-forget-it approach where the patient is left completely alone during their session, and only revisited by staff at the end of training.
Here’s How We’re Different…
From the start of our treatment process, patients are only ever trained by state licensed clinicians. First, in conducting and assessing a QEEG, then in constructing ongoing treatment plans while processing and integrating the shifts in functioning behavior that result from training.
As the patient moves along in their number of sessions, changes within the brain, mind and body are regularly assessed. As shifts within the QEEG are recognized, in conjunction with patient self-reports and neuropsychological scores, shifts within the neurofeedback protocols are made when necessary in order to maintain a continual rate of improvement.
The changes brought about by any neurofeedback treatment can often be experienced as a powerful shift in baseline states of being, thinking, and functioning for the patient and should be carried out under the care and regulation of a trained professional.
At NFS of NY we offer integrated neurotherapy and psychotherapy sessions, offering the client a smooth journey through their treatment process at a pace comfortable for them.
Overall, it is clear to see the differences between a one-size-fits-all approach and the personal individualized approach we employ here at NFS of NY.
As the world continues to shift towards patient-centered healthcare and treatment methods, it is immensely important to provide services that are tailored to and therefore in the best interest of the individual.
Although there may be a range of financial commitments depending on the neurofeedback practice you choose, it is clear that the patient gets what they pay for: a mass-produced, one-size-fits-all protocol, or a licensed professional-driven treatment designed to meet specific and personal needs.