Working with Dr. Ed Hamlin, one of the world leaders in neurofeedback, Avalon Hills has pioneered the use of this treatment to help clients with Eating Disorders. It’s completely non-invasive, and involves tailor-made brain exercises to help people process negative emotions, and have more access to positive emotional experience and peace of mind.
For instance, many of our clients, are often very anxious, and at times obsessive, compulsive, perfectionistic and highly self-critical. The tendency to be perfectionistic is often driven by anxiety and a temperamental tendency to be hyper-conscientious—conscientious to a fault. We are also pioneers in using a non-invasive brain scan, called a Quantitative EEG (qEEG) to help clients see how their brains are operating when they are over-anxious, obsessive or compulsive, and then tailoring an individualized program for her to change that. We have the largest library of these scans for Eating Disorder patients in the world, and we are learning from them.
We can show a client the area of her brain that is active when she is anxious and upset, for instance, and teach her how to use neurofeedback to turn down that anxiety or other unwanted tendencies, if she wishes. We can help her do the same with her recurring negative thoughts and self-criticisms. In individual, group and other mind-based therapies, she will learn what triggers her anxiety and Eating Disorder behaviors. Her brain training will teach her to “shift gears” from that anxiety to a calm focus, using her mind’s ability to change brain activity. Few people know that this is possible, but it’s possible to do so using neurofeedback.
Each client’s neurofeedback program is individualized. Because neurofeedback gives clients precise measures of where they are, and precise measures of what to aim for, perfectionistic people often like the idea of training for an incremental improvement that is under their control. Instead of trying to get people to drop their perfectionism outright, we help them learn to use it in healthy ways.
The result is that our clients feel more peace of mind, and can better think through problems without feeling the need to resort to Eating Disorder behaviors. They feel less tension, urgency, less of a need to react to distress with eating behaviors. Less anxious, they can be more reflective, put more of their feelings into words, and become more empathic with themselves and others. This helps their individual psychotherapy go deeper, and work better.
Because we do an individualized brain-based assessment we can also see if there are potential capacities a client has that they don’t know about. Our scans can show brain areas that are under or over stimulated in her everyday life. We can teach her to activate some of those areas and improve her cognitive capacities, and her ability to feel in control. Clients find looking at the scans very helpful. And, we can also show our clients the effects that starvation has on the brain, which can motivate them to protect their most precious organ.
In 2008, the Association for Applied Psychophysiology (AAPB), the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA), and the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) approved the following definition of biofeedback:
“Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. These instruments rapidly and accurately "feed back" information to the user. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument.”
“Biofeedback is a physiologically based learning tool to help people recognize how their physiologies are functioning under various circumstances. They can use this information to learn how to control those aspects that are not functioning optimally.
With proper training, biofeedback can be used by professionals in many fields. Biofeedback is NOT used as a treatment alone, nor can it be used alone to make a diagnosis. Rather it is an adjunctive tool to be combined with other standard interventions carried out by knowledgeable clinicians, educators, or coaches....
Hundreds of well-controlled studies have shown that the signals usually recorded as the basis for performing biofeedback (such as muscle tension and brain waves) are related to the symptoms being addressed. The recording technology is standardized and is accepted within professional communities involved with making psychophysiological recordings. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and equivalent international bodies provide regulatory support for biofeedback equipment.” (From aapb.org)
At Avalon Hills, we do not use any form of biofeedback as a “stand alone” therapeutic intervention. We integrate multiple forms of biofeedback and neurofeedback with traditional forms of individual and group psychotherapy. Some of the primary biofeedback and neurofeedback modalities we use are:
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV) training (see heartmath.com)
- Muse (see choosemuse.com)
- EEGer (see eegspectrum.com)
Our neurofeedback applications are guided by a quantitative EEG Evaluation conducted on site and then sent to the Center for the Advancement of Human Potential in Ashville, North Carolina. After the clinical findings are examined by a neurologist to determine the presence or absence of clinical abnormalities, the EEG is interpreted and treatment recommendations are offered by Dr. Ed D. Hamlin, Ph.D., BCN, a clinical psychologist Board Certified in Neurofeedback by the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIC). Dr. Hamlin continues to confer with our treatment team throughout the resident’s course of neurofeedback applications.
We have worked closely with Dr. Ed Hamlin to develop our Applied Neuroscience department. To learn more about Dr. Hamlin and his work, click here.