Neurofeedback for PTSD/Developmental Trauma

The objective of The Cabins neurofeedback program for PTSD/Developmental Trauma is the same as that for psychotherapy or EMDR – to process the trauma so it no longer affects you in the same way.  The difference is that neurofeedback offers a way to do this without having to talk about uncomfortable feelings or reliving them.

At The Cabin, neurofeedback for PTSD begins with a training protocol to calm you physically and mentally. We then move to a phase that encourages you to enter a very relaxed state. In this state, memories of the trauma (whether consciously remembered or not) are processed so they no longer have the emotions usually attached to them, and the memory is ‘reprogrammed’ as a historic one.

The number of sessions required for the treatment of PTSD and complex trauma depends on the severity of the symptoms and how you respond to neurofeedback, but The Cabin recommend a minimum of 20 sessions.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by being exposed to a traumatic experience, which is then often relived after the event, with commonly recurring feelings of guilt, isolation, irritability, difficultly sleeping and concentrating. Various events can lead to different traumas. From being bitten by a dog, being in an accident, working as a first responder or key worker or being repeatedly exposed to domestic violence or child abuse. What these events have in common, is that the individual is exposed to actual, or perceived threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. This is one of the criteria of a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis. 

Criteria for diagnosis of PTSD includes:

  • Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence
  • Directly experiencing the traumatic event(s)
  • Witnessing, in person, the event(s) as it occurred to others
  • Learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family member or close friend
  • Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event(s)

What About Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) or Developmental Trauma?

Trauma that occurred in childhood or adolescence, often labelled as Developmental Trauma Disorder, is a term coined by Bessel van der Kolk who has long campaigned for such a diagnosis to be recognised, and who is an ardent promoter of Neurofeedback for trauma, or Complex Trauma.

Developmental Trauma or as it is sometimes called ‘Complex Trauma’ is different from so-called ‘simple’ PTSD, in that the patient has suffered long-term traumatic stress, which could include sexual abuse (especially child sexual abuse), physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence, torture or psychological torture.

The Cabins Neurofeedback Program is particularly suitable for Developmental Trauma or C-PTSD, with protocols to both process the trauma (whether consciously remembered or not), and improve brain regulation to address the long-term symptoms of trauma, such as hyper-vigilance or emotional dysregulation.

At The Cabin we have extensive experience working with adults and young people with Developmental Trauma.

Symptoms of Complex PTSD

Everyone suffering from Complex PTSD experiences different symptoms at various levels, regardless of the nature of the traumatic event(s) or the age of being exposed. The symptoms can appear immediately after the events, or many years after.  The symptoms for adults, adolescents, and children older than 6 years:

Intrusion symptoms

  • Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content and/or affect of the dream are related to the traumatic event(s)
  • Dissociative reactions (flashbacks) in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic event(s) were recurring
  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event(s)

Persistent avoidance of stimuli 

  • Avoidance of or efforts to avoid distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic event 
  • Avoidance of or efforts to avoid external reminders (e.g., people, places) that arouse distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic event(s)

Negative Alterations in Cognitions and Mood 

  • Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic event(s) 
  • Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world Persistent distorted cognitions about the cause or consequences of the traumatic event(s) that lead the individual to blame himself/herself or others 
  • Persistent negative emotional state (e.g., fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame) 
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities 
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others 
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions

Marked Alterations in Arousal and Reactivity 

  • Irritable behaviour and angry outbursts expressed as verbal or physical aggression toward people or objects 
  • Reckless or self-destructive behaviour 
  • Hypervigilance 
  • Exaggerated startle response 
  • Problems with concentration 
  • Sleep disturbance

 

It is quite normal to experience some of these symptoms when you are exposed to a traumatic event, and for some people they may subside over time. When they continue for more than a month a PTSD diagnosis may be made. When multiple events happen that inform part of someone’s upbringing or life story a diagnosis of Complex PTSD may be made.

Causes of PTSD and Complex PTSD

It is believed that PTSD and Complex Trauma symptoms persist when the sufferer has not yet come to terms with the emotions the trauma/s caused. Some of the explanation is also biological and involves both short term and long-term memory systems of the brain and the part of the brain that deals with stress and fear.  What is common to nearly all trauma survivors are that the memories and emotions can be strong and painful; this can shape people’s behaviour as they try to cope with the psychological pain and stress left by the footprint of their experiences. 

It is natural to want to avoid them, especially for people who are not used to, or comfortable with acknowledging their emotions. This can lead to other problems manifesting such as anxiety, depression, or alcohol and substance abuse. But the further they are pushed away, the worse the trauma symptoms tend to get. By coming to terms with the trauma, you can also regain your sense of control so that the memories of the trauma are no longer controlling your life. The Cabins Neurofeedback program offers this very solution.

Treatment for PTSD and Complex Trauma

Effective approaches to PTSD/Developmental Trauma can include talking therapies to help you to come to terms with the trauma. However, for many people who have suffered trauma, talking therapies are not suitable. This may be because they have no conscious memory of the trauma, so they cannot talk about them, even though their unconscious or bodies have stored them. Alternatively, they may find that to think about the trauma, never mind talk about it to a stranger, is too overwhelming to contemplate. 

Neurofeedback overcomes all these issues. Whatever the trauma, at The Cabin we do not need to know the details, and the client does not have to know, think or talk about the details either.  Often clients who were previously unable to contemplate talking therapy find that they can after having neurofeedback.

 

The Neuroplasticity Factor: Why Neurofeedback Helps When Other Methods Fail

The Cabins Neurofeedback training takes advantage of the brain’s amazing ability to change itself. This ability is known as neuroplasticity, and is how learning takes place. For example, neuroplasticity is what allows you to become better at a sport with practice or to develop a new habit over time.

 

Brain Neuroplasticity is the Key Factor that The Cabin bases its Neurofeedback Therapy on.

Using brain neuroplasticity and The Cabins innovative Neurofeedback programs technology, you can physically re-wire your brain to better serve your goals and to become your ideal self. Moreover, using the neuroplasticity feature of your brain with The Cabins Neurofeedback technology means you can recover from many pathological states and disorders with help from our expert therapists – and your own attention and intention.

 

The Brain Continues to Adapt and Adjust

Research has shown that throughout life the brain continues to adapt and adjust as it confronts new experiences, acquires fresh knowledge, and is exposed to varying sensory input. Different neurons fire, the number of synapses increases and the brain gets “re-mapped.”  This capacity for change continues well into old age.

Over time, new patterns and structures are created, becoming more conducive to contentment and a peaceful mind. With practice and training, these patterns can produce a new way of life. Another benefit is that many people are able, over time, to reduce or eliminate medication.

 

How Neurofeedback Can Increase the Neuroplasticity of Your Brain

Brain neuroplasticity from a neurofeedback perspective is the glue that holds everything together. It is the cellular-level technology that allows long-term changes within the nervous system to occur. Neurofeedback offers a way of encouraging the process of neuroplasticity to enable healthy changes in neural patterns.

Neurofeedback technology was developed based upon the brain’s neuroplasticity ability. The Cabins Neuroplasticity programs involve quantifying and training your brains activity using sophisticated machines that measure your brain waves. In the pursuit to improve ourselves and our biology, no modern advancement in the field of mental health has seen such drastic and rapid transformations as neurofeedback. 

At The Cabin we only see a very limited number of trauma patients at a time so our team of neurofeedback therapists are devoted entirely to your recovery.

S.C. Tharan
4th September, 2022
Edited: Lee Daniel Hawker-Lecesne

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