Biofeedback

DHHS Publication No (ADM) 83-1273
This Material was written by Bette Runck, staff writer, Division of Communication and Education, National Institute of Mental Health.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH- Division of Scientific and Public Information-Plain Talk Series- Ruth Kay, Editor

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a treatment technique in which people are trained to improve their health by using signals from their own bodies. Physical therapists use biofeedback to help stroke victims regain movement in paralyzed muscles. Psychologists use it to help tense and anxious clients learn to relax. Specialists in many different fields use biofeedback to help their patients cope with pain.

Chances are you have used biofeedback yourself. You’ve used it if you have ever taken your temperature or stepped on a scale. The thermometer tells you whether you’re running a fever, the scale whether you’ve gained weight. Both devices “feed back” information about your body’s condition. Armed with this information, you can take steps you’ve learned to improve the condition. When you’re running a fever, you go to bed and drink plenty of fluids. When you’ve gained weight, you resolve to eat less and sometimes you do.

Clinicians rely on complicated biofeedback machines in somewhat the same way that you rely on your scale or thermometer. Their machines can detect a person’s internal bodily functions with far greater sensitivity and precision than a person can alone. This information may be valuable. Both patients and therapists use it to gauge and direct the progress of treatment.

For patients, the biofeedback machine acts as a kind of sixth sense which allows them to “see” or “hear” activity inside their bodies. One commonly used type of machine, for example, picks up electrical signals in the muscles. It translates these signals into a form that patients can detect: It triggers a flashing light bulb, perhaps, or activates a beeper every time muscles grow more tense. If patients want to relax tense muscles, they try to slow downt he flashing or beeping.

Like a pitcher learning to throw a ball across a home plate, the biofeedback trainee, in an attempt to improve a skill, monitors the performance. When a pitch is off the mark, the ballplayer adjusts the delivery so that he performs better the next time he tries. When the light flashes or the beeper beeps too often, the biofeedback trainee makes internal adjustments which alter the signals. The biofeedback therapist acts as a coach, standing at the sidelines setting goals and limits on what to expect and giving hints on how to improve performance.

Back to Main Page

The Beginnings of Biofeedback

The word “biofeedback” was coined in the late 1960s to describe laboratory procedures then being used to train experimental research subjects to alter brain activity, blood pressure, heart rate, and other bodily functions that normally are not controlled voluntarily. At the time, many scientists looked forward to the day when biofeedback would give us a major degree of control over our bodies. They thought, for instance, that we might be able to “will” ourselves to be more creative by changing the patterns of our brainwaves. Some believed that biofeedback would one day make it possible to do away with drug treatments that often cause uncomfortable side effects in patients with high blood pressure and other serious conditions.

Today, most scientists agree that such high hopes were not realistic. Research has demonstrated that biofeedback can help in the treatment of many diseases and painful conditions. It has shown that we have more control over so-called involuntary bodily function than we once thought possible. But it has also shown that nature limits the extent of such control. Scientists are now trying to determine just how much voluntary control we can exert.

How is Biofeedback Used Today?

Clinical biofeedback techniques that grew out of the early laboratory procedures are now widely used to treat an everlengthening list of conditions. These include:

- Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and many other types of pain
- Disorders of the digestive system
- High blood pressure and its opposite, low blood pressure
- Cardiac arrhythmias (abnormalities, sometimes dangerous, in the rhythm of the heartbeat)
- Raynaud’s disease (a circulatory disorder that causes uncomfortably cold hands)
- Epilepsy
- Paralysis and other movement disorders

Specialists who provide biofeedback training range from psychiatrists and psychologists to dentists, internists, nurses, and physical therapists. Most rely on many other techniques in addition to biofeedback. Patients usually are taught some form of relaxation exercise. Some learn to identify the circumstances that trigger their symptoms. They may also be taught how to avoid or cope with these stressful events. Most are encouraged to change their habits, and some are trained in special techniques for gaining such self-control.

Biofeedback is not magic. It cannot cure disease or by itself make a person healthy. It is a tool, one of many available to health care professionals. It remids physicians that behavior, thoughts, and feelings profoundly influence physical health. And it helps both patients and doctors understand that they must work together as a team.

Back to Main Page

Patients’ Responsibilities

Biofeedback places unusual demands on patients. They must examine their day-to-day lives to learn if they may be contributing to their own distress. They must recognize that they can, by their own effort, remedy some physical ailments. They must commit themselves to practiving biofeedback or relaxation exercises every day. They must change bad habits, even ease up on some good ones. Most important, they must accept much of the responsibility for maintain their own health.

How does Biofeedback Work?

