14 May 2014

Biofeedback for Mental Health

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.We are "blogging for mental health" to talk about an adjunctive treatment that clinicians around the world use in their practice's every day, but is not widely known. Special thanks to the American Psychological Association for organizing this event and to everyone who has chosen to take part and share their voice. 

There are a variety of approaches used by mental health practitioners to treat mental illnesses. They include: pharmacological, psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral and interpersonal. There are also a number of therapy formats: individual therapy, group therapy, couple's therapy and family therapy. The variety of approaches and formats allow clinicians to tailor their approach to suit the clients' needs. 

One technique that we don't hear much about is biofeedback. Biofeedback is a process by which an individual can learn how to change physiological activity in order to improve their health and performance.

"If you can't measure it, you can't improve it."
William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (yup, he's the guy they named the unit of measure after) once said, "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." Well, biofeedback allows one to do precisely that. During a biofeedback session, physiological activity such as skin temperature, heart rate, respiration, muscle tension and brainwaves are monitored and the information is fed back to the therapist and user. 

As a counsellor, one employs a variety of cognitive strategies with their clients because some respond better certain techniques over others. Adding biofeedback to the toolbox can enhance the efficacy of other therapeutic techniques. For example, monitoring a person's stress response during breath training, an autogenic session or guided imagery can confirm whether they are actually relaxing or if they are gaining no benefit. In the biofeedback image example below, the anxious subject is coached to relax in order to make the tree grow. As they activating their parasympathetic nervous system, their finger temperature rises, and the animated tree grows.

There are many applications for biofeedback and mental health. This past February at our annual meeting in Venice, Italy, presenters discussed the use of biofeedback for ADHD, OCD, Aspergers and Autism, Stress, Addictions, Anxiety and Depression among other topics. Whether you are a clinician, someone with a mental health challenge or someone who wants to learn ways to keep stress at bay and maintain good mental health, we invite you to learn more about biofeedback!

A great introduction to the subject can be found on YouTube at: 

We invite you to view a recent webinar presented by Linda Walker, MHR, LPC, BCN, BCB on How Biofeedback Benefits Your Clients and Your Practice.

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