Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

Thursday, Aug 03  •  


Jen Tolman Ph.D
Director of Specialty Services

Dr. Steven Hayes, the founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT–a values-guided approach to thinking about oneself and how we relate to the world) suggests the reason people come to therapy or treatment is because they notice a gap between how they are living their lives and how they WANT to be living their lives; the purpose of therapy, therefore, is to narrow that gap.

As a psychologist working with patients on a day-to-day basis, one is in constant search of ways to improve patient outcomes, both as it relates to improving the well-being of the patient and the efficiency with which this happens. As a result, we seek first to interpersonally improve ourselves and what we bring to the therapeutic alliance (patient-therapist relationship) and to offer to our patients skills which we know to be effective in helping them manage more effectively in the real world.

Avalon Hills has been working diligently to find ways of improving outcomes in residential care. In so doing, we have been in collaboration with the world’s leaders on brain-based treatment strategies, because we have learned that talk-therapy is necessary, but not sufficient in helping patients achieve sustainable recovery. One of these experts is Dr. Ed Hamlin from the Institute for Applied Neuroscience. His life’s work has been spent in learning about and teaching others how to alter maladaptive brain patterns.

In early July, I was fortunate to travel to San Francisco and learn from Dr. Hamlin and Dr. Mary Ammerman, also of the Institute for Applied Neuroscience, in a 4-day introductory workshop on Neurofeedback, or EEG brainwave biofeedback. Over the course of this training, we discussed the complexity of the brain and its miraculous ability to change and adapt (both structurally and organizationally), based on one’s life experiences. We learned how to interpret signals from the brain to determine levels of brain activity. With this information, we then learned how to help patients re-train their own brains to work at more optimal levels, based on this feedback. There is significant empirical support suggesting neurofeedback is effective in improving brain function (and therefore, life function) in patients with ADHD, Seizure Disorders, Addictions, PTSD among others.

Avalon Hills leads the residential eating disorders field in working with neurofeedback (and particularly the qEEG) as part of an integrated approach to the treatment of eating disorders. Patients regularly participate in neurofeedback, in an effort to train their brains to function more adaptively. As they become more proficient at training their brains, they are able to move in the direction of valued living. It is one more way in which we strive to help patients narrow the gap between how they’re living their lives and how they want to be living their lives.

If interested in learning more about neurofeedback or the training, visit: http://www.ian-asheville.com/

Jen Tolman, Ph.D
Director of Specialty Services