Neurofeedback works: Van der Kolk

Bessel website pix vanderKolkportrait1Psychiatrist and trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD posted a neurofeedback webinar August 9 that changes the map on trauma healing: . [Or try this link to a 5 min intro. His  72-min seminar is below at “Click Here to Begin Your Free One Hour:”]

Please forward this to your lists of therapists, colleagues, anyone interested in healing. Dr. van der Kolk has promoted EMDR, yoga, and body work for decades.  Now folks with early trauma can check out neurofeedback.

I’ve so far done 10 months of neurofeedback and the healing is enormous. But it’s not known enough or funded. Getting word out could stop suffering.

At minute 20, van der Kolk shows graphics on how Sebern Fisher introduced him to neurofeedback. “She showed me drawings that traumatized kids did of their families (stick figures), then how they developed after 20 weeks of neurofeedback (real people), after 40 weeks (an attached group), and I was blown away by their development,” he said.

“There’s nothing I know that can do that,” he said. “When you see something like that, you pay attention. Can my psychoanalysis do that?  Can my acceptance and commitment therapy do that?  Can my friends who do EMDR or Somatic Experiencing do that?  No.  Nothing I know of can do THAT.  Time to learn new things.”

Don’t hire just any provider. A neurofeedback practitioner with 1. Five-ten years’ neurofeedback; 2. A certificate from or; and 3. Familiarity with attachment issues, is a good place to start.  A good neurofeedback therapist won’t do “one size fits all.”  Ask to be sure that they carefully adjust it to each individual and keep re-adjusting.

My blog on neurofeedback with links to Sebern Fisher interviews is here:

Find a Neurofeedback Practitioner Online Directories are here:
1. EEG Spectrum International:  2. EEG Institute Directory:
Sebern Fisher says both are fine. Only #2 had a provider near me; he’s great. He’s got all 3 features above.  My insurance covers it for a $35 copay.

Am I In Tune — Or Not?

Neurofeedback Before & After mirasol.netAs for me, I feel calmer, more centered, less frightened, and less easily triggered every day. It works on long-term issues.

Still, I felt shocked as van der Kolk described “ways of being” which I have in spades, but never knew are symptoms of brain disorganization. This knocked me for a loop:

“Our brain is shaped by human interactions, by the way that people respond to us, to rhythms, voices, touch, sounds, how we make music together,” he said. “We are rhythmic machines; I talk to you and move my hands, my face, and I image you responding in kind.

“But if you talk to your partner and they freeze their face, your mind goes blank — because we need feedback… If the world does not respond to you, if people do not smile at you, if as a little kid  when you come home people say, “Oh, you again”?  You miss the experience of being in tune with people. It goes to the very core of our central nervous system.”

At this point (6 minutes in) I had to lay down and sob for 10 minutes. Feeling what he said totaled me.  I had no attunement experiences until I was 4  1/2 and my sister was born. No responses, no rhythm.

“If you have many attunement experiences,” he said, ” when you get scared, someone’s there so the feeling gets repaired; someone gets mad but soon they repair it, then you get a sense of flow with other people. You know we can do things together, we can work things out. You know I can have a voice because my voice has an impact on you. You can have a voice because your voice has an impact on me.”

Again I was sobbing.  What is he talking about?  Have a voice, what’s that?  I never had an impact. Work things out?  Unheard of.  I’m terrified at mis-attunement.  I have no experience that what I feel matters.

In abuse or neglect, he said, “these neural rhythms get broken. The most important parts of the brain to grow in first years of life get you in tune with people, tell you what to be scared of, when to feel safe, how to connect, how to be in synch.”  I was never in synch.

At minute 15:30 he shows astonishing brain scans (click on graphic above). When normal people hear a strange sound (“eeek”), he says, they need to figure out what it means, “so all the different parts of the brain synchronize to focus on that. They’ve developed an N-200 filtering wave that says ‘ignore your phone, your hunger… just pay attention to this sound.’

“But traumatized people have enormous problems filtering out irrelevant information. They are hyper-stimulated by sounds, sights, images, body sensation, have a terrible time filtering them out. As you see here, traumatized people have very different wave forms. Different parts of the brain are not in synch… which explains why they have such a hard time learning from new experiences… taking new information into the brain, paying attention, taking in life as it comes, learning from it.”

That’s me. I’m hyper-stimulated by sounds, sights, images, body sensation. Half the time I can’t filter them out.  This last point really concerns me.  I had no idea that most people can filter out these things.

