One size fits all is not an ideal of the mental health world, particularly among clinicians.
Dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, HeartMath, EMDR, equine therapy, art therapy, music therapy – the variety of treatment approaches run a wide gamut, and this is important since humans each have their own personal stories, traumas and responses.
One such response is the waves produced by the brain. Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma describes an approach that addresses brain wavelengths that are dysregulated, and trains the brain to self-regulate.
Author Sebern F. Fisher is a psychodynamic psychotherapist who has been using neurofeedback training in her practice since 1997. Her book reflects her years of experience, which provide a deeper insight into neurofeedback as a therapeutic tool than perhaps other texts on the topic. Her book is a deeply informative text on neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback is a “learning technology” that allows individuals to alter their brain waves. Through the use of technology and computer programs, patients are able to regulate dysregulations in their brain wave patterns. Geared toward clinicians, the book describes the benefits of neurofeedback, the basics for understanding the process and then provides a detailed explanation of neurofeedback training.
To entice the reader’s interest, Fisher describes various scenarios in which neurofeedback may be appropriate.
“How does a person whose mother wants him dead psychically survive?” She asks. Throughout the book, she uses stories of work with clients to illustrate the effectiveness of neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma functions in many ways as a textbook. After elaborating on the basics of neurofeedback, Fisher covers the fundamental neuroanatomy to understand various aspects of the neurofeedback training process. Specifically, she covers how developmental trauma presents itself in various parts of the brain. This chapter of the book is so in-depth that those who are unfamiliar with the depth and breadth of developmental trauma will grasp a new appreciation for the condition. The effects of developmental trauma are clearly disruptive to the entirety of the brain.
“Neurofeedback trains the brain to regulate itself, to inhibit overly slow or fast wave activity, and to quiet even small, but nonetheless influential paroxysmal activity, or dysrhythmias, in the brain,” writes Fisher.
Fisher also discusses functions of various parts of the brain and their locations, different brain wave lengths and what they each mean in regards to behavior. Her description of these technical aspects of neurofeedback is thorough and succinct. She also provides charts, graphs and illustrations to assist in enriching the understanding of the reader.
Fisher also provides great detail about the neurofeedback process in practice. For instance, she describes the process of regulating brain wavelengths that are functioning too high and causing stress and anxiety in the patient. This is one particular portion of the book that the lay person will find difficult to follow. However, the chapter on integrating neurofeedback and psychotherapy is able to bring the science to a more attainable level for those who may be struggling to follow along. The chapter illustrates eloquently how neurofeedback and psychotherapy function together for the greater good of the patient. Fisher covers such topics as transference and how it presents, possible regression in patients and dealing with trauma memory in neurofeedback.
The final chapter is the most compelling of the book; Fisher describes three different patients and the treatment approach. These narratives provide excellent examples of how to combine psychotherapy and neurofeedback. She tells each story in detail, giving a short description of each session with the patient. These descriptions peel back layers of the patient’s stories, allowing for the reader to be able to visualize how the information provided in the text actually plays out in therapy. The final chapter rounds out the text nicely; all of the information in the book culminates in the stories of these women.
While there is no question regarding the thoroughness of Fisher’s book, I did find it difficult to grasp fully how the process of neurofeedback works. Perhaps being present during a session is really the best way to understand the process. However, for those who have never been privy and who are completely new to this therapeutic technique, there may still be many questions left after reading this book that will not be answered until they enter neurofeedback themselves, or begin training to be a clinician.
While a meaty text, Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma is thoughtful and informative. Sebern F. Fisher has written a book that is a wonderful resource for practitioners, those who are currently practicing neurofeedback and those who are interested in learning more. Including a wealth of references for further study, Fisher presents her topic with care, compassion, and clarity.
Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Calming the Fear-Driven Brain
Sebern F. Fisher
W.W. Norton & Company