If your chief problem is a long history of nothing but “garbage in, garbage out” between you and your brain can you still benefit from our therapies? If you’re worried that perhaps this neuroplasticity talk is a little too late for you and your brain has essentially had it. If you’ve been abusing and neglecting your brain for years, isn’t it true that you’re much less likely to benefit from a neuroplasticity turnaround? For example, what if you’re new to recovery after drinking or using street drugs heavily for more years than you care to admit. Perhaps you’ve had more than your fair share of stress or trauma much of your life and you hear that stress and trauma caused you brain damage. What if you’ve had multiple chronic medical problems like poorly controlled diabetes, kidney disease or chemotherapy brain and you think that perhaps your brain has been permanently robbed of the optimal performance that can come with neurogenesis.
Let me really give you something to worry about. Did you know worry itself can so overactive your autonomic nervous system that your brain gets bogged down with poor memory retrieval and concentration? Who would think just worrying would make your thinking and mood regulation worse—really? If you pay attention though, when do you usually lose track of your car keys or forget to pick up milk at the grocery store? When are you more likely to kick the dog or snap at your kids? It’s usually when you are under more stress than usual. At times of extraordinary stress, if you pay attention, you can see how your memory slips more here and there as your worry grows. Maybe your mental acuity seems a bit more sluggish than it when you were younger and you haven’t been particularly worried as far as you know but you’ve just felt fatigued. You actually may be clinically depressed. Often people who are depressed don’t realize how memory, concentration and mental acuity is negatively impacted by poor emotional regulation and untreated mood disorders.
While all the reasons you may have against believing you can change may be difficult they are not impossible. Whatever it is about yourself or your life that bothers you most, brain focused therapies can make a major positive difference in your life. This includes whatever medical problems you may be battling now. For every problem you have, your brain really does have solutions and our therapies are all about enhancing your neuroplasticity and neurogenesis to discover how change for you can best be achieved. Don’t let your own discouraging thoughts or negative talk from others continue locking your life in place with more worry and reasons to stay stuck emotionally, mentally and physically. If you are secretly saying to yourself, ‘I’m afraid I might be one of those exceptions to the rule that my brain isn’t able to change for the better and I am stuck’ let me interrupt that line of reasoning long enough to interject a little more neuroscience based reality. Change for the better can happen even to you and your brain holds the key to that change. Furthermore, those old lines of “reasoning” aren’t lines at all, they are just part of that vicious cycle circling you back to the same thoughts that have kept you stuck.
Perhaps it’s true. It’s too late for you. Your brain is doomed to become just more of a gelatinous, flaccid, failing blob inertly sitting on top of your body doing less every day. Even though the idea that there is no hope for you is not consistent with what neuroscience research has proven. Even though that’s the kind of thinking that will keep you unhappy. Even though just thinking about you thinking this way is helping me to begin to feel stuck with you, you certainly can choose to hang on to your unfounded negative opinions and remain stuck. If so, I am truly sorry for you and you need to know you can make much better choices for yourself.
Here are some ideas about better choices you can consider. What if, your brain is still making every effort to lay down new, better, ever more efficient neuronal tracks and it just needs a little help from you to improve? What if, like cars on a high speed train track, your brain was derailed for a bit but it’s trying to tell you that it’s still able to start sending those neurotransmitters right down the new high speed rails in your head like a virtual Mario Andretti of your brain? While it’s true that you can’t change the past that’s no excuse to keep feeding your brain junk. The truth is neuroplasticity sets the rules and even your brain can improve no matter what, there is always a potential to reach for and your brain has probably not arrived there yet. With behavioral technologies like Neurofeedback, Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and Rational Emotive Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (REBT). We can also can start giving our brains better information rather than more garbage to work with. When you make new healthy choices to tune up your brain and warm up your hearts, you are choosing to exponentially expand your cognitive, emotional and behavioral growth.
How Do EMDR, CBT and EEG Neurotherapies Work?