I just called my neurofeedback therapist and told him that I need a lot more help. “I’m afraid both of us under-estimate how disorganized my brain is,” I said. “You may want to try other areas of my brain for your sensors and/or other procedures” during neurofeedback.

Thank Heaven for neurofeedback and fighters like Dr. van der Kolk.


Kathy’s news 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.

Comments are encouraged, with the usual exceptions; rants, political speeches, off-color language, etc. are unlikely to post.  Starting 8-22-16, software will limit comments to 1030 characters (2 long paragraphs) a while, until we get new software to take longer comments again.

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47 responses to “Neurofeedback works: Van der Kolk

  1. So glad I found this blog Kathy,
    I have the developmental PTSD with all the insecure attachment, avoidant, ambivalent and disorganized. I used to live in India, there was no neurofeedback where I was. Now I am in France, started somatic psychotherapy which I eventually had to end prematurely because the therapist felt powerless when I lied frozen in front of him, terrorized just because of transference… Ouch.
    I am going to start another therapy tomorrow but today remembered van der Kolk praise for NF and thought of searching for NF in the the region. How great, there are several providers!
    However none of them are psychotherapist, and none do the kind of NF that actively stimulates the brain, only systems where you listen to music/watch a film-when it detects some abnormal signal, it interrupts the music/film for a sec. I remember that this is not the most effective training, it’s much faster to add direct stimulation, otherwise over 30 session are needed, without guaranteed success. Right? What would you…

  2. Hi Kathy, I had childhood trauma and multiple adult traumas (it seems to become a domino effect after a point) I also suffer from PMDD, a cellular dysfunction that makes sufferers hypersensitive to normal levels of hormones so think PMS Sooooo bad physically, mentally, emotionally and soulfully that 15% of women who have this condition attempt suicide. I have a feeling that as much as a biological basis has been found for this, CPTSD is a major contributing factor. I would say my attachment type is anxious preoccupied with a weird twist of avoidance as soon as someone actually loves me! Do you think NF can help?

  3. Thank you Kathy.

    Using 1. EEG Spectrum International: 2. EEG Institute Directory:
    I’m not able to find anyone in my state. But I did find a therapist that was studying with John Demos. She’s new to NF. Yet after a qeeg and adjusting protocols I found myself wanting to work. i have a 12 hr per week job. Any somethings have shifted a lot over 12 seasons. Yet I’m still very fear avoidant. I have DTD and have never been able to function very long without shutting down.

    I’m very curious about using the Fisher FPo2 protocol. But can’t find anyone in my state.

    Does anyone have any feedback about the FPo2 protocol. Perhaps someone can suggest a an experienced NF provider that could supervise my provider

  4. I just finished session 14 of “BrainPaint” neurofeedback developed by Bill Scott. I am absolutely healing my very young traumatized brain at my chronological age of 61. I have increased my sessions to x3 a week. I have a life long history of psychotherapy. The closest to healing myself was in relation to a psychotherapist in my 20’s. Carl Jung’s work gave me a format of understanding archetypes but left me suspended. BrainPaint actually makes the inner connections. Mindfulness skills of observation without judgement allows me to watch my own progress. My memories of childhood being disconnected are connecting in sense. I suspect that I am growing up. My goal is to heal myself and become a provider of “BrainPaint”!

  5. I’m curious whether there are others out there who have *not* had a dramatic/great response to neurofeedback? I’ve now done nearly 40 sessions over eight months, and can’t honestly say whether it’s helped. For awhile I thought I was experiencing a very subtle, very gradual, but definite improvement; but for the last month or so the depressive symptoms have been the worst in a long time. Thanks for any feedback. And Kathy, thanks so much for this site.

    • Please tell your neurofeedback provider in detail whenever you feel bad! They’re supposed to make changes in an effort to help you feel better. If it goes on too long, I’d get a new provider.

