Our brains are neuroplastic — meaning the brain can form and reorganize synaptic connections. Neuroplasticity explains how the brain is able to adapt, master new skills, store memories, and recover after traumatic brain injuries. We can harness the power of neuroplasticity to effect amazing changes and reverse mental illness “diagnoses” that we once thought were a life sentence. Our bodies and brains are capable of incredible healing, when we give them what they need and step out of the way. Most of the time, they will find homeostasis again.
Leanne Hershkowitz, M.A./Ed.S, LPC is a licensed professional counselor in NJ specializing in the integration of counseling and clinical neurofeedback (a brain-based biofeedback approach to calming the fear driven brain) for trauma including complex/developmental and adoption. She is also trained in internal family systems, canine assisted therapy, EMDR, attachment-based counseling approaches as well. She also works with her facility service dog Harley.
- Follow Leanne on Instagram
- Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
- Leanne’s private practice, Finding Hope Counseling
- Learn about the work of Dr. Ruth Lanius
- Heterogeneity in Psychiatric Diagnosis Classification
- Psychiatry Diagnoses Found to Be Scientifically Meaningless
In this episode, Leanne and I…
- define neurofeedback therapy as a nervous system healing tool
- discuss how neurofeedback therapy helps the nervous system to regulate and be flexible
- discuss how neurofeedback fits with talk therapy, EMDR, and CBT
- compare and contrast neurofeedback with EMDR
- share how Leanne does at-home therapy during COVID-19
- talk about trauma-informed neurofeedback compared to other forms of neurofeedback
- share how neurofeedback helps PTSD, developmental trauma disorder, anxiety, depression, panic, OCD, ADD, ADHD, autoimmune disease, brain injuries, and more
- share questions to ask potential neurofeedback providers to discern if they have a trauma-informed approach
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Hey guys. Thanks for being here today. I’ve got a really awesome episode for you. It is jam packed with crazy good information. So I’m going to skip the telling you about my life and telling you what’s going on with the weather part. And I’m just going to jump right in. So in this episode, I’m interviewing counselor Leanne Herskowitz. Leanne is a licensed professional counselor in New Jersey, specializing in the integration of counseling and clinical neurofeedback, which is a brain-based biofeedback approach to calming the.
Fear-driven brain. She does this for trauma, including complex and developmental and adoption trauma. She’s also trained in internal family systems. Canine assisted therapy, EMDR attachment based counseling approaches. And she works with her facility service dog Harley. So in this episode, Leanne and I, as I said, are talking about neurofeedback. We are defining your feedback as a nervous system healing tools. So this is another tool for your trauma healing, toolbox we’re discussing how neurofeedback therapy helps the nervous system to regulate and be more flexible. We discuss how neurofeedback fits in with talk therapy, EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy. We discussed how neurofeedback is an effective in the moment therapy while EMDR is more effective for processing events that have already ended or past. We share how Leanne does at home neurofeedback during COVID-19. We talk about trauma informed neurofeedback compared to other forms of neurofeedback and share how neurofeedback helps PTSD, developmental trauma disorder, anxiety, depression, panic, OCD, ADHD, add auto immune disease, head injuries.
And more. And then finally, we are sharing some questions that you can ask potential neurofeedback providers to discern. If they have a trauma informed approach. So please enjoy this interview with Leanne Hershkowitz.
Hey Leanne, welcome to the holistic trauma healing podcast. Hi. I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for asking me to join. Yeah, absolutely. I’m really interested in your work. So you do neurofeedback and I’ve done a lot of therapy and a lot of different modalities in my time in the mental health and trauma world.
But neurofeedback is not one that I have any experience with whatsoever. So I’m going to be like Michael Scott on the office. So when he’s talking to Oscar about finances, and I’m going to tell you to explain this to me, like I’m five. I can do that. Most of my clients for one they’re adolescents, but two, even the parents have never heard of neurofeedback.
Which is surprising because it’s been around since the eighties. So it really is not a brand new modality at all, but it has been growing in popularity as our neuroscience ability has been allowing us to do more research on it. So the idea of neurofeedback is similar to a type of biofeedback. So if you’ve ever done something like where you put the pulse-ox on your finger and you can see your oxygenation level and you can also see your pulse, you can actually practice with that and practice lowering your pulse.
You do deep breathing, you do all that stuff and you can actually see how you can get your own pulse to change. So it’s very similar to that and that you control these autonomic automatic functions of your nervous system. When you consciously try to control them. So we take that principle and apply it to the EEG.
EEG is for your brainwaves. And so we put sensors on your head. They do not hurt. They do not zap you. They are simply reading your brain waves much like the pulse ox is it doesn’t do anything to you. And then those sensors are hooked up to an amplifier, which is a little tiny computer that converts that something my computer can make big enough to read.
Then my computer puts a game on your screen. You can actually, in my background, see behind me, there’s the screen there. I would have the laptop. And then you would see if there’s a screen. And on that game screen is basically you there’s lots of different games, but most people’s favorite. One is like Pac-Man is called Chomper.
And the little guy moves. If you can meet the. Kind of thing that I’m asking you to do. And the thing that I’m asking you to do is to make less sleepy waves, less tension waves, this kind of a generalization, but that’s what we call them and more calm content waves. And the reason that’s the setup is because you’re not running for your life.
So you don’t need more tension waves. You’re not going to sleep right now. So you don’t need more sleepy waves, but you are trying to be present and calm in the moment. So that’s what we’re trying to get you to increase. So sorry if I interrupted you. So what you’re looking at on your screen is how someone is consciously manipulating their brainwaves and is the point of neurofeedback for you to teach somebody how to do that without the machine.
Okay. Where in the case of your pulse, you’re trying to get your heart to beat more slowly. It’s a very simple one-to-one you just want your heart to beat slower and your brain is the most complex organ that has ever existed. So it’s not quite as one to one. It’s a very intricate system. You, in the sense that you are controlling it, but it’s more your brain, then your consciousness, your brain is always looking for a reward.
