Teen Neurofeedback Treatment is a therapeutic technique that focuses on teaching teens to learn to manage and regulate their brain function, in an effort to cope with, manage, and/or overcome symptoms related to Mental Health-related illnesses. Neurofeedback is incorporated within treatment for a number of different disorders, including but not limited to ADD, ADHD, sleep disorder, and depression. This technique can be thought of as a therapeutic learning process, where real-time information of brain activity is used to teach teens how to self-regulate certain reactions and/or aspects of brain activity.
The two processes of gaining this information in Neurofeedback are:
- Electroencephalography (EEG)
- Hemoencephalography (HEG)
EEG is a process in which sensors are placed on the scalp in order to measure brain waves, while HEG uses MRIs to measure brain blood flow. With the information gathered from these tests, therapists can determine areas of the brain that may be over or under-active, which in turn may be affecting symptoms related to the mental illness. During Neurofeedback sessions, teens actually get to watch on a computer screen the different levels of activity in the brain, while being guided by the therapist. At first, the teens will mostly just observe their brain activity, as they won’t know how to regulate or intentionally affect it. However, over time, teens can learn ways to help exercise, control, and/or manage the different parts of their brains, in order to help increase or lessen a certain affect, thereby gaining relief from symptoms.
For instance, in teens with ADHD, some researchers report that it’s common for there to be too many slow brain waves that are associated with relaxation, while there are not enough fast brain waves, associated with strong mental focus. In these instances, therapists work with teens to try to adjust and/or level out their brain waves, through a number of different visualization techniques and other exercises, while teens observe their brain activity, on the screen.
One attribute of Teen Neurofeedback Treatment that is especially valued by some teens and families is that it is a non-medicative approach to helping with symptoms. Especially for teens struggling with things like ADD and ADHD, for which there are not a great abundance of treatment options besides medication, families who are uncomfortable with medication are drawn toward Neurofeedback Treatment. Another benefit of the treatment is that it naturally lends itself well to helping teens develop a sense of self-awareness and also empowerment, as teens are taught that they have the ability to learn to manage and overcome their symptoms.
One thing that’s important to recognize and understand about any treatment modality, including teen neurofeedback treatment, is that it varies according to the individual. This is an obvious and yet, often forgotten, truth of adolescent treatment overall. Even teens with the same substance abuse or mental health disorder diagnosis are likely to have widely different experiences, symptoms, challenges, and reactions to treatment, therapy, therapists, and medications. Again, even though this may seem an obvious fact, people nonetheless often criticize and/or become frustrated with a treatment attempt, because they want a one-size-fixes all remedy. Though perhaps understandably tempting, this is a very dangerous attitude to have toward therapy in general, not only because it can lend itself toward improper and imprecise treatment, but furthermore, because it can discourage teens, making them feel like something is wrong with them, since the treatment isn’t working as successfully or quickly as they might want. Along these lines, we always aim to design teens’ treatment plans according to their own unique symptoms, experiences, interests, and strengths, and only incorporate Neurofeedback if it seems particularly useful to the individual teen. In this way, we try to help teens to understand and embrace the treatment process as just that- a process, in which we will share attempts, struggles, successes, and misses, together, and which we will engage in together, until we succeed.