      • One of the owners of the practice where I do NF (Ed Hamlin) is a consultant to Bessel and is mentioned in his book. I see his partner (Mary Ammerman), who teaches around the country, is knowledgeable and experienced, and who consults w/ Ed regularly. So I feel confident that she’s highly qualified. Their approach is methodical and based on research, where Sebern Fisher’s is based primarily on intuition. At least when beginning work with someone w/ developmental trauma, they use the same protocols used at Bessel’s trauma center. Many people are familiar w/ the Othmer method, which they don’t use; but Mary has told me that part of the problem w/ NF is that no one method has proven to be superior. I keep detailed charts and notes and inform Mary. So I feel confident that she knows what my experience is, and any other factors which may be influencing my mental/emotional state. It’s discouraging so many people have had such great experiences with NF while I haven’t; but I haven’t given up…

  6. Another resource to check out is where you can purchase your own system and do unlimited training at home. The owner of the company, Pete, has worked directly with Sebern Fisher doing seminars regarding how Nuerofeedback treats developmental trauma. I’ve done well over a hundred sessions and have many more to go but the results have been nothing short of miraculous based on what I’ve experienced so far. I’m patient realizing deep healing comes in many layers and stages and love the real results of feeling more human and loving along the way. I’ve been experiencing life and relationships since I started NF as if a new person has been born in my body and it’s all because NF has remothered (as Fisher likes to put it) my nervous system and begun to reattach my neural wiring on the deepest levels of my core. I’m finally breaking the generational curse of my family from their insane dysfunctional attachment system.

  7. I’m looking for some affordable options for neurofeedback in the Vermont area. Complex PTSD has left me unable to work. I’m on ssdi. Thankfully I am working with a somatic experiencing therapist 2 times per month.

  8. I’ve found a provider who has 17 years experience and a big heart. I’m attaching to him because he is warm and fatherly. My father was emotionally absent (my mother is emotionally stunted), so this clouds my judgment in the search for therapists. This provider is aware of my attachment trauma and says he feels comfortable supporting me. He isn’t registered on the web sites but was recommended by a therapist who is EEGSpectrum certified. This provider trained directly with Sigfried Othmer and uses his tech. He doesn’t do qEEGs but when I wanted one to customize the protocol he was kind and found someone to give me a discount. I feel so much genuine kindness from him, he has continuously gone above and beyond for me, one of a rare few.

    • He listens to my concerns and it seems like I shouldn’t have doubts. But I do. Because he isn’t a therapist or psychiatrist. Not that there aren’t shitty ones who know nothing about RAD etc. He is compassionate and charges much less than the mental health “pros” in my area. This is my challenge with finding an attachment-based therapist. I desperately want to attach and at the same time don’t feel safe with anyone. I am also having a hard time being focused on by someone. The most relief I’ve found is in spaces without talking. I went to a Trauma Sensitive Yoga class and just laid on my back and deeply relaxed last week. My main point is this… I’m not in a state to make a choice based on the facts and my intuition. Were you ever in this place? What did you do? There’s so much guilt, fear, inner criticism, and general confusion clouding my judgment.

      • I’ve been in exactly this place and from your detailed description, you’ve found a great human being, give him a serious try! Neurofeedback works and this person knows what he’s doing. I also desperately wanted to attach and terrified of it at the same time; our condition is so common it has a name: the Need/Fear Dilemma. What we need the most, we fear the most. Please try your best to attach and let the fear just wash over you, this good man and Neurofeedback will help you learn to reduce the fear and keep the attachment you need.

        • I started working with this provider and opted out of qEEG for the moment. His clinical experience is that they have not been useful for him. Sebern Fisher doesn’t use them necessarily either. I don’t have head trauma that I know of. The practitioner is not a mental health guy and he does a general approach. That’s the downside. But he knows my history, he gives me space to express my anger, is available if I need to contact (this is nice but having had bad therapy experiences where therapists welcomed my incoherent and endless messages resulting in too much attachment too quickly and then trauma, this isn’t always a good thing…

          • This man has seen various sides of me, angry, untrusting, scared, confident…various fragments. And I’ve seen things in him that remind me of my father, which I’m weighing in establishing a relationship with him. I’ve only had 2 sessions. I can already tell I’m better able to be with my emotions without them exploding all over others when triggered or driving impulsivity. And the world is looking a little less 2D (emotionally and relationally). I’ve already tried to quit and he was very kind about it. He has made quite a few policy exceptions for me and I appreciate his kindness. And of course I simultaneously don’t trust it. But the warm feelings I get in those moments where fragmented parts of me come online and are integrated into me via body…

          • sensations make it a little easier to slowly attach. Of course, I don’t want to invalidate the part of my experience where I am wary and critical as I should be with anyone. Which means a learning curve for him and the need for me to really voice my needs. But I’m giving it a shot. I’ll make it through the next block of sessions and then see how I feel. Human he is, with his own flaws. I’m so great at finding every little thing about someone I don’t like or trust. Is that a familiar experience? Anyway, I don’t want to idealize him and need to disentangle him as a person from him as a professional. Hard for me to do. Just wanted to voice this as a way to validate my experience.

