Paul loves coming to Neurotherapy. It’s not every day he gets to play 30 minutes of uninterrupted computer games! Well, at least that’s his perception of Neurotherapy. Paul’s mother, however, brings him for Neurotherapy as she has seen the benefit in his sleep patterns, concentration and consequently in his behaviour since he started.
But what is Neurotherapy? In its simplest form, Neurotherapy is bio-feedback for the brain. Teaching the brain to recognise bad habits and patterns and being able to change it.
During Neurotherapy, an electrode is placed on the scalp to monitor the client’s brain wave activity via an advanced computer programme. We explain it to the children as being like the doctor listening to your heart with a stethoscope and then being able to tell you how your heart is functioning. Just like the doctor can’t change anything in your heart with his stethoscope, the therapist can’t put anything into a client’s brain and can’t “read his mind” with it. The therapist, with the help of the computer program, can only give the child feedback on how his brain is functioning. The child sits in front of a second computer monitor with a “game” on it. When the child’s brain is functioning optimally the “game” will play.
We all make a range of brain wave patterns throughout the day and night to cope with specific tasks or expectations. Mature, well-balanced brains are able to move effortlessly from one brain wave pattern to another. However, some people find this more difficult. By setting specific expectations of the child, he is guided, during Neurotherapy, by using the computer programme and other treatment techniques to shift his brain wave patterns. For example, a child who is very anxious might find it difficult to move into more relaxing brain wave patterns. The therapist will then set the boundaries for the computer game to reward the more relaxing brain wave patterns. During the session, the child is given continuous feedback (a process called operant conditioning) on when he is becoming more relaxed while the therapist might teach him specific relaxation techniques.
Neurotherapy has been proven by international studies to be very effective in children (and adults) with AD/HD as well as sleep disturbances, epilepsy, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder etc. It has come a long way in South Africa. The NAA (Neurotherapy Association of Africa) was established six years ago as this emergent field of work began to need governance and guidance. The aim of this organisation was to promote Neurotherapy to the public, ensuring that therapists are sufficiently qualified and registered. The NAA has adopted the criteria of the BCIA (Biofeedback Certification Institute of America). Therapists are trained by EEG Spectrum International, a body recognised by the American Psychological Association (APA), and should be properly registered in South Africa with the Health Professions Council of SA.