Your first session will be a 1 1/2 to 2 hour session with Susanne Gill, PhD, a licensed psychologist. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions about your experience with sleep, mood, and your medical history. You may also be asked to complete a short assessment. This intake appointment is important as we are assessing whether your brain tends toward over activation, under activation, or a mix of both. This will give an indication of where to target the neurofeedback training.
The second session will last about 45 minutes and is your first actual neurofeedback training. You will sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet office. Sue will measure your head to find the correct spot to stick a small sensor on your scalp. Don't worry, this sensor is entirely painless, and we don't have to shave your head to get it to stick. We will have to put a small dab of goop on your scalp though, so that the sensor stays on. Sensors are also clipped to each ear. These will pick up your brain's electrical activity and send a real time reading of your brain wave activity to the computer.
The first time we do neurofeedback, we will only do the actual feedback for about 15 minutes. Your brain isn't used to doing this kind of work and we don't want to tire it out too much. In addition, it may take several sessions to figure out exactly where to set the training parameters to fit the needs of your individual brain, so we don't want to do it for too long at first.
During the neurofeedback training, you will be asked to sit quietly and watch a large monitor that will show a basic video game. Each time your brain produces the brain wave states that we want, the video game will progress. When your brain is doing something that we don't want (such as producing large amounts of daydreaming waves), the video game will not progress. In this way, your brain will very quickly learn how to guide you into a more flexible, alert, but relaxed state of mind.
After the session, you may feel tired or hungry or a little like you've had some caffeine. Please allow time for this, so that you can have a short rest or a snack if needed before going on with your day.
It will be important for you to pay attention to how you feel that day and the next, so that we know if we need to adjust the parameters of the feedback for the next session. Is your sleep a bit better? Then we are heading in the right direction. Did it get a bit worse? Then we need to adjust the training accordingly. Are you feeling more alert, relaxed, hopeful? Great! If these things were slightly worse the day after the training, it probably means that we need to adjust the training slightly.
Within the first 1-5 sessions you will know if neurofeedback is working for you. The beauty of this treatment is that positive results begin to show quite fast, and any negative effects can quickly be remedied through minor adjustments in the training protocol.
Once we get the training parameters correctly adjusted for your brain's needs, we will slowly increase the time of the actual training to about 30 minutes, along with 15 minutes for prep and review. Lasting change occurs within 20-40 sessions for most people, and most people find that training 1-2 times per week gets the best results.