Updated: May 24
Deciding whether to take medication or pursue alternative methods of treating mental health symptoms can be a difficult decision for many people. While medication can work very well in the short term, it’s not necessarily an effective solution in the long term, especially if it doesn’t address the root cause of your symptoms. A promising new alternative to medication is neurofeedback therapy, which treats mental health conditions by helping your
brain self-regulate itself back into normal patterns through real-time feedback and reward systems.
As a psychotherapist and neurofeedback clinician, I’ve been working with clients who have been seeking help managing their mental health symptoms and getting relief from life stressors. Many of my clients have tried medication, but do not want to suffer the side effects or didn't find long term relief. This lead them to finding neurofeedback. Studies show that neurofeedback can be an effective alternative to medication - with relatively permanent effects in longevity. The purpose of this post is to share what I've learned about how neurofeedback works as well as what options are available to people seeking natural solutions for depression, anxiety, ADHD and other mental health symptoms. I'll also share some tips on how you can use neurofeedback as part of your holistic care plan.
It is important to note that we are not prescribing psychiatrists and all information related regarding medication should be carefully reviewed with an MD or psychiatrist.
The most common medications used to treat anxiety and depression either target neurotransmitters in your brain (which affects how you feel) or affect how certain brain regions communicate with each other. However, there are some medications that can be prescribed off-label (meaning they weren’t originally intended as treatments for your symptoms). For example, lamotrigine is often prescribed by psychiatrists as an anti-seizure medication but has also been shown to improve symptoms of depression. With this approach, many clients find adverse side effects that affect daily functioning.
How does neurofeedback work
Our brains are always emitting electrochemical pulses, which are registered by our brainwaves. Our thoughts and emotions affect these brainwaves. In a state of high anxiety or stress, many people exhibit stressful patterns, for example, high beta patterns of brainwave activity in their frontal lobes. These waves indicate that we are in a state of high tension, anxiety, and fight-or-flight response.
Neurofeedback works by recording these brainwaves through a combination of electrodes and an EEG machine. We can then retrain our brains to exhibit more desirable, healthy brainwave patterns. For example, in people with depression or anxiety, neurofeedback helps teach their brains to generate alpha waves instead of beta waves. When we are in a state of calm, relaxed alertness – what we might call alpha – it is easier for us to gain perspective on difficult situations that may be causing anxiety and depression.
In addition, neurofeedback can help your brain respond more effectively to SSRIs and other medications. By teaching your brain to exhibit more normal electrical patterns, neurofeedback essentially increases your body’s ability to process stress. It is not uncommon for us to see clients taper off of medication while completing their neurofeedback program as their brain learns to re-regulate itself.
The options other than medication for mental health symptoms can be both expensive and time-consuming. In fact, our most well-known methods of managing depression and anxiety rely on drugs, therapy or treatment centers with long waiting lists. But there is another option that offers immediate results—one that has actually been clinically proven as a safe alternative to medication. While it does not replace medication, if you are looking for a long lasting holistic approach to alleviating your mental health symptoms, contact us today at 970-232-8909 or by visiting www.connectedbraincounseling.com and filling out a form.