Promises Expands Neurofeedback Program
Long-term studies demonstrate that neurofeedback, in conjunction with a 12-step program, raise abstinence rates substantially. In the UCLA study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in 2005, 121 volunteers undergoing an inpatient addiction treatment program were randomly assigned to a neurofeedback or control group. Subjects in the neurofeedback group received 40-50 sessions, and the control group received additional time in treatment. Of the subjects receiving neurofeedback, 77 percent were abstinent at 12 months, compared to 44 percent of the controls. This study has also been successfully replicated by other research teams.
Dr. Shari Corbitt, Senior Executive Director of Promises, explains that neurofeedback utilizes sound and visual frequencies to correct areas of hyper- (over) and hypo- (under) arousal in brain activity. “Over time, neurofeedback sessions help correct symptoms of attention-deficit disorder, sleep disturbances, depression, and anxiety, which in turn helps correct vulnerabilities for relapse,” she said.
Janice Witt, the neurofeedback specialist at Promises, explained that although neurofeedback is not a magic bullet, people who seem “untreatable” are getting better with neurofeedback. “Depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, chronic pain—we can reduce these problems in 60 sessions,” Janice said, adding that people with chronic pain may need up to 80 sessions and people whose trauma has become a personality disorder may need up to 180 sessions.
During the initial neurofeedback session, the client answers 60 questions as part of an intensive assessment. BrainPaint, the software Promises utilizes, incorporates12-step language into the assessment, making it a perfect fit for Promises clients. “The use of this particular software supports our mission as an abstinence-based program, and utilizing an applied neuroscience supports our clients in their mission to be drug-free,” Dr. Corbitt explained, adding that the system is just a small laptop, unlike other neurofeedback installations, which can be complicated and overwhelming for clinicians.
The assessment determines the individual’s vulnerabilities, such as depression, anxiety, concentration and attention problems, sleep disorders, chronic pain, and mood instabilities. The software then designs a protocol for stimulus, and the sound and visual frequencies are set by the protocol. The client is then connected to sensors, the placement of which depends upon the results of the assessment.
“The computer feeds the brain stimulus and the brain takes that information in and changes the brain waves, creating a new neuropathway that’s more adaptive,” Janice explained. “Eventually this pathway becomes more ingrained and the client chooses the more adaptive pathway. As the brain is responding back to the computer, the feedback shows up as beautiful images or ‘paintings’ that come directly from the brain.”
At Promises, neurofeedback is used in a very effective, straightforward way. “Neurofeedback has been available for many years, but it hasn’t been utilized in residential treatment settings before. The people at BrainPaint found a way to make the software user friendly and effective clinically, so we can use the system in the context of a residential treatment center, not a science lab,” Dr. Corbitt explained.
“There are only a handful of treatment centers using neurofeedback now, and in the future, we predict many centers will be using it,” Janice said. “I think it should be a major part of treatment because it’s so important for relapse prevention. Insomnia, migraines, stress—things that contribute to substance abuse and relapse—they’re all brain problems, and we can correct them,” she continued.
“Neurofeeback is used on an individual basis, but we are now making it more accessible to a greater number of clients,” Dr. Corbitt said, expressing her enthusiasm about neurofeedback being a bundled part of the already exceptional treatment program at Promises.