Scientists cannot yet explain how biofeedback works. Most patients who benefit from biofeedback are trained to relax and modify their behavior. Most scientists believe that relaxation is a key component in biofeedback treatment of many disorders, particularly those brought on or made worse by stress. Their reasoning is based on what is known about the effects of stress on the body. In brief, the argument goes like this: Stressful events produce strong emotions, which arouse certain physical responses. Many of these responses are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, the network of nerve tissues that helps prepare the body to meet emergencies by “flight or fight."

The typical pattern of response to emergencies probably emerged during the time when all humans faced mostly physical threats. Although the “threats” we now live with are seldom physical, the body reacts as if they were: The pupils dilate to let in more lights. Sweat pours out, reducing the chance of skin cuts. Blood vessels near the skin contract to reduce bleeding, while those in the brain and muscles dilate to increase the oxygen supply. The gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach and intestines, slows down to reduce the energy expensed in digestion. The heart beats faster, and blood pressure rises. Normally, people calm down when a stressful event is over especially if they have done something to cope with it. For instance, imagine your own reactions if you’re walking down a dark street and hear someone running toward you. You get scared. Your body prepared you to ward off an attacker or run fast enough to get away. When you do escape, you gradually relax.

If you get angry at your boss, it’s a different matter. Your body may prepare to fight. But since you want to keep your job, you try to ignore the angry feelings. Similarly, if on the way home you get stalled in traffic, there’s nothing you can do to get away. Theses situations can literally make you sick. Your body has prepared for action, but you cannot act. Individuals differ in the way they respond to stress. In some, one function, such as blood pressure, becomes more active while others remain normal. Many experts believe that these individual physical responses to stress can become habitual. When the body is repeatedly aroused, one or more functions may become permanently overactive. Actual damage to bodily tissues may eventually result.

Biofeedback is often aimed at changing habitual reactions to stress that can cause pain or disease. Many clinicians believe that some of their patients and clients have forgotten how to relax. Feedback of physical responses such as skin temperature and muscle tension provides information to help patients recognize a relaxed state. The feedback signal may also act as a kind of reward for reducing tension. It’s like a piano teacher whose frown turns to a smile when a young musician finally plays a tune properly.

The value of a feedback signal as information and reward may be even greater in the treatment of patients with paralyzed or spastic muscles. With these patients, biofeedback seems to be primarily a form of skill training like learning to pitch a ball. Instead of watching the ball, the patient watches the machine, which monitors activity in the affected muscle. Stroke victims with paralyzed arms and legs, for example, see that some part of their affected limbs remains active. The signal from the biofeedback machine proves it. This signal can guide the exercises that help patients regain use of their limbs. Perhaps just as important, the feedback convinces patients that the limbs are still alive. This reassurance often encourages them to continue their efforts.

Back to Main Page

Should You Try Biofeedback?

If you think you might benefit from biofeedback training, you should discuss it with your physician or other health care professional, who may wish to conduct tests to make certain that your condition does not require conventional medical treatment first. Responsible biofeedback therapists will not treat you for headaches, hypertension, or most disorders until you have had a thorough physical examination. Some require neurological tests as well.

How do you find a biofeedback therapist? First, ask your doctor or dentists, or contact the nearest community health center, medical society, or State biofeedback society for a referral. The psychology or psychiatry departments at nearby universities may also be able to help you. Most experts recommend that you consult only a health care professional, physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, nurse, social worker, dentists, physical therapist, for example who has been trained to use biofeedback.

Professional Associations

The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (formerly the Biofeedback Society of America)
10200 W. 44th Avenue
Suite 304
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-2840
Phone: 1-800-477-8892 / 303-422-8436
Fax: 303-422-8894
E-mail: AAPB@resourcenter.com
Internet: http://www.aapb.org

AAPB is the national membership association for professionals using biofeedback. AAPB holds a notional meeting, offers CE programs, produces a journal and newsmagazine and other biofeedback related publications.

The Biofeedback Certification Institute of America
10200 W. 44th Avenue
Suite 304
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-2840

The BCIA was established as an independent agency to provide national certification for biofeedback providers.

This Material Was provided through:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Division of Communications and Education, National Institute of Mental Health
Public Health Service - Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857 USA

Questions & Answers

Who do we see?

Every day people with everyday problems that may have become difficult to manage without guidance.  We help children, adolescents, adults and families. 

Empowering Individuals of All Ages to Create Positive Change

Our mission is to support individuals and families dealing with challenges, helping them take steps towards meaningful transformations. We are here for anyone who possesses a genuine desire to bring about positive changes in their own lives and in the lives of those around them.

A Multigenerational Approach to Mental Health

At our office, we understand that mental health is not limited by age. That's why our services are individually designed  for individuals of all age groups, spanning the entire lifespan. We have extensive experience serving clients from as young as 2 years old to those who have celebrated their 102nd birthday.

