Biofeedback: what is it and what is it for?

Much has changed since the standard mode of psychotherapy was the verbal healing offered by Freudian psychoanalysis.

One of those things has to do with the loss of popularity of psychoanalysis, yes, but there is another factor at play: today the development of technology makes it possible to propose therapy proposals that were inconceivable decades ago. One example is the use of a technique called biofeedback.

Biofeedback: sensor technology applied to psychotherapy

Biofeedback is, counted and debated, a technique based on a system of sensors thanks to which the patient has real-time knowledge of various physiological parameters that describe how your body works.

Through biofeedback, a feedback loop is created, which makes it easier for the person to learn how to achieve optimal functional levels in aspects such as blood pulse, body temperature, etc. In other words, the individual being informed in real time of what is happening in different parts of his body, he learns to associate these phenomena with certain sensations and, with a little practice, is better able to regulate certain functions. bodily.

So biofeedback it facilitates the process of consciously controlling (and for our own good) bodily processes which otherwise could get out of hand in certain situations that negatively affect our quality of life.

The usefulness of biofeedback

Decades ago, it was believed that mental processes, everything that was normally called “the conscious mind,” was separate from bodily functions that ensure our survival, such as heart rate, sweating, etc. The idea was basically that the two processes were going in parallel, or more precisely that the conscious mind was ridden on the basic physiology of our body just like a device connects to a computer or a cell phone.

However, implementing biofeedback means breaking this belief, And allowed the emergence of a new horizon of possibilities in therapy and learning in general. So, for example, biofeedback allows you to learn relaxation methods, deal with anxiety, and even more efficient ways of breathing very effectively.

From the start, the use of biofeedback has always been a challenge in which you have to pay attention to both the sensations you feel and the information that the sensors give you, but little by little the progress they become can be. facilities until they are present. in our lives almost automatically.

Additionally, biofeedback has been shown to be scientifically proven effective in treating insomnia, ADHD, chronic pain, anxiety disorders and phobias, and many more. However, this technique is still very recent, and its usefulness and guarantees of effectiveness are still a subject of debate in scientific communities, depending on the type of treatment to be applied.

Types of biofeedback

The defining idea of ​​biofeedback is what we have seen, and precisely because it is so simple that it can be applied to many cases and used with a wide variety of sensors, Computer machines and programs.

This means that the biofeedback technique can have several uses depending on the form it takes. These are its different types.

1. Neurofeedback

Thanks to neurofeedback patients are made aware of how their brains are activated in certain situations. This allows the patient to relate the subjective experiences to what they are feeling and thinking with the feedback provided by the machines, thus having a reference on when and when progress is being made and when not.

Neurofeedback this is the most obvious link between the application of biofeedback and psychologyAs the measurements provide information about the state of the brain. However, there are also two other types of biofeedback.

2. Registry of the somatic nervous system

This is the type of biofeedback in which sensors collect information about the somatic nervous systemThis is what transmits voluntary commands from the brain to the muscles. Thus, this method makes it possible to record information about muscle tone, mainly through a method called electromyogram.

3. Autonomous nervous system registry

The somatic nervous system is the one that transmits orders regarding involuntary actions, such as regulating heart rate, body temperature or the type of substances secreted in the digestive system, among others. For that, the use of sensors on it allows you to better monitor these processes and correct them in case of imbalances.

How is biofeedback used?

Biofeedback sessions are always supervised by a therapist who will guide the entire process, from setting goals to running each session (lasting less than an hour).

Initially, the physiological function on which you wish to intervene is chosen, your reaction is measured before the sessions, and the objectives are set.. Then the biofeedback sessions are performed, which are usually posed as if they were part of a training in which the most clearly active role is played by the patient. Finally, the results obtained are compared to the objectives set.

Sometimes the patient can continue to use the biofeedback technique out of the clinic after they have received the necessary instruments and learned to use them without asking for help. However, even if the therapist is not present in these cases, he will be able to consult the recordings obtained by the sensors to see the progress that has been made.

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