So if, as long as there’s my dog doing the podcast, as long as you say yes, I want the Pac-Man to move along. Your brain will try different things to try to get the reward. And so it’s less conscious in this sense, but it, you can see, you can do things to consciously try to affect it, but it’s a little bit too complex to make it as simple as the pulses.
But things like I tell my students to try to feel all their muscles relaxing. Like you’re melting into the chair, take slow breaths, not super deep, because you do actually make muscle movement. And that interrupts the brain signal. And to try to pay attention in the moment to the game, because if you’re thinking about the future, I can see that happening on my screen.
And if you’re thinking about the past, I can see that too. So it is this process that they’re doing it, but their, their brain is taking over. And then the hope is rather than it being like an active skill, we’re trying to change their function of their nervous system across the board and their entire life.
Every day, it’s meant to be a helping your nervous system learn to regulate on a constant basis. And by regulate, that involves flexibility. So we’re not saying always stay in this state, if the tiger comes and you’ve got to run, you’re going to be able to do that. But when you go to class and you think it’s a tiger, this isn’t not, it’s not actually a tiger.
You’ll have a better ability to stay calmer and to work through whatever it is. Very interesting. Wow. Okay. So you mostly worked work, you mostly work with teenagers. Okay. So I have two teenagers myself. So if I was to come to you, I guess, as a parent, why my, I come to you for neurofeedback, for my child, rather than something like talk therapy or EMDR or something like that.
So why neurofeedback? So I actually think it’s a great addition to all of those things or preparation to those things like your post was yesterday that no one has the exclusive rights to healing. There’s so many ways to heal. Neurofeedback is one piece to a very large recipe. So in my practice, a lot of people just come to me for talk therapy.
It’s changing. There’s a lot of people, more people were starting to recognize me for neurofeedback, but they come for talk therapy. And a lot of my talk therapy work is psychoeducational about how does the brain work about how developmental trauma changes the brain. And then I talk about how do your coping skills work for you?
And most of my adolescents tell me like poop. They don’t work very well and they try and they feel like they’re a failure because their coping strategies can’t work. And usually that’s my entrance. Be like, I have this thing that’s different, but it might help your nervous system be more flexible and then also be more stable so that when you do try to meditate, you can get a little further, it’ll feel better to you so that when you do.
I try to use distraction. You can make that switch and actually get a distraction. So I think it’s, it’s foundational in a lot of ways that if your nervous system has dysfunction, this can make all of the other work much easier to achieve. I do EMDR, I’m trained in EMDR. I have a lot of colleagues who do a lot of EMDR and we often start with neurofeedback if we have that skill, because it makes the EMDR processing move better.
It makes that faster and smoother. Oh, interesting. So I have done a lot of EMDR. EMDR was actually pretty life changing for me. I did not do neurofeedback before I started EMDR. So I’m curious if you can maybe elaborate a little bit more on how neurofeedback press the brain or the nervous system for EMDR, if that’s the right terminology to use.
Yeah, I think there’s not research studying this yet. I hope that. It will grow in that area. But my colleague Lee ProVia L E I G H, she is both an EMDR trainer and a fantastic neurofeedback provider. And she has this beautiful way of integrating the two and moving back and forth between them. And I think to me, what happens with EMDR is there’s a, a negative belief set.
I think of it like a tree in the yard. And then what you’re trying to connect them to do is this positive belief set, which is another tree in the yard with lots of branches. What I find often with my young people is there is no positive tree in the yard. If it best, maybe it’s a shrub. So when you’re trying to move them through the processing part of that is, is connecting them to the positive belief that will replace the negative one.
If they don’t have one, what can your, then what you get stuck in my position is the prep work. And that prep work can take years. But with neurofeedback, we can start to shift that they’re more flexible, which helps the prep work move so that they can build more positive so that you could actually do more of the actual processing.
Okay. Amazing. The other important piece is that affect emotional regulation, staying calm and tolerating. Going back into emotions in EMDR is very challenging for a lot of people, especially my teenagers. So if you’ve gotten your nervous system to regulate better, it can tolerate more emotion better, and then calm down.
So then your provider is able to guide you through more processing without it feeling so terrible after. It gives you a safer, more regulated experience. Okay. What do you mean by not feeling so terrible after I I’ve done some of my own EMDR work, I guess terrible is more exhausted drained. Some people find that they process after EMDR for several days.
And to be going back through that process for several days is probably difficult to function and go through life. So minimizing that kind of after effect is really helped. And neurofeedback helps to minimize that in our subjective experience as clinicians I’ve experienced that. And I know she has to.
Okay. Prove it, but sometimes anecdotal evidence is good enough, right? Yeah, for sure. Okay. My plan with this conversation was just talk to you about neurofeedback, but since it works so well, EMDR and I do have really good experience in EMDR. Maybe we can talk about EMDR for a minute too. I actually do get a lot of DMS on Instagram of people.
Whenever I mentioned EMDR, anytime I always get DMS of people saying, what was your experience? Like, how did it work for you? How did it go? And my answer is always EMDR was life-changing for me, everyone needs EMDR, but I do have. So EMDR was amazing for me from the standpoint that I was processing things that happened to me in the past.
So I remember the very first thing that I processed in EMDR was with regard to just this overwhelming sense of like guilt and depression. And so a lot of weird feelings about the postpartum depression that I experienced after my daughter was born. And for the first decade of my daughter’s life, I like knew that I had had this experience and that it affected my relationship with my daughter very early on.
It affected our bonding whenever she was four. And I always felt really guilty. I felt like I had missed out on something because I had a completely different experience with my son. And I felt like I was always trying to make it up to her in a way, like I was overcompensating maybe. And so I had two sessions of EMDR just around that specific thing.