Better known as Biofeedback, Neurofeedback or electroencephalogram (EEG) Neurotherapy as we call it, has proven successful when more conventional approaches in medicine and behavioral health both have failed to improve a variety of conditions. Harold Burke PhD is a neuropsychology professor who describes Neurofeedback this way:
a cutting-edge technology that uses operant conditioning (reinforcement) to alter brain waves. It provides information to clients about their nervous systems so that they can self-regulate more effectively. This is accomplished by attaching electrodes to their scalps so that the electrochemical activity of their brains can be transformed into real-time information and fed back to them. The individual’s brain can then utilize this information to make appropriate changes that often improves brain functioning and relieves symptoms. As the client undergoes repeated sessions of this brain exercise, or brain training, the client achieves greater flexibility and stability (Burke, 1999-2009).
Dr. Harold Burke is not only a great professor but the founder and clinical director of The Brain Therapy Center located in West Lake Village, California.
Here’s another description coming from more of my favorite experts, this time from Gary Schummer, PhD clinical director of ADD Treatment Center and The Neurofeedback Center of Los Angeles, Torrance, California together with Joy Lunt, RN clinical director of Brain Potential of Burbank, CA both who are both senior fellows of EEG Education and Research Inc. Both Gary and Joy describe Neurofeedback as a picture of the activity of approximately 100,000 neurons, which in turn shows the activity of millions of other neurons that are influencing those at any given time (2014). You may think, oh yeah impressive, we have a lot of neurons and we can track their electrical activity all over the brain but come on really—so what?
The significance of being able to detect and identify passive and dominant brain waves connected to experiential activities is not just like taking a few still snapshot of the brain to see what’s going on between those ears but more like identifying how your brain wave activity is actually effecting the way you perform everyday tasks in real time. Neurofeedback doesn’t just passively record what’s happening in your head but also begins interacting in real time with your brain as its learning to better process and lay new more neuronal tracks for more efficient creative learning which includes improving emotional regulation and social-relational adaptively. Neurofeedback is not a passive detached view like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or other technologies used to diagnose what’s going on in the brain but actually begins activating and changing the brain. By contrast to diagnostic technologies like that neurofeedback is interactively responding to sensory input your brain is communicating through its EEG wave performance—that’s the key to positive health and behavior change with neurofeedback we can actually see and respond to how the mind changes the brain which in turn changes the mind for the better. As you are actively engaging your brain in some stimulating activity, you can see it responding right back in real time so your brain is on a learning curve to better processing.
This is pretty exciting stuff if you really wrap your mind around that—pardon the pun. The most intriguing part of this whole thing is there is a growing number of sound clinical studies which are concluding that people with psychiatric, cognitive and/or disorganizing neurological conditions can re-train neural pathways to form more organized brain functioning using neurofeedback. Some of these conditions include:
- ADHD / ADD
- Addictive disorders
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
- Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
- Improved sleep patterns
There are more benefits but for now let’s just say other neurocognitive conditions which may be negatively impacted by poor coping, over-activated or under-activated stress responses can also be improved. These involve often hard to treat conditions such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Diabetic neuropathy
Further, when the way some individuals cope with stress causes immune suppression the result can become pain breakouts, motor neuron muscle weakness and diminishing mental acuity among a few seemingly unrelated symptoms that may develop.
The good news is that many people with debilitating chronic medical conditions can have symptom relief by learning how to truly relax and maintain control of their Central Nervous Systems (CNS), Peripheral Nervous Systems (PNS) and Autonomic Nervous Systems (ANS) reactivity and finally find relief, and in some cases, total remission of symptoms with regular practice of EEG neurofeedback, EMDR and cognitive-behavioral therapies. Bottom line is, that these behavioral treatment modalities do work and that’s what ultimately counts when people are feeling better after receiving these therapies.
Are Neurotherapies, EMDR, and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies Miracle Cures?
