Neurofeedback and Young Adults

April 10, 2018

Written by

Claudia Black Young Adult Center

Author Headshot



The clinical professionals at the Claudia Black Young Adult Center at The Meadows understand the enormous complexity of how the human brain functions in young adults aged 18-26. Addictions, psychological trauma, and certain mood disorders often surface during this time period in a person’s life and may be connected to the presence of a dysregulated brain stem. In recognizing this crucial aspect of recovery, we utilize proven treatments to help regulate our patients throughout the healing process, which allows them to embrace long-term recovery.

Neurofeedback (NFB) is an integral part of our treatment plan and the core of our onsite Brain Center at the Claudia Black Center. In our Brain Center, our young adults have access to the latest and most efficient technology designed to promote “self-regulation” skills that can enhance and expedite recovery. Neurofeedback provides the patient with an opportunity to observe and influence the activity of their brain through practice and feedback. Both the addicted patient and those with a trauma history learn to self-regulate and develop a feeling of internal control and a sense of safety. Additionally, patients with ADHD learn how to produce the brain wave patterns associated with focusing, which causes the symptoms of impulsivity and distractibility to lessen.

Because of life stress, the brain creates unhealthy patterns that influence people’s everyday lives. With neurofeedback, individuals can reestablish healthier brain wave patterns that decrease anxiety, lessen depression, lessen emotional reactivity, increase healthy emotional responses, improve mood, enhance learning, strengthen concentration, gain more restful sleep, lessen negative self-talk and increase self-esteem. In essence, neurofeedback is brain wave training, and a means to overcome conditions and habits that interfere with everyday life. For neurofeedback to be effective, a minimum of 8 sessions and ideally 10 or more are required.

Once a young adult has completed the intake process at the Claudia Black Center, a brain mapping assessment is performed. During the brain mapping assessment, electrodes are placed on the patient’s scalp to monitor brain activity for a short period of time. The data obtained from the electrodes provides a detailed brain map of the patient’s brain waves and the specific activity locations in the brain. This process takes a total of four minutes; one minute each for the first 3 mini mappings with eyes open and one minute for the last mini mapping with the eyes closed. This gives better insight into how the brain functions during different states of arousal.

Neurofeedback treatment follows the initial brain mapping assessment. During the session, which is typically 6-12 minutes, electrodes are applied to the client’s scalp to collect brain wave data. Brain waves are translated into images and sounds via a specific computer. As patients watch their brain patterns on a monitor, they can begin to regulate the Alpha, Beta, and Theta waves with the use of breath, positive self-talk, and being present with a soft focus. Concepts are also suggested to the patient to think about to show the changes in brain activity. When certain thoughts arise, or you feel stressed, suggestions are provided to help change brain wave activity. This teaches the patient skills to regulate the brain stem on his or her own outside of the neurofeedback session.

Sarah, a patient at the Claudia Black Center, came to treatment for substance abuse, depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidal ideation, and she was experiencing horrific nightmares. After 14 neurofeedback sessions, Sarah’s nightmares were gone, and she was sleeping well. Her effect was brighter, and her self-esteem clearly improved. This was demonstrated by how she carried her body, dressed, and interacted with her peers. Sarah was so excited about her neurofeedback that when her parents came for a family week, she made a point of bringing them to the Brain Center to see the neurofeedback machine and to meet me.

Jon, another patient, was in treatment for substance abuse, predominantly alcohol and marijuana, and co-occurring depression. Like most of the young adults at the Claudia Black Center, he struggled with poor self-esteem. He felt overwhelming guilt and shame about never being good enough: not manly enough to receive his father’s love. Jon was stuck in his obsessive negative self-talk. To help him, I implemented a protocol specifically for issues with self-esteem and being stuck. I used a neurofeedback game called “variable-dot mazes,” which, in essence, is like Pac-Man. Jon’s Pac-Man was not moving, he was stuck, but as he started using positive affirmations of himself, Pac-Man began to cruise. We kept that protocol up for his last 5 sessions with excellent results. When he left after 10 sessions, he reduced his Theta and Beta waves and increased his Alpha waves. Neurofeedback helped him feel better about himself, feel more empowered, and helped him recognize that he had choices.

Neurofeedback is an incredible asset to the treatment process and allows patients to maintain a strong, clear mindful intention for their desired outcome.

Written by Simone Mays, Neurofeedback Technician 
Claudia Black Young Adult Center