And I had so much anxiety that I hadn’t even realized as connected to that. And after that second session, like I walked out and I would say that the knot in my throat, which is like my big anxiety symptom is a knot in my throat. Like it was like probably 50% gone after two sessions. It was amazing. So I continued to go for a year and a half every week I did EMDR therapy and I processed my childhood.
I processed religious trauma that I had experienced. I processed growing up in purity culture. I processed some issues that I’ve had with my husband’s family. Like it was fantastic. And then. I started going through a very difficult time in my present life. And this was in 2018. So it was the present past now.
But I started going through a very difficult time and I kept going to EMDR and I was trying to process the thing that I was going through at the time of EMDR. And it just was not working. And I got very, just upset and I felt like I was wasting money and I feel like I was wasting time. And my therapist was like, she was trying as hard as she could.
It wasn’t her fault at all. But I had just, so for me and this, I do tell people this, when they ask me about EMDR, I say it was great. Everybody needs EMDR. It’s amazing for processing things that you’ve experienced in the past, but it’s not so great if you’re going through a hard time right now, what would you say to that?
I would agree. I think the way EMDR is set up is about. Things processing that has gotten stuck. The entire idea of bilateral stimulation is that you need both hemispheres to, to engage the meaning-making systems. That what we now call neural networks of the brain. I think one day we’ll figure out what neural network EMDR is tapping into, but I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet.
And so it is designed for past events to be processed. They do have current things that have happened recently, but they’re usually for things that are now over with what you’re talking about is sounds like something that was ongoing. And challenging, but not like a traumatic event. It was like you were, I don’t know that you were living in abuse, but just as an example, if you’re living in an abusive home, it’s very challenging to do EMDR, to do really lots of counseling, but to do EMDR processing because it’s not over.
You’re not safe now. We can’t, we there’s lots of things that are don’t make sense because it’s not done yet. So I would agree, at least in my experience, I don’t ongoing things that are still happening. It wouldn’t, you can do some of it, but it’s not going to do as much as it probably would do for something in the past.
But neurofeedback is beautiful for in the moment I love when my, not that I love my students coming in upset, but I wish that never happened to them, but I do enjoy when they come in upset and I can show them on the screen that I can see how different this is than their normal. And then I can let them just listen to the beeps and because it beeps when you’re in the zone, listen to the beeps and to be in that place as best they can.
And then to watch things calmed down and the thing to drop off, because it is very much aid is experiential. It is in the moment and happening whenever I have a trauma trigger or something happens, one of the first things that I do, I use my coping skills and stuff like that. But the next day, as soon as I can I go and do my neurofeedback training, because it really can really just sink you into such a deep, deeper, calmer level.
Wow. Okay. So can you explain if I were to come to you or bring my child to you? Can you explain. First of all, I guess the question is how are you doing this during COVID? Yes, I do. I do remote in home neurofeedback. Okay. What else? So I have both the full eager system and I use something called mind lift with muse there’s pros and cons to both of them.
So with the eager system, which is the full clinical system in home, the client, the family has been purchased an amplifier from there, from eager or from their provider, depending on all the setups are different. This doesn’t have a big corporate following. We all do this a little differently, but for me, they would purchase an amplifier from eager the EEG store and they would rent the software license monthly it’s about $95 a month.
And then what happens is I create a client file and I send that to them. And. They download that onto their computer. And then I use a program called parsec and I physically jumped into their computer via the internet. And now I control their screen through my screen. And then we have a video going at the same time and I teach them to put the sensors on and to plug them in.
And then I do all the rest and it’s, I’m in the room, except I’m not in the room. One of the things that’s been different about the in-home is the parents or a spouse has to put the sensors on for them. Some people do it themselves, but it’s not easy when you’re learning. And so you get an attachment piece to the neurofeedback, which has been pretty cool.
Oh, nice. Okay. So before COVID happened, was neurofeedback something that you would show up at your office, just like a normal therapy appointment and you would have all the equipment there and you would do it all there. Yeah. To me, I can’t really. Take my counseling hat off and start doing neurofeedback because there that’s who I am.
So anytime I have sessions, generally, there’s a counseling element to them. Anyway, it might be a 25 minute session or a 50 minute session, but there’s always talking about how they doing what’s happening in my old office set up. I’m currently figuring out post pandemic where I’ll be in New Jersey, but you, we would walk into, to go from my counseling room to my neurofeedback room and they’d sit down.
I have a big comfy chair and then I would start putting their sensors on and then we’d play the game. And because of both working with a lot of people with trauma and also younger people, I typically they’re. The actual minutes of training are usually at most 12 to 15. Okay. And then the rest of it is like just talking and counseling.
Yeah. It also takes me five minutes to put the sensors on and five minutes to take them off. But yeah, it’s talking, I found that. You have to ask fairly pointed questions. Like how’s your sleep as weird as it sounds. How’s your digestive system. How are you pooping to do a proper neurofeedback assessment?
And to find out if what we’re doing is helping. And I, it really AIDS the therapeutic conversation. Yeah. Because all of that is related to your autonomic nervous system. Exactly. So you can even, if, so I have found that for people who are pretty disconnected from their feelings and their emotions, if you can ask them about physical symptoms, like how’s your digestion, are you constipated?
Does your heart base, do you get dizzy when you stand up? Are you sleeping? Well, are you having panic attacks? Are you, is your blood pressure low or high? Like. How’s your sexual function. If you’re asking questions like that, sometimes it can be like, Oh yeah, I get dizzy. Every time I stand up, I have no sex drive and my sleep is shit.
And then it’s okay. Then we need to work with your autonomic nervous system. Yeah. Well, or they tell me, and I’m on 200 milligrams of Zoloft every day and I’m going, yeah, that might need to be something you figure out as well. Cause those are problems too. Yeah. But Def yeah. It’s like your autonomic nervous system is off.