Now let me make myself crystal clear about what I did and did not just claim about neurofeedback and the other therapies we offer. The most import, point I want you to remember is, I am in no way asserting that our therapies will always eliminate all neurological diseases and disorders. What I am saying is EMDR, EEG Neurotherapy and CBT modalities clearly have been proven by numerous clinical studies as effective, and in some cases, more effective than medication only. Particularly with complicated cases where other conventional pharmacological, behavioral, and medical interventions have been tried and failed. I just want you to remember that this is more than snake oil talk. The efficacy of these neuro-behavioral treatment modalities for symptom resolution is high and in some cases total symptom remission has occurred even when compared to medication trials. If you have questions about this research I will be happy to forward these studies to you.
So, maybe neuroplasticity is sounding interesting to you and at this point you might even consider trying a few sessions of neurofeedback but what about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) or REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy) an emotionally based cognitive behavioral therapy we use as a model of our care? What are these other therapies about and what do they have to do with neuroplasticity anyway? Let’s start with a little more in-depth explanation of how your brain works with emotion and thinking. In his mind and heart expanding book: Hardwiring Happiness: The New Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson identifies how, as he puts it, the mind can change the brain that in turn changes the mind for the better.
Do yourself a big favor now and take a look at his 2013 TedTalk at: http://wn.com/hardwireing_happiness
Now that you’ve had a gander at how to reset your happiness quotient, can you recall Rick’s phrase, ‘Neurons that wire together fire together?’ Well, this is the basic foundational principle behind how neuroplasticity training through EMDR, neurofeedback and REBT actually work. First, as your EMDR therapist we’ll coach you into how you can literally hardwire or ground your safety experience with positive states both while you’re in my office and later you’ll learn how to do this yourself between sessions. Meaning, as Rick states, taking in the good, really taking it in, in such a way that you begin hardwiring your own readymade “happiness” switch. This is more than positive and relaxing visualization it’s part of tapping into your brain’s own neuroplasticity. The goal is hardwiring more accessible retrievable and pleasurable memories that you actually mindfully set into your thinking and feeling states. After this happiness coaching is hardwired in your neuropathways with non-invasive, totally painless, bi-lateral stimulation or in some cases neurofeedback, we then can begin working on those not so pleasant memories that are holding you back from living your life to its fullest. These memories are unconsciously causing emotional triggers which are bottlenecking your growth and learning processes.
Together, after we formulate your assessment and treatment plan, we’ll learn how to follow a continuous chain of associated and unprocessed memories until we reach what Francine Shapiro PhD calls, “touchstone memories.” After these negative memories are fully processed and new positive associations are made, very much like Rick Hanson mentioned earlier, you will then be able to give your brain the opportunity to lay down new more positive and efficient neuronal tracks. As Rick states, whether positive or negative, neurons that fire together, wire together.
So, your new hardwiring is “reprogramming” your brain through EMDR, Neurofeedback or REBT you are learning to better manage your negative thinking, emotions, and memories while also calming your somatosensory systems for more efficient, fully aware and emotionally regulated brains. The difference really becomes your comfort level with what optimizes your learning and growth potential. With neurofeedback you receive direct brain wave feedback, with EMDR your memory access points begin to improve your emotionally charged and unprocessed memories and with REBT/CBT we are beginning to use the most active conscious overall behavioral strategies to improve your whole life plan.
For more information take a look at the references below and give me a call or e-mail and we can discuss these exciting ways we can make your own brain’s neuroplasticity work positively for you just send me an email for more information.
Burke, Harold PhD (2013). Lectures references neuroplasticity to doctor of behavioral health students
Arizona State University. Founder and director of The Brain Therapy Center, Westlake Village, California, All Rights Reserved.
Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain that Changes itself: Stories of Personal Triumph form the Frontiers of Brain Science. Penguin Books: London, England.
Grant, D. (2009). Change your brain, change your pain. BookPOD: Victoria, Australia.
Hanson, R. (2013). Hardwiring Happiness: The New Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence. Harmony Books: New York, NY. http://wn.com/hardwireing_happiness
Shapiro, F. (2012). Getting Past your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help EMDR Therapy. Rodale Inc: New York.
Urschel, H. (2009). Healing the Addicted Brain: The Revolutionary, Science-Based Alcoholism and Addiction Recovery Program. Sourcebooks, Inc.: Naperville, Illinois. .