“You learn to pay attention to the moment,“ said Sheila Morgan, a client of Paul Farrington, an Island provider of neurofeedback.
That’s a type of biofeedback, which aims to make people aware of, and thus control, their unconscious reactions.
“I came in like a jigsaw puzzle dropped on the table and came out put together again,” she said.
What’s this moment all about? And just how does neurofeedback work?
“Research has shown that the way we embellish our experiences doesn’t do us any favors,” said Mr. Farrington, who practices in a West Tisbury office. “Mental chatter about things around us is very often an extra add-on. It bogs us down.”
He continued: “These become seeds of our discontent, our problems, which become symptoms of a disease.”
Tell me more.
“Obsessing is a good example,” he explained. “Neurofeedback equipment detects the difference between useful mental effort and the non-useful effort. It’s kind of a signature in energy of brain waves.” We could say that about the nuisance of a cold: it’s useless to fight it, but it’s productive to handle it with rest and plenty of fluids.
“Release the turbulence and invite the person back to the present,” he suggested.
Consider procrastination. The worry about the project is worse than doing it. Mr. Farrington’s goal is to reorient one’s attention to the present, then attitudes change and work gets done.
Neurofeedback doesn’t do anything to anybody. It gives the client the means to redirect himself. The process is one of undoing, rather than doing. One may not even be aware of the change, as it’s on a subconscious level.
I wanted to try it.
Mr. Farrington placed a pair of electrodes on my head, with ground wires on my ear lobes. I sat back in a comfortable chair and listened to soothing music. He explained that each brain wave is one millionth of a volt, and the waves are transmitted onto a computer, which he reads.
When the client’s mind drifts, a brief stutter or break occurs in the music, a tap on the shoulder if you will, and the client is redirected to the present. “Draw them into an experience of feeling good about themselves,” Mr. Farrington said.
I can verify that the music provides profound relaxation and the physical sensation is one of ease and comfort, very mellow. I compare the experience to that euphoric state of peace just before one falls asleep, suspended animation, where comfort and calmness combine to relax the body.
Neurofeedback creates a re-patterning of the brain, which Mr. Farrington said leads to a new state of being.
“It follows the path of least resistance,” he said. He exudes an easy confidence in his work. “I feel I am helping people for whom therapy has not worked.”
Neurofeedback began in the 1930s as scientists sought to measure relaxation by retrieving information from the human body: heart rate, sweat response and skin temperature. It works exclusively with brain waves. Electrical impulses — how neurons communicate — work like neurotransmitters.
In the 1950s, with more sophisticated studies, electrode sensors were used to measure brain wave activity and compared, like a scale in balance. This evolved into an effort to change brain waves. Since 2002, neurofeedback has assumed a holistic perspective. Preventative health is now key to the study of brain wave feedback.
Mr. Farrington gravitated to neurofeedback via a personal search to improve his quality of life, mental health and the dynamics of consciousness. He sought to change consciousness to benefit his client, rather than change their surroundings. He asked rhetorically, “Should I change my shirt or change my mind?”
He said neurofeedback is effective for “normal people” who have trouble falling asleep, focusing their attention or dealing with their emotions. Mr. Farrington said clients with addictions, anxiety, chronic fatigue, depression, epilepsy and other ailments, ranging from hypertension to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, may find solace in neurofeedback.
Patrick Phillips has undergone the neurofeedback experience.
“I went to see what would happen,” he said. “What struck me the most was the physiological connection to the physical response. I was able to respond with levity and ease and feel fully engaged. That, coupled with the sense that response was intuited rather than analyzed,” made the experience worthwhile for him, he said.
The hour-long session is intended to meet a client’s individual needs. A person may go only once, though generally six to eight sessions, twice a week, are most productive, Mr. Farrington said.
Neurofeedback has drawn enthusiatic reaction off Island as well.
Nancy Hetherington is a licensed independent clinical social worker based in Providence, R.I., who has practiced therapy since the 1980s. For the last five years, she’s incorporated neurofeedback into her work.
“It’s been so effective that it’s almost all I do now,” Ms. Hetherington stated. “What’s remarkable is that our brains can learn and change themselves in ways that improve functioning, mood, social interactions, and overall contentment.”
Becky Bingham, a registered nurse who works at the NeuroSolution Center in Littleton, also was impressed with neurofeedback.
Ms. Bingham citd a Veterans Administration controlled study in which 15 Viet Nam War veterans with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder were treated with neurofeedback in addition to the traditional Veterans Administration hospital treatment. They were compared with 14 veterans who only received traditional treatment.
Ms. Bingham said the study showed that 30 months after treatment, 100 per cent of the traditional treatment group had relapsed, whereas 80 per cent of the group receiving neurofeedback had actually improved and maintained that positive effect.
“My personal experience with my clients mirrors the results of scientific research,” Ms. Bingham stated. “Neurofeedback is producing significant results and dramatically improving the lives of people suffering from [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder], anxiety, depression, learning disorders, migraines, and other [disorders.]”
On the Vineyard, Sheila Morgan is one of more than a hundred clients treated by Mr. Farrington.
She said: “I’ve had a lot of health problems, and I was anxious and went to see Paul to get smoothed out. It worked. His energy itself is ‘exhale.’ He’s very relaxed and at ease. I go periodically when I’m unhinged. It’s like a tune-up or an adjustment.”
More information about neurofeedback is available at Paul Farrington’s Web site, neurofeedback.vineyard.net or at 508-737-6066.