It’s either in fight or flight, freeze fun. Some piece of it in neurofeedback language, we call that over aroused or under aroused. And then we have unstable, which is switching between the two. And then for people with significant developmental trauma that the damage done to their developing brain, we call disorganized it’s because it’s a little it’s basically, if you took the networks of the brain and just made them all little spots, that’s how their brain functions.
So it really is disorganized bring and neurofeedback helps to reorganize it. We think. So there’s some really great research coming out of a lab in Canada, in the U S we have a hard time getting research because we don’t have pharma backing. So we don’t get a lot of research money here. And that’s how it’s done.
But in Canada, Dr. Ruth Lannie, S L a N I U S um, is doing amazing research on neurofeedback and just altogether on the brain and something called the default mode network. There’s actually, she’s doing it. She did a one set of webinars for EEG learn, which is the training arm of. The EEG store, the software company I use.
And in honesty, I do trainings for them too. So I’m technically paid by them, but she did one set of training, which you can purchase the rights to watch the videos of the recordings of, and she’s doing another one in two weeks. She’s going over in depth. Her understanding of the neural networks and trauma treatment is really quite incredible to be able to have that kind of interaction with the researcher herself, her whole lab, she runs a giant lab.
On EEG learn and you can always purchase the recordings. Okay. EEG, learn.com.
Yeah. Okay. Amazing. And I can get a direct link at some point, you know, ask for that and have it Senator great. Yeah. Anything that we can put in show notes for people is helpful for people who want to go further. So can you, so we talked about your autonomic nervous system on a dysfunctional level. Can you share some of the, and I really hate the word diagnosis because I think there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of weirdness that comes with like a diagnosis.
Cause it’s, sometimes it’s helpful to like be able to put a name on something, but then sometimes you start to identify with it and then it just rolls your whole life. So could you talk about maybe some of the different symptoms or diagnoses or mental health conditions that that neurofeedback can help with or has been proven to help with.
Sure. And to your point, there’s a growing awareness and force in the mental health field. That diagnosis, as it currently stands is a thesaurus. It is, they’re not discrete categories. Psychiatrists may be very far behind us, some of them to figure this part out, but there was a recent article in one of the big psychiatry journals that they are not discrete categories.
There is so much overlap that they are scientifically meaningless categories. Not that someone’s symptoms and problems are meaningless, but when we put them in these categories, the problem is they have no. Cause when you, someone says I have a cough or sneeze and a fever, you go, okay, that causes the cold or a flu or Corona virus at this point, let’s do the test and we’ll figure out which one of the causes and we’ll treat the cause.
What we currently do in mental health is you have all these symptoms, it fits five diagnoses. We don’t know which one it is. We don’t really know what causes any of these things entirely. We’ll just treat it with a whole bunch of talking and it’s just very ineffective. And there’s only one diagnosis that has a cause in the entire DSM, which is PTSD.
Yeah. So that’s the one I figured it was. Yeah, my theory on that, just from what I’ve read and from the studying that I’ve done. And again, I don’t have a degree in this. I’m not licensed to do this. This is just my own personal opinion. Is that the cause of so many of the depression and anxiety and different things like that is.
Dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. That’s the cause. And, and I am someone who I have diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder. I have diagnosed chronic insomnia and I have diagnosed chronic or complex PTSD. And I, the only time I ever use those words is if I’m talking to a doctor and they’re like asking me about these things, otherwise I don’t identify with them at all, because I know that taking an anti-depressant taking an anti-anxiety medication, taking a psychiatric medication, it’s not addressing my autonomic nervous system.
It’s just covering up symptoms, which I didn’t episode this an episode five about how I used psych meds as a tool in my trauma healing toolbox. Because I don’t, I’m not one of those people that’s Oh, you should never take meds. I’m anti-medication like they have a place. We can be thankful for them. But the way that I personally used meds was the sort of lead up to the climax of my mental health journey was just like a long series of events over a couple of years that my nervous system wasn’t equipped to deal with.
I didn’t have that nervous system flexibility, like you were talking about earlier. And I. Because I do have developmental trauma, a lot of childhood trauma. And so I don’t have that nervous system flexibility and resiliency. And so here I was in my mid thirties and series of events led up and climaxed with months of like daily panic attacks, really bad insomnia like that.
I had never experienced before in my life. I attempted suicide on March seven, 2019. I checked myself into inpatient care. I was there for five days before I voluntarily checked myself out. I knew I was going in there for medication. There was no doubt in my mind. I’m not leaving this place without medication.
Sure enough. I left. I was on three different psych meds. Of course. Yeah. Hospital works. Right. But. I’m really grateful that I had them because I also had this mindset of I’m promising myself to take care of myself right now, how I need to take care of myself right now. And right now I need medications, but in the long term, I’m promising myself to take care of myself to the point that I figured out what it was that got me into this place to begin with.
And I feel that too. And that’s how holistic trauma healing was born, was it was my own journey of figuring out like, and the goal was not get off meds. The goal was heal. The nervous system heal the trauma, build that nervous system, resiliency and flexibility slowly back off on those meds, backing down on the meds while the nervous system resiliency is going up.
And then one day like I’ve tapered off. So slowly now that I don’t, I’m not on any meds for psych stuff anymore at all, but I just want to tell people that because a lot of people get very upset whenever you start talking about like how diagnosis is, don’t matter. There’s no scientific backing for them and medication doesn’t heal.
It just covers up symptoms. A lot of people get very upset by that, but doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them. It just means like their place, just because you’re given a prescription for an antidepressant or antianxiety medication doesn’t mean that’s like a life sentence. Like you, the brain, like it has this amazing neuro-plasticity and we can harness.
The neuroplasticity of our brains to effect really amazing change and reverse the diagnosis that we thought was a life sentence. But your psychiatrist isn’t telling you that because it benefits your psychiatrist to need to come in the office every six months for a prescription refill and an evaluation.
