On April 31st through May 1st and May 14th through 15th, 2022 a BCIA accredited course in neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) will be offered by Sadar Psychological and Sports Center. Soltane’s mission is to offer support for individuals with intellectual disabilities. People with intellectual disabilities often struggle with mental health issues in addition to their intellectual challenges.
There is growing clinical consensus, and research evidence suggests that a trauma history underlies most psychological and many medical symptoms. These symptoms emerge and remain when a person’s brain/body is unable to recover on its own from a traumatic experience. Trauma may take the form of “acute trauma” (i.e., exposure to a single traumatic event); “chronic trauma” (repeated exposure to stress such as ongoing domestic violence or abuse); or “complex trauma” (exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events). The latter two have also been referred to as “developmental trauma” as they usually occur during the developmental stages of an individual. In any case, the body/brain responds to a trauma in an evolutionarily determined survival mode. When the body and/or the brain remains in that survival mode for too long, pathological symptoms often emerge. This is especially the case when the traumatic event(s) occurs during childhood when the brain and body are developing. While there is a lack of research investigating the prevalence rates of adverse life events across the lifespan of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), there is some literature that has evaluated the prevalence of abuse among children with IDD. For example, Spencer et al (2005) found that children with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities were 2.9 times more likely to have been emotionally abused, 3.4 times more likely to have been physically abused, 5.3 times more likely to have been neglected, and 6.4 times more likely to have been sexually abused (Keesler, J.M., 2014). It is a reasonable assumption to believe that people with IDD have trauma histories and should therefore be approached in a treatment context with trauma informed care. Trauma informed care is basically an approach that assumes that an individual is more likely than not to have a trauma history. A part of trauma informed care is to avoid treatment approaches that can worsen or trigger the trauma response.
Biofeedback is a process of gaining greater awareness and control of one’s physiological functions through the use of electronic or other instruments. Some of the physiological functions that can be addressed are brainwaves, muscle tone, heart rate, heart rate variability, etc. Important for trauma treatment is that, unlike traditional psychotherapeutic approaches, talking about the trauma experiences is not necessary. For many people with trauma histories, talking about their past traumas can be re-traumatizing. Furthermore, people with IDD are often less verbal and cannot express their emotions in an optimal verbal manner. So even if discussing their trauma histories would not be re-traumatizing, they are less likely to benefit from the more traditional approaches to treatment that rely upon talking.
With its’ emphasis on stabilizing physiological functions biofeedback is a good approach for addressing residual effects of trauma present in individuals with IDD. As mentioned earlier a trauma response may be conceptualized as the body and the brain having a survival response that does not remit, which leads to the emergence of psychological and/or medical symptoms. In the case of the brain, or central nervous system (CNS), trauma typically promotes a period of intense, prolonged activation as the person goes into high alert. Optimal brain functioning involves regular transitioning between being in activated and deactivated states. The brains of trauma victims are either no longer able to deactivate as they should, or they have entered a state of prolonged deactivation as a compensatory response to the period of intense activation that they endured. This can present itself as anxiety, depression, poor sleep, decreased attention, alcohol/drug abuse, dissociation, physical symptoms, etc.
The course offered at Soltane will meet the 36 hours of didactic training required by the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA) towards becoming certified in neurofeedback. This course is aimed at providing a firm foundation in the history, mechanisms and application of neurofeedback on which the practitioner will be able to build future knowledge and practice as they pursue being able to offer neurofeedback to their clients/patients with confidence.
Learn more by visiting the BCIA Approved Neurofeedback Course – Live/In Person page.
Sadar Psychological and Sports Center is affiliated with the Trauma Research Foundation (TRF) and has taught TRF members this accredited course. TRF was founded by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk the author of the best-selling book “The Body Keeps the Score” in which neurofeedback is discussed and supported as a recommended approach when dealing with residual trauma.