  9. Hi, Kathy. I’ve read your site off and on for over a year now. I’ve had an addiction since I was 4 years old or so. I’m 34 now. I gave up the addiction last year. I’ve been doing Somatic Experiencing since May and it has helped immensely. But now I have a neurofeedback session next Friday. I’m excited and scared too. I literally live dissociated. Always have. Just didn’t know it. I have three children and one on the way, yet I’m terrified of my children. I pray that these sessions help with the dissociation and fear centers in my brain while the somatic experiencing helps discharge the bodily trauma. God bless you, Kathy

  10. Just wanted to acknowledge that some of us DO very much appreciate all you do! I felt a little panicked and “bummed out” when it made no sense to continue the trauma therapist because of my realization that my alexithymia “nuked” the EMDR she was doing which left me without any “active psychotherapist,” a concern in itself. I’m immediately proceeding to look for an “attachment-based therapist” on your suggestion (even if I’m not sure what to look for but I’ve carefully described my situation so I’ll start by seeing how well they “self-select”). Again many thanks for all you do! If it weren’t for your website I wouldn’t even have known how much things need to change let alone which way to go!

  11. Since I posted before I found a NF therapist that I personally like a lot and I’ve had 3 sessions, haven’t really felt much change yet but it’s early. Here’s the deal though, I’ve read some of Sebern’s book and understand a little, and it was in reading her book that I’ve come to understand the concept of alexithymia (extreme difficulty understanding or expressing emotions), and I have it. So that’s why the EMDR was working so poorly (she always asked “how does this make you feel?”) and why I decided to let go of my trauma therapist! I’m wondering if anyone really knows though whether there’s much of a likelihood that NF therapy could cure or at least improve my situation with regard to this, can anyone report any experience in this regard or any positive progress in this matter?

    • Dr. van der Kolk and Sebern Fisher report and document massive progress using neurofeedback in hundreds of cases exactly like you in the video and audio links in this blog above. I had alexithymia, it’s common in deep child trauma like we’ve both had. We just need to be patient with the neurofeedback and it does not replace finding a really experienced attachment-based therapist. We need both. I can report progress on this using neurofeedback and so have numerous people commenting on this blog here and on the earlier blog I did on Sebern Fisher. Here’s one guest blog from a reader on what her progress with neurofeedback felt like and a few more readers are writing more such blogs to post here.

  12. Hello. I’m reading everything I can about Neurofeedback for my son who is multiple disabled with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Moderate Intellectual Impairment, and Profound Deaf. I’m getting different information as to Neurofeedback being something he can do without hearing. He has a cochlear implant but refuses to wear the processor. He isn’t able to tell us why as he doesn’t understand life the way we do. A recent qEEG showed his auditory processing area is red. My thinking is that he doesn’t know what to do with the sound coming in, hence the problems in the auditory processing area, and if we can “heal” that area of his brain, perhaps he will enjoy wearing the processor and the sound coming in. I have found a local place who uses the NeurOptimal device so if you have any thoughts or experience with that, I would appreciate the information. My son is 12. Please, we are in desperate need to help. Thank you.

  13. Hi Kathy, can you help me? I’m retired and on Medicare, I’m trying to find a practitioner who either accepts that or is affordable. I’ve found an occasional NF provider who takes Medicare but only in the context of physical therapy, and apparently those folks don’t even have the infra-low or Signet equipment that EEG institute says is needed for this modality (not to mention I believe you need a physician’s referral to use them). My C-PTSD is real bad, in particular my hypervigilance insomnia is so severe I need to take an antipsychotic to get to sleep at all. I already have a regular trauma therapist AND a shrink, and I’ve already been in therapy for over a decade, but the only therapists available (I’m in SoCal too) want close to $200/hr which I guess would be OK with private insurance but WAY over my head for the current fiscal situation, do you have any idea what I’m supposed to do??

  14. Thanks for posting about this, Kathy. The more people can be made aware of this effective method, the better. I have been doing NFB since January after trying psychodynamic therapy twice a week for almost 4 years and not getting very far, if not worse, in my presenting symptoms dealing with dissociative identity disorder, attachment disorder, and PTSD. I was quite literally at the end of my rope and losing hope that I would ever get better. Similar to you, with neurofeedback I started seeing positive results very quickly, not only in my mental and physical symptoms, but it also improved how i was relating to my therapist. Due to not having any practitioners that are close by, I have my own set-up at home and do sessions with my husband’s assistance. The therapist who helped us set up our unit has invited us to an intimate training seminar with Sebern Fisher at his clinic in November. I’m very excited for the opportunity to meet her and hopefully learn some more protocols to use.