It is unfortunately the pharmaceuticals and psychotropic medications have decided they made forever patients. Yes. The research, which is the worst part, the research on their FDA approval for these medications never tested long-term use. We don’t even know what they do. Long-term now we do, because we’ve had people on them long enough to know how detrimental it is and then how challenging it can be to come off of them.
And the most detrimental thing I’ve heard a psychiatrist say, and I hear them say it repeatedly. When people come off the medication and then they report negative side effects, they say, Oh, that’s how you felt before. Wasn’t it. That’s just your symptoms coming back. And I thought, let me give you this book and this information that a lot of this is actually withdrawal side effects from coming off of certain medications.
And because otherwise, then people think they can never come off. And it’s not true. They can, I mean, healing, the nervous system is the path to getting there. And in my opinion, yeah, I absolutely agree. And my unders, like I know for sure, cause I’ve experienced it myself. That EMDR is an amazing nervous system healing tool.
But now that you’re telling me about neurofeedback, I’m gathering that it’s the same with neurofeedback as well. Yes. And I think that if you can have a, a kind of step-wise approach was just what my colleague Lee ProVia does is it’s not always the exact same, no one’s recipe is exactly the same, but if you can do neurofeedback before EMDR, you can have a smoother, faster EMDR process.
I’d love to see us make that. As a field, a process of saying all of these things have their place. Let’s give clients an order and a white team that fills in because right now, every trauma survivor has to figure it all out. This puzzle, their toolkit, like you were saying independently, and it’s really hard.
And they make a lot of bumps along the way. I have a friend that had, I’ve met through neurofeedback community that did four different types of neurofeedback before she found her way to what I practice, which is under the mentorship of Seaburn Fischer, which is a trauma informed practice. It’s it? I use QEG, which is a brain map when I need to, but it’s a very specific kind.
I use a clinical assessment for trauma because our current methods, um, do not capture what trauma does to the brain. Very well. Okay. Can you explain that further? I wasn’t aware that there are four different models. Okay. So can you explain trauma informed neurofeedback and how it differs from other types of neurofeedback?
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Sure. And I don’t want to say that cue acute EEG is a qualitative EEG. We call it lay name is a brain map. You pull it. Most people. It’s 19 sensors on the head and they record 10 minutes eyes open tens minutes, eyes closed, and then they run that data through a computer program. Every computer program is different.
There are many out there and which one they’re using makes the difference. The only QEG I really use is analysis by Dr. Rob Coben. Who’s done a lot of research on developmental trauma and he uses a combined approach of both statistics and clinical assessment. But most of my that’s when it’s needed, it’s expensive.
The brain map is generally like a thousand dollars. So I try not to start with that, but what I do is a clinical, a full clinical assessment. And that means looking at all of the different symptoms, whether they’re endocrine, immune, digestive, emotional focus, attention regulation, the whole picture, as best as I can get it.
And then we work towards trying different spots on the head with different settings to see what feels right. It is a little bit of a trial and error process. But the more experience you have as a clinician, the faster that is for your clients. And so then it’s really down to finding a clinician who really understands trauma, because what we do is a bit different than what other people do.
I QEG will never tell you to train at the Indian Ridge, which is the Indian is I N I O N not promised. I’m not saying Indian it’s Indian Ridge. I’ve had that problem before. Is that the back of your head originally, they thought nothing was happening in the cerebellum, except your balance. The cerebellum actually has a inner part that has to do with emotional regulation and then behind that are next to it, depending on how you want to say it are two structures called the superior colliculus and the perianal ductal gray.
And from Dr. work, we now know that they’re instrumental in the fear networks of the brain. They light up before the amygdala. They are the precursors and they come from your sensory systems. So your sensory system sees, smells, anything. What feels like danger and they light up. And then the whole system of fear goes.
So I use a lot of the Indian Ridge because. That is a system that trauma survivors are living in and it is right next to the vagus nerve. So you can imagine all the things we all well, not we all, but lots of people now are aware of the function of the Vegas nerve and how it’s connected to almost every major organ system in your body, your facial expressions.
And so that whole system is connected. So if somebody is not really in that trauma world, they wouldn’t even use that spot. It’s not even on the brain map. Okay. Gotcha. Okay. But that is evolving and more and more people are getting trained in how did have this trauma-informed response. The other thing that’s important to know about brain maps is they, they try to norm the brain.
They’re sending you towards a norm, a number, an average. I don’t know what normal is anymore. I’m not sure there is a normal brain research and Dr. Lanius who is four months expert on brains and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, who are familiar with him, but both tell you there is no normal brain. So I don’t want to norm your brain with you.
I want to help my clients achieve their own calm and regulation, which is different than mine and different from yours. Absolutely. And so that’s the piece that Q E G hasn’t figured out yet that still needs to evolve is if we’re not norming people, what are we doing? Yeah. So I want to go back to before we talked all about psych meds and diagnosis and stuff.
So for people who do have diagnoses or do have symptoms, what are things that neurofeedback has been shown or fought with? And I diagnosed any of my clients who want to use insurance would require a diagnosis. I’m an out of network provider, but that’s still needed. So I work within that system too. I have no choice.
So common diagnoses and there is research to support this. I don’t have every single research article on it, but I know there’s a bunch of people keeping track of all of that. There are also blind studies and double-blind studies. Now there’s just not as many as we need to be confirmed in that way. But PTSD, Bessel, van der Kolk trial, the diagnosis of developmental trauma disorder.
It’s a real disorder, but the DSM refuses to use it because they have too many anxiety disorders already. I’m putting that in quotes. You guys can’t see that. So developmental trauma disorder, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, OCD, ADHD, add. If it comes from the nervous system, dysfunction, neurofeedback can be used to help it.
