Biofeedback is not a therapy
Let's get this striaght. Biofeedback is not a therapy but it can do you a power of good. It's a case of choosing the right tool for the job. If im bleeding to death or challenged by cancer I would not seek a biofeedback solution. However, if I have struggled with stress, sleeplessness or many other health challnges I definitely know that biofeedback approaches can help. If im an athlete or a business person looking for an edge of performance it's worth checking biofeedback out too.
Biofeedback can have many positive effects across the spectrum of health and wellness but we dont look on it as a therapy - we dont refer to "biofeedback therapy."
This is an important point because biofeedback methods are very different from medical treatment which usually involves a different level of involvement of the patient. We often think of receiving medical treatment - taking that pill, undergoing surgery - and in that part we are passengers.
In fact, biofeedback and neurofeedback can’t be compared to classical medication or to passive therapy for the following reasons
- Biofeedback is an active method, requiring the client to actively participate in his own health care;
- It is a learning process, requiring a commitment to practice and behavioral change;
- It involves a holistic emphasis on body, mind and spirit; the mind and body are not treated as if they are disconnected
- It is a non-invasive training, meaning no instruments or chemicals are put into the body;
- It elicits the body’s own healing response.
For these reasons, biofeedback and neurofeedback are attractive approaches for people seeking complementary medial approaches. What we have to avoid though are biased opinions and blind faith in either biofeedback or conventional medicine. Each has it's place. Biofeedback is less well known and understood and it's generally the case that whatever is new may not easily challenge existing paradigms. A balanced perspective is important.
Advantages of biofeedback and neurofeedback
These are the advantages of biofeedback and neurofeedback approaches as we see them. No snake oil involved.
- Biofeedback and neurofeedback can truly help eliminate health problems that are stress-related or that have a major psychosomatic component, whereas medication mostly addresses symptoms;
- Biofeedback and neurofeedback can assist in rehabilitation, incontinence and other areas as a complementary solution, applied along with therapy and medication;
- Biofeedback and neurofeedback deliver persistent effects, as the clients learn to apply the techniques in daily life, without needing equipment;
- Biofeedback and neurofeedback techniques have no known side-effects, so they are a low risk solution; (unless you neglet a more appropriate conventional medical approach in favour of an inappropriate biofeedback approach)
- Biofeedback and neurofeedback approaches educate people about their own health by creating new awareness of their body and mind in action; and empowers them to take control. It shows the progress they are making, which is often a strong motivating factor;
- Biofeedback and neurofeedback have a huge preventive characteristic. It gives the client methods to prevent their health problems and intervene quickly when the first signs rise of returning of the problems.
The number of well-trained health professionals who can offer this method is increasing, although rather limited - especially in the UK compared to the rest of the developed world. Nevertheless, it turns out that the public is more and more hoping for a non-pharmacological solution to their woes. The emphasis on educating individuals in self-care is growing even within our NHS which has to find a way of managing the demographic challenges of our age. This fits in the changing picture of health problems today, especially the increasing incidence of chronic conditions.
In a future article we will spell out our recommendations for the equipment and training health professionals need to practive biofeedback and neurofeedback training effectively.