If you’ve been going through options for mental health treatment and rehab, you might find some clinicians and programs advertising biofeedback therapy as one of the specific interventions offered.
Biofeedback is the idea of using scientific instruments to enable a person to actively control biological processes that are not usually considered to be voluntary. The goal of this therapy is to help a person change a body function at will. An extremely wide variety of bodily functions could be controlled, including those related to mental health conditions like substance use disorder (SUD).1,2,3
While initially explored as a method of controlling pain, constipation, and other physical conditions, over the years biofeedback and its related concepts have also been applied successfully on individuals with SUD and co-occurring mental health conditions, particularly as part of a holistic relapse prevention strategy.
What Can You Control With Biofeedback Therapy?
Generally speaking, most body functions that could be measured could be controlled, over time. Though it’s still disputed how biofeedback actually works, it has been shown to work on a wide variety of measurable body functions.
Some of the functions controllable through biofeedback therapy include but are not limited to:1,2,3,4
- Blood oxygenation/Breathing
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Muscle activity
- Brain activity (EEG)
Why Is Biofeedback Therapy Used in SUD Treatment?
While not a complete substitute for psychotherapy and medically-assisted therapy, biofeedback therapy gives clinicians and patients an affordable, and relatively non-invasive way of managing symptoms related to SUD withdrawals, as well as those of related conditions such as anxiety, depression, and trauma.1,2,3
This is because many symptoms of these conditions are tied to physical effects, such as elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Other physical effects a patient may feel during withdrawal may include feelings of doom or despair, muscle tightness at the chest, shoulders, and neck, lightheadedness, nausea, and intense cravings for their substance of choice. Stopping or slowing down these effects can often help improve mental resilience as well as patient comfort.1,2,3
Generally speaking, most individuals who receive biofeedback therapy and training can, with time and effort, learn to control one or more of these physical symptoms. This can help break emotional feedback loops that could lead to a relapse or other maladaptive behavior.
Biofeedback can be focused on treating just cravings or on symptoms of co-occurring mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder that cause individuals to use substances. This makes biofeedback a fairly flexible tool, especially now that the price of wearable devices and monitors has dropped in the past few years.
How is Biofeedback Therapy Administered?
There is no single way to implement biofeedback therapy. The use of wearable monitoring devices is often needed in the beginning to establish baselines of specific body functions. These devices can also help patients be more in tune with the functions they need to control.3
Typically, the therapist will help the patient identify the functions to control to help regulate emotions, increase comfort and resilience, and break the emotional feedback loops associated with anxiety and panic attacks that can precede relapses.
To help individuals become more familiar with their bodies, talk therapy, mindfulness sessions, and yoga may be recommended. When the patient has learned to master their target functions, they may need wearable monitors less. However, they may need to keep wearing their monitors consistently for a few weeks so their therapist can track their functions’ states throughout a regular day, potentially helping them identify previously unknown stress triggers.
Find Biofeedback Therapy in North Texas
Biofeedback therapy is an excellent way to develop body literacy, which not only helps SUD patients control their emotional responses but also helps develop an attitude of mindfulness that could help improve one’s quality of life.
Thanks to current trends in smart technology, biofeedback monitoring doesn’t have to be done solely in a therapist’s office either. This has made this supplemental therapy more accessible to individuals recovering from SUD and other mental health conditions.
Get in touch with our team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers to find SUD treatment and rehab programs and continuing care options that offer biofeedback therapy. Call our team at +1(214) 935-2287 to discuss your personalized treatment options and more.
- Alayan, N., Eller, L., Bates, M. E., & Carmody, D. P. (2018). Current evidence on heart rate variability biofeedback as a complementary anticraving intervention. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 24(11), 1039-1050.
- Eddie, D., Kim, C., Lehrer, P., Deneke, E., & Bates, M. E. (2014). A pilot study of brief heart rate variability biofeedback to reduce craving in young adult men receiving inpatient treatment for substance use disorders. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback, 39(3-4), 181-192.
- Futterman, A. D., & Shapiro, D. (1986). A review of biofeedback for mental disorders. Psychiatric Services, 37(1), 27-33.
- Goessl, V. C.; Curtiss, J. E.; Hofmann, S. G. (November 2017). “The effect of heart rate variability biofeedback training on stress and anxiety: a meta-analysis”. Psychological Medicine. 47 (15): 2578–2586. doi:10.1017/S0033291717001003.