So in that way, people with auto-immune diseases, it is not a cure for an auto-immune disease. I don’t want to pretend to say that, but many people have found that it can, if your brain is functioning better, your cells in your brain will create less inflammation. Your immune system will function better.
You can have a reduction in symptoms. It’s it’s not a cure. Do you know Donna Kawasaki, Noah Zack, I’m butchering her name. I apologize. She, some of her studies were referenced in the book and, and the angel on the assassin. Oh, I think I thought some of her work was also referenced in the book. I haven’t mentioned over here.
Is it childhood disrupted? Yes. She wrote that book. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. She wrote a new book about microglia, which are the angel and the assassin in the brain. Um, she’s also doing, this is so funny. I keep plugging EEG learn, but she’s doing a workshop on inflammation in the brain coming up, or you can get the recordings.
Hers is in March. So this may be mountain time. Okay. So she’s doing on brain inflammation? Yes. And COVID specifically. Oh, cool. So microglia prune the brain that when things are being used, you be. It is possible. We cannot prove it just like many things in the brain. We can’t prove that neurofeedback can affect your microglia, but we do see things that would give us that indication and people with auto-immune diseases or other inflammatory problems that you can have an effect on that.
Also head injuries, concussions and seizures. Have you heard of, have you heard of Dr. Patrick Nemetschek and his work? No, I don’t know him. Okay. So he is, he’s not a mental health. Uh, provider at all, he’s actually, he’s an MD. And he started out early in his career. He was the chief resident at UCLA, and then he moved to Kansas city to start an AIDS clinic.
And through his research on AIDS and the immune system, he uncovered all of this stuff about the autonomic nervous system. And because patients with AIDS have compromised auto autonomic, nervous systems, he has, he developed a protocol actually, and it’s called the Nemetschek protocol. I’ve been doing it for 11 months and his protocol, he talks about in his book about microglia and primed microglia, and how.
When did my coat like microglia, um, are white blood cells that are in our brains. And they’re very, anti-inflammatory, they’re like a very smoothing, calming white blood cell in our brain. When the microglia become primed, they basically become the exact opposite. Yeah, the angel and the assassin. Exactly. So I’m going to have to check out that book and it’s written in story format, so it’s very fun to read.
Oh. So it’s not super scientific science in it, but she weaves it in beautifully. Yeah, that’s amazing. Okay. So anyway, what he, and what you’re saying here about head injuries and the trauma, I’m sorry. The brain injury caused by trauma. He absolutely shares that as well. And how, whether we’ve experienced a concussion, which is literal traumatic brain injury.
Or whether we’ve experienced developmental trauma or a serious illness, or sometimes people have really bad reactions to vaccines or antibiotics that can cause brain injury, but also a period of like really long emotional stress, financial hardship, a divorce, like all of these things make racism.
Exactly. Absolutely. All of these things, the patriarchy, all of the things. Yeah. Those things, all of these things can cause. Brain injury on top of brain injury on top of brain injury on top of brain injury, he calls it a cumulative brain injury and what happens. Great. Oh, it’s fantastic. What happens over time?
And because everyone’s autonomic nervous system is different and some people have more resiliency and flexibility than others. And who knows why, who knows if that has to do with intergenerational trauma, who knows if that has to do with things happening in their parents’ DNA or if it’s a result of lifestyle it’s nature versus nurture.
I have no idea, but anyway, chaos. Yeah. So everybody has a different level of flexibility and resiliency in their nervous system. So some people can experience years and years of trauma and brain injury, and you wouldn’t know it. They don’t know it. And some people it’s the very smallest thing seems to tip the scales from there, feeling great, doing life’s going good, everything’s fine.
And then they go through a divorce or they go through the loss of a child or a sickness or something. And it’s, they’re never quite the same again. And he talks about that in relationship to people with immune disease, people who have things like pots, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which is a blood pressure and heart rate COVID is causing that in people.
Yeah. It’s absolutely related to the autonomic nervous system, insomnia, anxiety, depression, postpartum depression, something that he calls broken mommy, which is like postpartum depression that doesn’t end. So it’s like, yeah, so it’s like a, mother’s no longer postpartum, but she’s like never quite the same after giving birth chronic kids, wasn’t that rebound chronic fatigue, chronic pain.
And he’s developed this protocol and the protocol has four parts to it. And the first two are high doses of anti-inflammatory oils. So it’s high doses of fish oil and high doses of olive oil. And that those oils are so good for the brain because they reduce inflammation in the brain. So he’s trying to calm down those microglia and reduce the brain from forming more microglia or becoming primed.
I’m sorry. The next part of his protocol is. Every few weeks to every few months, the patient takes around an antibiotic called Rifaximin because in his research, every patient that he’s ever seen who has cumulative brain injury also has small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, even if it’s negative for small intestinal, bacterial overgrowth through the breath test.
So that that’s the third part is as an antibiotic called Rifaximin. And then the fourth part is a little wire that clips to your left ear, and you can plug it into your phone and it stimulates the vagus nerve. Huh he’s so I have to try this he’s right up my alley. Amazing. It’s absolutely amazing. And his book is called the Nemetschek protocol and on the cover of the book, it says it’s for developmental delays.
Autism ADHD. And like he’s had children coming out of autism after being on this protocol. But the goal autism is also in that diagnostic problem of, yes, there’s too many things that are in it. They have real problems, but there’s a lot being clumped in that category. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. This is the first time I’ve really talked about this in depth on the podcast.
I was planning on doing an episode all about just me talking about my experience, but so I started the Nemetschek protocol on March 6th. Which is very interesting. I started it almost a year to the day from what I attempted suicide. It was like literally a year later. Wow. But I started it. And when I started the protocol, I had not had more than three hours of sleep per night for.
