Neurofeedback, she said, is a computer program therapists use in their office, training clients on it to get them in touch with their own brain waves, learn what’s good for the brain, and calm their thoughts.
The brain is organized from the womb in oscillatory patterns, Ms. Fisher says, so we with developmental trauma, early neglect and abuse, have disorganized and dysregulated brains. Our fear circuits dominate. Neurofeedback can calm these erupting circuits and even grow neural connectivity, which helps us create a more coherent sense of self, so we feel safer and more centered. [FN1]
Folks with difficult parents often grow up with a “fear-driven brain” as I did — and it’s a huge relief to find out we’re not freaks — we’re a chunk of the mainstream. In fact, maybe 50% of Americans have some degree of this “attachment disorder” due to parents who were too scary to attach to. Of course it’s not their fault either; odds are, our grandparents were too scary for our parents to attach to, and so on back, inter-generationally.
I was particularly struck watching Ms. Fisher’s NICABM video as she repeated again and again how many people are walking around with a “fear-driven brain.” Her 2010 radio interview “Attachment Disorder, Developmental Trauma and Neurofeedback” says she spent decades trying to heal kids with early attachment wounds, but found we can’t talk to the parts of the brain formed from conception to 36 months; those parts have no speech. So she made no progress until she tried neurofeedback in 1996. It can talk to those parts: http://www.futurehealth.org/Podcast/Sebern-Fisher-Attachment-by-Rob-Kall-100516-497.html
I’d bet maybe 20% of us have “developmental trauma” like that, as I do, which means that life was one continuous trauma “since the sperm hit the egg.” For what it looks like when Mom is too scary for her child to attach, check http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma-2/
I was moved to tears by Ms. Fisher’s more recent interview “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma,” as she described how deeply necessary love and attachment are to the creation of a human brain. It’s because we crave the regulation of our nervous system which love can bring, that our brains respond to neurofeedback signals which feel calmer and even loved: http://shrinkrapradio.com/452-neurofeedback-in-the-treatment-of-developmental-trauma-with-sebern-fisher-m-a/
And: here’s an amazing blog by Dr. Tina Hahn MD, “My Neurofeedback Journey,” on the BrainPaint® home neurofeedback system she’s using.
Find a Neurofeedback Practitioner: Online Directories:
1. EEG Spectrum International [Ms. Fisher’s husband John Fisher was president of this co.] Directory: http://www.esiaffiliatesforum.com/providers
2. EEG Institute Provider Directory: http://directory.eeginfo.com/
Trauma, Up Front and Personal
Ms. Fisher got into therapy and attachment work in the first place because she herself had developmental trauma. She also had a lot of head injury and traumatic brain injury. One of the first things to be healed when Ms Fisher began neurofeedback herself were her terrible migraines, which have never returned. She still uses neurofeedback because, she says, “I have had a lot of head injuries so I am at a greater risk of Alzheimer’s than other people, but all of the signs of head injury and traumatic brain injury that I had are all gone.”
Here are some salient quotes from Ms. Fisher’s NICABM interview:
“Neurofeedback is biofeedback to the neuronal activity of the brain. It is a computer interface where you pick up the firing of the brain in the EEG (electro-encephalogram) in real-time, scrolling for a therapist and client to look at together. By challenging their brain through feedback, we can see that the EEG is changing,” she starts.
“And obviously the change that I am most concerned about is change in levels of fear. Mostly what I am concerned about is quieting fear, so let’s take that situation. We know that the fear circuits are in the temporal lobe and that survival’s fear circuit, the survival amygdala, is in the right hemisphere. We’re trying to say to the brain – not to the person– “Stop practicing that fear-driven over-arousal. Chill. Get quiet!”
“Now, if people could do this on their own, they wouldn’t need the game or the neurofeedback. [So she’s never harsh on the person; she just re-trains their brain.] We have to find the frequency that works for that particular individual – it’s going to be different for everyone. They tell me two or three days later that, on the whole, they have been calm, they have been sleeping, they are less reactive, and/or they are making easier eye contact. That is what I mean by works….
“I had a young woman, who had been adopted from a third-world country. She had been in an orphanage after having been delivered in a shoebox from a police station. They fed her with an eyedropper, not ever expecting that she was going to live. She had every possible level of disorganization: she couldn’t read; she bumped into doorjambs; she had a very difficult time negotiating through life.
“I was now meeting her out of a mental hospital, and she was in her twenties. [After neurofeedback training] she comes in and tells me this story. She was always the last one chosen for any sports team, as you can imagine, when she was a kid, and now she’s stabilized enough to be dating. She is out with a guy, they are waiting to go to a movie, and they go to a batting cage – she hits 90% of the balls. Therapy could never get somebody from bumping into walls to being able to hit 90% of the balls! Her boyfriend was very impressed…
“Neurofeedback is deeply organizing to the nervous system. This goes deep into the nervous system; neurofeedback is healing deep into the CNS, the central nervous system, and through the brain.
“I had one patient who was given the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and had been hospitalized multiple times. She very much wanted to do neurofeedback training because she felt like she had gone as far as she could with psychotherapy, and she still wanted to drive off a bridge every day! We used two different protocols: the eyes-open protocol – it doesn’t matter what the specifics were for her – but she got stabilized in 20 sessions, and then we did the alpha-theta protocol. She did 30 or 40 sessions. All together, she had about 60 sessions, then it was over. She did not meet any criteria for Borderline Personality and she no longer wanted to jump off a bridge.
“She actually got married and had a baby, and went on to advance her career. I saw her once after that ending, and it was when a pet that had been her primary object of attachment, was killed in a freak accident. She came back in and she was very distressed. An additional trauma can also throw the brain back into its known pattern of firing. So we trained about four times, to address the state she was in, and she very quickly reorganized and was off again.
Repair of Attachment with Neurofeedback
(Interviewer Dr. Buczynski): “How do you think of attachment and repairing of attachment in regard to neurofeedback?
Fisher: “Oh, that’s a wonderful question, and it is somewhat amazing that this happens. In my experience, what I have seen is that people always seem to want relational connection.
“Things can get in the way – if you are having something akin to a seizure and you’re constantly living in fear; it is very difficult to imagine relationship as a primary part of your life. But we are social creatures; we are meant to relate to one another. That is our safety; that is our harbor, as my patient said, and when you find a way to quiet the fear-driven brain, what emerges quite spontaneously are the attachment circuits.
“I had one patient who was self-abusing and dissociative when she came into sessions. She had not seen her mother nor talked about her mother – so this wasn’t a result of conversation – but her mother had not behaved ideally. She came in one day [after neurofeedback treatment] and said, “I think you might be interested in this: I called my mother last night.” It was spontaneous, and now we could talk about the reality of her mother’s trauma.
“Now, this had been presented to her multiple times, and it even occurred to her, but the dysregulation and high arousal of her nervous system made it pretty meaningless. I see that happening a lot. I see spontaneous family reunion that I have nothing to do with orchestrating, and often, without even talking about it, I see it happen with people who train their brains.”
Kathy’s blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.
FN1 “Neurofeedback: Soothe the Fear of a Traumatized Brain: How a New Intervention Is Changing Trauma Treatment,” Sebern Fisher, MA, BCN, Psychotherapist and Neurofeedback practitioner, Private Practice, Northampton, MA; 10-22-14 Webinar interview by Dr. Ruth Buczynski, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), http://www.nicabm.com/treatingtrauma2014/post-info/
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