Comprehensive Care for All Stages of Life

- Children and Pre-Teens: Our dedicated team specializes in working with children, helping them navigate the unique challenges they face in today's world. From developmental milestones to academic pressures, we provide compassionate and effective support. We also teach tools for parents to employ to help their children succeed.

- Adolescents: Adolescence is a crucial phase of life where teens undergo significant changes. We offer guidance to teenagers dealing with issues like peer pressure, identity development, and academic stress. We also are able to consult regarding school based issues and develop strategies to resolve conflict.

- Adults: For adults grappling with the complexities of modern life, our experienced therapists are here to help. Whether it's managing anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, or career transitions, we provide tailored support.

- Families: We recognize that family dynamics can greatly impact individual well-being. Our family therapy services help families build healthier connections and resolve conflicts, fostering a nurturing environment.

Tailored Solutions for your Unique Situation

Our approach is highly individualized. We work closely with our clients to understand their specific needs, circumstances, and goals. Whether it's addressing anxiety, depression, trauma, or any other mental health concern, we collaborate with you to develop strategies and coping mechanisms that are tailored to your unique situation.

We are committed to being a trusted partner on your journey towards personal growth, healing, and improved well-being. Regardless of your age or the challenges you face, we are here to provide the support and expertise you need to thrive. Join us in taking the first step towards a happier, healthier future.

Why do people come to us?

Family/Relationship Problems
Addictions/Substance Abuse
Anger Management
Legal Matters
Life Changes/Transitions
Trauma
Parenting Issues
Postpartum Mood Disorders
Career Planning & Guidance
School Problems
Mindfulness
Depression
Adulting
Learning Disabilities
Executive Functioning Assessment
Social Anxiety
Phobias
Identity 
Mindfulness
Gender, Identity & LGBTQ+ Issues
Sleep Problems
Self-Esteem
Academic/Work Performance
Special Education Advocacy
Neurodiversity

Eating Disorders
Attentional Problems
Personal and Professional Growth
Anxiety, Stress or Hypertension
Relationship Issues
Chronic Pain or Headaches
Chronic Illness
Traumatic Brain Injury
Problems at Work
Grief and Loss/End of Life/Death & Dying
Psychological and Neuropsychological Evaluation & Assessment
Autism
ADHD/ADD/Executive Functioning
Dementia
Traumatic Brain Injury
Addictions/Recovery
Stress Managment
Codependency
Time Management
Social Skills Training
Emotional Regulation
Body Image
Test Preparation (SAT, ACT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT)
Infertility

How do we help?

We provide a safe, caring, and confidential environment to discuss your problems. We guide you and your family based on our extensive professional experience to develop long term coping strategies; we do not offer a ‘quick fix’ for problems. We primarily rely on Cognitve Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a time tested, evidenced based, research supported, and scientifically validated method for changing thoughts, behaviors and feelings. We employ these techniques with cultural awareness and  develop personalized treatment plans delivered weekly for 8 to 16 weeks to address most issues. We offer a personalized, client-centered approach, tailoring our sessions to meet your goals and making your journey truly transformative.

How does someone get help? 

The first step is to let someone know you want help. Reach out toward a healthier and happier you.  If you are considering making changes, contact the Arizona Behavioral Health Associates at (928) 774-7997 to set up a  confidential appointment.

cards

Payment

We accept all major credit and debit cards. We are out of network with most insurance companies but can submit claims directly to your insurance company as a courtesy. We also can accept payment from employer FSA/HSA/HRA benefit plans.  Our services are by appointment only and we are available during normal business hours. Evening, Weekend, and Early Morning Appointments are sometimes available for established clients.  Online and Virtual Appointments are also flexible to meet your needs. We do not offer crisis, walk-in or inpatient services of any type.

Find Us

We are located in the Flagstaff Doctors' Village!

 (928) 774-7997

  710 N Beaver Street, BLDG 4
       Flagstaff, AZ 86001-3139

 info@psychotherapy.com

Our offices are conveniently located at 710 N. Beaver Street, BLDG 4, Flagstaff, AZ 86001-3139. We are approximately 5 blocks south of the Flagstaff Medical Center in the Flagstaff Doctors’ Village Complex. On street parking is available on Beaver and Sullivan Streets, and we also have a large, dedicated, off street parking lot accessible from Leroux Street. Our parking and facilities are handicap accessible. We also have bicycle racks directly across from our main entrance for your use.

If you need more detailed directions, please do not hesitate to contact us at (928) 774-7997.

Public Transportation: Our offices are also conveniently located just across the street from Stop 27 (Stop Code 68) on the Blue Route of Flagstaff’s Mountain LineClick here for the Blue Route 2 schedule. Click here for a live route map. Peak hour service is currently every 20 minutes for Stop 27.