Three months because I had come off of all my psych meds and now I had nothing making me sleep. So I was in like this massive rebound in salt arousal state. Oh yeah, it was bad. So I hadn’t had more than three hours of sleep a night. I started the protocol in March. My psychiatrist was totally on board. I sent him the research about the protocol because I needed that prescription for Rifaximin.
And so he’s a psychiatrist who prescribed an antibiotic because I showed him this research. So I like your psychiatrist. Do I hear what you show them? The psychiatrist is phenomenal. He’s absolutely phenomenal. But anyway, by the end of April, I’d been on the protocol for nearly two months. I still wasn’t sleeping.
And my psychiatrist was like, Lindsay, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing for your brain. If you’re not sleeping your brain isn’t healing. So roasted, I can’t heal without sleep. Exactly. So he was like, you can keep doing what you’re doing with no meds. If that’s what you want to do. Or you can say the lesser evil is to sleep by any means necessary.
So with that, I was like, I do want my brain to heal. So again, I went back to the psych meds as a tool, knowing that I was going to continue this protocol, even though I was taking psych meds, I was going to get some sleep, even if it wasn’t super deep sleep. And then whenever I was ready, I would wean off of them again.
And I started weeding off my sleep meds in September. I was done weaning off of them by January. And today’s date is February 5th and I am consistently getting seven to nine hours of sleep. Hey, God, success. Yeah. So it takes time, right? This injury in the brain, it takes time to heal. It’s not like an overnight or a few weeks and it’s fixed, but I wanted to share that with you just because it sounds like we’ve read a lot of the same.
And for people listening to it’s called the Nemetschek protocol, I will link to it in the show notes. And I’ll also link to his website. He has a ton of information on autonomic nervous system dysfunction on his website. But I think it goes perfectly with what you’re saying, because it’s all about what’s going on in the brain.
And it’s not the mind, right. The actual brain. And I used to be a food blogger and a big part of my career as a food blogger, as a health and wellness. Food blogger and a big part of the world is there’s so much focus on the gut and it’s all about healing, the gut. And so people are taking massive amounts of probiotics.
They’re doing all kinds of like cleanses and restrictive diets and weird things to air quote, heal their guts and heal your gut. If your brain’s not doing, make me. Thank you. And I have started being like the person in my field or in my niece who is actually speaking out about stop, focusing so much on the gut and start focusing on the brain.
You got to do both. There’s a second brain there, neurons in your gut. You have to do both. If you’re eating terrible food every day. And you’re, it’s one of the things that I tell my clients and people all the time is neurofeedback will help it. Doesn’t do everything. Just like healing, your gut eating well, does not do everything.
It takes a whole toolbox, a whole recipe to really find that, that balance for yourself. Neurofeedback. Isn’t going to give you all the motivation in the world and suddenly you’re going to feel perfect and life will be grand in years from now. That entirely could be possible. I hope it is. I know it’s changed my life profoundly in that direction, but it didn’t do it.
And I had to do, I had to pick up the work after it started calming my nervous system. I had to keep doing the work. Yeah. Yeah. It doesn’t end there. Can you share from your own personal experience, can you share how neurofeedback has helped you. Sure. So I probably had, I had, I actually asked for a diagnosis would have qualified for a diagnosis of anxiety and PTSD.
Although I never did anything that required a formal diagnosis. And this was probably right after graduate school where things were really hard. And I was doing counseling. I was a therapist. I was working in residential treatment, which is traumatic all in and of itself. That is a very difficult job. And I came back from where I was working residential and went into private practice.
And I was struggling. I was working with clients. I was doing lots of good talk therapy, but my physical health was falling apart. I started having, like you were saying, dizzy spells my internal temperature would in-state even anymore. I was exhausted just a slew of medical issues. That one, as long as you could imagine.
And then when I was got into private practice, I finally had time to realize that this was probably pretty bad and I should try to do something about it. Unfortunately, the first doctor, I went to pulled the sexist card on me and he said, you’re just working too hard. And I looked at him and I was like, this is the least amount of hours I’ve worked in.
I can’t even tell you how long now, how do you said, I think you have fallout from working too hard in the past. We have to figure out how to get your system back on track would have been a different conversation, but he basically told me to work less than everything else would be fine. I was like, I am doing the work less.
It’s not fine. I need help. So then I went more into holistic medicine and I found a nutritionist and I could go into the whole medical thing forever and ever. But one of those paths was that I could find in therapy that I was giving so much of myself, that I was exhausting myself, regulating nervous systems all day when my own couldn’t handle, even regulating itself.
So I had a colleague who did neurofeedback. I was aware of it from where I worked in residential. And she was like, give neurofeedback a try, go get your training. And so I did. And funny enough, the first time I did the training, you don’t do an entire assessment. When you’re in the training, they do a shortened version and the reward number, the settings were too high.
It felt good, but it felt like I couldn’t stop. I was like going, I it’s like I had taken drugs. It was pretty funny, not funny for me, but, so that scared me a bit. That first experience was like, and then I started working with my mentor and she really helped me find the protocol that was calming. And I started at the top of my head and just kept working backwards.
And I say it was like someone put the cooling gel on me. It’s it just kept, I just kept getting calmer. And I would be able to feel like, okay, that shifted. And then if I put the sensors here, this thing would shift and it was just this amazing experience of being able to feel all the ways that my brain could change and how settled grounded in the earth I felt.
And I could finally, I had done a lot of therapy work and EMDR, and you try to shift the negative beliefs to something positive, but they’ve never stick for me. It was always an internal battle that goes back and forth and back and forth. And after doing enough neurofeedback, I don’t know if it was six months, maybe nine months in the battle started to shift and for the, and it’s still not perfect.
I still have negative beliefs that pop up now and again, but the, for the most part, I’d say 95% of the time, the positive beliefs are there and they’re strong and they feel real and they feel meaningful. And so all of that kind of shifted. And then my health started to change. I’ve been diagnosed as reactive hypoglycemia to gluten and it was out of control.
