We watched a powerful TED Talk titled, "How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime." Dr. Nadine Burke discusses how "exposure to trauma during childhood can dramatically increase people’s risk for 7 out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the U.S.—including high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer—and it’s crucial to address this public health crisis."
Take a few minutes and watch.
So how does trauma impact us over time?
WomensHealth.gov states that, "Experiencing abuse or other trauma puts people at risk of developing mental health conditions, such as:
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Misusing alcohol or drugs, and
Borderline personality disorder."
SAMHSA states: "Research has shown that traumatic experiences are associated with both behavioral health and chronic physical health conditions, especially those traumatic events that occur during childhood. Substance use, mental health conditions, and other risky behaviors have been linked with traumatic experiences. Because these behavioral health concerns can present challenges in relationships, careers, and other aspects of life, it is important to understand the nature and impact of trauma, and to explore healing."
According to Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services, a SAMHSA publication: "Some trauma survivors have difficulty regulating emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness, and shame—this is more so when the trauma occurred at a young age (van der Kolk, Roth, Pelcovitz, & Mandel, 1993)."
SAMHSA goes on to state: "Although a thorough presentation on the biological aspects of
trauma is beyond the scope of this publication, what is currently known is that exposure to trauma leads to a cascade of biological changes and stress responses. These biological alterations are highly associated with PTSD, other mental illnesses, and substance use disorders. These include:
Changes in limbic system functioning.
Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis activity changes with variable cortisol levels.
Neurotransmitter-related dysregulation of arousal and endogenous opioid systems.
As a clear example, early ACEs such as abuse, neglect, and other traumas affect brain development and increase a person’s vulnerability to encountering interpersonal violence as an adult and to developing chronic diseases and other physical illnesses, mental illnesses, substance-related disorders, and impairment in other life areas (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012)."
How can neurofeedback help?
Infra-low (ILF) neurofeedback is especially effective in addressing trauma. Often those with significant trauma are hardwired for hypervigilance. By targeting the lower frequencies, we are able to calm the brain down from its hypervigilant state.
Neurofeedback is a safe, non-invasive and non-verbal approach. It works by engaging the brain’s own mechanisms of self-regulation. It can be done with clients of any age, from infants to the elderly. It is compassion-informed, non-judgmental and non-triggering. It can be used with client populations who typically don’t do well with verbally mediated therapies. It can be used with extremely wary clients as it requires no self-disclosure.
Neurofeedback can be readily integrated into talk therapy and other modalities. Many members of the NAP conduct neurofeedback in conjunction with EMDR, CBT, and other traditional therapies. Neurofeedback allows traditional modalities to be even more effective. Hear from one of the NAP's own members:
"An adult female client with severe PTSD had been enrolled in our EMDR services prior to receiving neurofeedback. While moderately effective, the client was not making as much progress as desired.
Within 90 days of beginning neurofeedback, the client's symptoms greatly improved. Her PCL-5 (PTSD diagnostic tool) score went from 52 down to 21. In fact, she no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.
Neurofeedback was greatly beneficial and improved the effectiveness of her EMDR sessions as well."
Neurofeedback allows the brain to teach itself how to better self-regulate. EEG sensors pick up brain wave activity. The brain observes this activity, and by the method of Associative Learning improves its own self-regulatory skills. The brain does not need to be told what to do. The brain naturally improves its own performance based on feedback on its own activity in real time. This is a fundamental law of all skill learning. Self-regulation is the brain’s foundational skill.
Neurofeedback is a tool for social justice and working with marginalized populations. It has been used with clients from a wide-range of cultures including Iraqi, Congolese and Tibetan refugees, Native-Americans, and in Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American countries. In the US, it has demonstrated its effectiveness with the underserved and marginalized communities.
ILF NFB has been implemented within a wide-range of settings including community mental health programs; veterans services; school special education services; substance abuse programs; foster care programs; programs for recently released prisoners; programs serving the homeless; programs serving battered women; drug courts and domestic violence programs. In Europe, ILF Neurofeedback is approved for use by psychiatrists and occupational therapists in addition to mental health counselors.