Neurofeedback for Helping Professionals

You may have heard or read about neurofeedback which may have piqued your interest about its potential.

There are many resources addressing how neurofeedback works, whether on this website, other providers of neurofeedback and others discussing the potential and particulars about neurofeedback in various mediums.

Rather than to discuss the specific process of neurofeedback brain training here, what I would like to talk about in this post are my thoughts and subjective experience of regularly training with the NeurOptimal system, specifically relating to my work as a registered psychotherapist.

Firstly, in my professional work and in my personal philosophy, I strongly believe in our brains’ ability to be reflexive and adaptive.  In other words, my beliefs are grounded in the science of neuroplasticity.

The potential of change work based in neuroplasticity is promising for shifts in mood, beliefs, habits and more.  Further, based on my training in relational psychotherapy, I hold a belief that our relational experiences are impacted greatly by principles of neuroplasticity, specifically the existence and mechanics of our ‘mirror neurons’.

Wikipedia offers the following definition:

“Some researchers in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology consider that this system provides the physiological mechanism for the perception/action coupling (see the common coding theory).  They argue that mirror neurons may be important for understanding the actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation. Some researchers speculate that mirror systems may simulate observed actions, and thus contribute to theory of mind skills, while others relate mirror neurons to language abilities.
Neuroscientists such as Marco Iacoboni (UCLA) have argued that mirror neuron systems in the human brain help us understand the actions and intentions of other people. In a study published in March 2005 Iacoboni and his colleagues reported that mirror neurons could discern whether another person who was picking up a cup of tea planned to drink from it or clear it from the table. In addition, Iacoboni has argued that mirror neurons are the neural basis of the human capacity for emotions such as empathy.” (Emphasis added by me.)

How is this possibly relevant to you as a helping professional and practitioner?

Because I work relationally in my practice, I am aware that I am consistently attuning to others in ways that are more concentrated than, in say, social situations.  

And while I work to consciously attune with intention to multiple people per day, I have often wondered: “Is my brain able to finely distinguish the difference between the neural experience of others and my own?  That is, enough to distinguish my own mood, affect and potentially thoughts from those of others?”

While I don’t believe I have any handy and concrete ways of being able to answer these questions, I can speculate that the neural experience of others and my own likely co-exist alongside one another within my brain and mind.

The follow-up question for me then becomes: “If I am consistently adding the neural experiences of others to my own, what might be the potential long-term impact this may have on my personal neural functioning and experiences?”

Again, I speculate that there would be some kind of impact whether it be emotional/compassion/professional fatigue or maybe even burn-out, without a practice in place to address this specific phenomena.

This not only can be problematic for me as an individual outside of my work, but I believe it would hinder my ability to work as effectively as I can professionally as well.  

For me, how I have found to address this concern is neurofeedback.  

In addition to my other mindfulness practices, regularly engaging in neurofeedback training intentionally returns me to my own optimal brain functioning or neural activities.  

I understand it this way: When brain training, the neurofeedback system provides me with real-time information of my brain’s electrical activity and it lets me know when there are signs of dysregulation.  When my brain is provided with the feedback, it is given the opportunity to self-correct... or to self-correct toward my own functioning.

In my experience, neurofeedback has provided me with a feeling and sense of clarity, flexibility in thoughts, and a deeper feeling of being able to separate myself from my thoughts.  Through my own personal work and mindfulness practices, I had learned to not overly associate myself with my thoughts, but neurofeedback deepened this particular practice for me.

Those of us who work in the helping professions do much more than provide the services that we do.  I truly believe that we give of ourselves in may ways, and perhaps in some ways which we may not even realize.

I can see this idea and reality being true for all helping professionals, from psychotherapists, psychologists, MDs, counsellors to mind-body therapists, including and not limited to, massage therapists, naturopaths, osteopaths, and more.

If you are curious about trying neurofeedback to see how it can be beneficial for you as a helping professional, please reach out by email or via the contact form.  I welcome the opportunity of connecting with you.