I was basically eating like 6,000 calories a day without carbs. And I needed that much just to function our guesses, that my microglia needed so much fat to stabilize. That was all that could stabilize them. I can’t prove it, but that’s the guests after some bunch of the neurofeedback and I still continue to do it.
I’m not sure. Holy mildly hypoglycemic. I can even sneak a Sqirl now and again in the year. So it changed like how I functioned, how I felt, but it also changed my health. And then we had to peel back new layers turned out. There were a bunch of problems. I didn’t even know I had, I had a tick parasite for probably half a decade and didn’t know it, hence that the antibacterial antibiotic that’s the right word, really resonated with me because nobody knew I had a parasite that was I’ve only, I only found that out during the pandemic.
Wow. So it’s been a journey where neurofeedback created a system where I could finally feel what was really happening and put words to it, and then do the things that I needed to do to address all the medical issues that had been created. Yeah. Would you, would you have to neurofeedback with neurofeedback help?
I think that there’s, so there’s like this, there’s a big gap between healthy and diagnosed sickness. Right. And in that gap, there’s things like brain fog, lack of focus, a lack of motivation. Feeling allowing the blah. Yeah. Just blah, feeling a lack of purpose. Like things like that. Would you say that? And those are things that, for me, as a, as an entrepreneur, I can’t afford, I can’t afford to be in those spaces, but I find myself in those spaces.
And I know cause I have the awareness of my nervous system. I know like my nervous system is still healing. Like I can’t expect to go from like chronic insomnia and crazy panic attacks to like completely, fully functional, even in a year, like it’s takes, it takes time and I’m so much further along than I used to be.
But so for people who aren’t like full-blown autoimmune disease or full blown anxiety or something like that, they’re just dealing with like brain fog, lack of motivation, lack of focus. Is that something that neurofeedback can help with too? Potentially. Yes, it is a more, it’s like when you have somebody who has a full-blown diagnosis, it’s not an intricate, it is a complex case, but the work that we do in neurofeedback, you can take a sledgehammer and you’ll hit something that will help.
And then you can refine it from there. You’re not doing fine detailed work. You’re not taking a chisel. But when you’re talking about people with these smaller issues, things that are in that gray, it does take a detailed, finer approach. And that really comes with the skill of the clinician. If there’s a trauma history and they’re still those things, my guess would be is that you’ve learned the person has learned to compensate and to do the best they can.
And the things aren’t wildly out of control. But am, I guess is the same factors that would create massive problems for someone else that are still at play they’ve just through age and some healing they’ve gotten improved. Now if there’s no trauma history, no intergenerational. I have a client that I treat as a trauma because there’s intergenerational trauma and it’s working very well.
So because that’s damaging to the brain and that gets passed down. So you can do that. So there’s not intergenerational trauma and no personal trauma. That person’s a very lucky be probably a white male. I’m just kidding.
Yeah. It’s probably unlikely for anyone else, but it, it definitely would be a harder thing to figure out where the doubt where the problems are. And that may actually be a case where a QEG would be very helpful to figure out. Where is not exactly what’s different about their brain compared to the norm and use a combined assessment with clinical.
And that might actually try to give you that’s we call that personalized medicine. The whole thing is personalized medicine, but for sure that level of detail might need that more intensive look at the brain because it might not be as obvious what needs to be done. But I also don’t work with tip like high performance.
And I know that there are neurofeedback providers who do high-performance work and they know they just know the finer details. My students smack you in the face with their problems so far, not literally, but right. Great. Just to go back, we don’t want to, we’re not demonizing, right males like for you you’re I don’t know of anyone, including my husband, who is a white male who doesn’t have.
Trauma. I think some people have more than others, but I just want to be clear like this. This is an all-inclusive podcast for not salute. Like we’re not excluding anybody. So can you tell us how can somebody find a really good trauma informed neurofeedback person? I wish I could say I have a really good answer to that.
It is an evolving network of people. I, my goal is to work, to create a provider list at the moment it’s challenging. I won’t lie. A lot of people reach out to me like, can you work with me? And because of the way licensing works, I can’t work with people outside of my state. If you had a provider who did neurofeedback, but didn’t understand trauma, you, they could consult with myself or Seaborn or some of the other experts, as long as they did neurofeedback and were open to it, to help them gain that expertise while working with that person that we can do.
Because as a consultant, we can talk to people in other States, but as much as tele-health is now a thing we as clinicians licensed are still, depending on everyone’s licensed in their state is different, which is the problem. But I being in New Jersey, I am rather trapped to New Jersey. Yes. COVID rules allow us to now do more, but basically COVID provisions in most States allow us to work with people in other States, but it’s temporary.
It could expire at any time. And then I leave you hanging. That would that’s unethical. I can’t do that. So it’s hard. I don’t know. I don’t wish I had a better answer. You can definitely look on the bcia.org. We can link that to, that’s just a listing of people who are board certified in neurofeedback. I’m in the process of obtaining mine. I had to take a neuroscience course first and that will give you people are board certified.
And then from there, what you’d want to ask them is what’s their training in neurofeedback? What model do they follow? A lot of what we’ve talked about, we classify under the arousal model. And that can be really helpful, but to say, are you using, how do you use a QEG what training have you had, especially for trauma and trauma’s work?
What model do you follow? That’ll be really helpful to find someone to me who knows more. Yeah, that’s amazing. Wow. I’ve learned so much here. Thank you. Thank you for talking to us about neurofeedback as a trauma healing tool that people can add to their toolboxes. You are very welcome and feel free. I try to post as much information on my Instagram as possible, and I’m always open to questions or people’s input about what people want to know.
Yeah, for sure. And what’s your Instagram again? It’s at the neurofeedback gal. Okay, perfect. We’ll link to that in the show notes too. Thanks Leanne. Thank you.
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