  15. I appreciate your feedback and guidelines, Kathy. Like you, I’ve done lots of therapy including Internal Family Systems, Somatic Experiencing & now NARM. I no longer fit the diagnosis for CPTSD, HOWEVER…and it’s a big HOWEVER, despite all of the hard earned healing work I have done with some of the best, highly skilled trauma therapists, I still get triggered once & while. It’s very frustrating. I had decided last year NOT to do neurofeedback because I felt it would feel to invasive (treatment being done to me) & retraumatizing, and starting to have second thoughts about that. I am familiar with Dr. van der Kolk’s work and while he speaks highly of neurofeedback it’s hard to find the right person to work with. When I considered neurofeedback last summer, the therapist said there was no guarantee that it was going to work. (She’s trained w/ Sebern Fisher). and it was going to be about $1200 a month for twice a week sessions… That seemed steep. Wondering why my session were going to be so expensive?

    • Good news: it’s 100% non-invasive. The wires only monitor the brain like an EKG monitors the heart; they can’t transmit. Screen & audio send the feedback, a frequency tailored to calm each brain. My insurance covers it at $35 copay; $315 for 9 sessions. If you have insurance but a provider still wants $1,200 for ca. 9 sessions, please check other providers. Try to find one with 1. Five-ten years’ neurofeedback, enough to know not to retraumatize us; 2. A certificate from or; 3. Familiarity with attachment issues. A good neurofeedback person won’t do “one size fits all.” Ask to be sure that they adjust it to each individual and keep re-adjusting. Find a Provider: EEG Spectrum EEG Institute Sebern Fisher says both are fine.

  16. I am so grateful to you for sharing this information. I’ve worked with a somatic psychotherapist specializing in attachment trauma healing for 5 years as well as done EMDR and other healing modalities yet still suffer from depression, memory problems and struggle with impulse control. I’m going to give Neurofeedback a try in hopes to improve my quality of life. Thank you for sharing your story and resources. YOU are making a difference and helping many!

    • I got major healing from Somatic Experiencing with a attachment trauma specialist for 5 years. But my startle response and anxiety, while greatly reduced, remain. Neurofeedback is really helping. It just takes time when we took such a big wound as infants. The key is to know It’s Not Your Fault; it was done to you. That’s what therapists are for: just feel the hurt while being with another human and melt into the compassion, like Matt Damon and Robbin Williams: I haven’t seen that clip in a year. Watching just now after 10 months’ neurofeedback, amazing how I both understand and feel it so much more deeply…

  17. Debbie Ingraham

    I’m 63 years old. I’ve been in and out of treatment for trauma for 50 years – since I was 13 years old. I started Neurofeedback this summer and I’ve never experienced anything like it . I am seeing significant changes in a very short period of time. I’m sure I have a ways to go with it, but so far NF has been a fascinating and wonderful experience for which I am very grateful. I’m eager to continue with it.

    • That’s fantastic! Let me know if you want to write a guest blog on it and we can post it here on my website.

      • Debbie Ingraham

        Kathy – thank you very much for inviting me to write a guest blog – I would love to do that. Would writing it in October be okay? Right now I am lightly journaling my experience, while trying to stay very present to my process without trying to analyze it too much. I think I could write in a more meaningful way if I had more NF sessions and more time to process and put my thoughts together.

  18. Thanks, Kathy. 🙂 And thanks for the blog post. I found it through I watched the video. It was very powerful and helpful. It’s always good to hear how providers explain neurofeedback. Julie
    Julie Nelligan wrote | August 23, 2016 at 11:39 am
    In reply to Connie below | August 16, 2016 at 6:39 pm
    If you’re interested in being trained as a neurofeedback provider, look into EEG Info. That’s where I got trained. They do a great job and have lots of opportunity for continuing education: Julie

  19. Can it help young & middle age adult victims of traumatic crime?

  20. Could i write to you? What is your website? I am very impressed with what you expressed here and want to find out more.

  21. Thank You for posting and for including the links.

  22. How frequent are you neurofeedback sessions? Have you heard anything about LENS neurofeedback? Thanks again for keeping your ears open & bringing us things like this webinar.

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