You may not know that you are already a proficient user of biofeedback! If you feel sick, you probably use a thermometer to take your temperature. The thermometer provides information, or feedback about your biological functioning. Based on the thermometer’s reading, you respond appropriately. When I use biofeedback clinically, I help my clients learn how to monitor and change their physiology.
Biofeedback is a noninvasive activity that uses information about your own physical systems to help you achieve better health. It is scientifically based and validated by studies and clinical practice. Sensors connected to the body show physiologic functioning in real time, such as heart rate, breathing or muscle tension. The feedback information can be used to improve many conditions that include a physical component.
The main attraction of biofeedback is its focus on strengthening clients’ own physiologic systems to help them improve their health without the use of medications. Biofeedback is often used to help with issues of dysregulation – a state in which internal systems are unable to maintain healthy functioning:
These are all examples of failures in mental and physical self-regulation. Biofeedback can help bring systems back into balance. It is a high-tech approach to training better self-regulation.
Biofeedback follows a training model. A client views and learns to change physiologic functioning in real time. With practice, the change becomes automatic as the body’s own ability to self-regulate is strengthened.
The appeal and benefits of biofeedback are many:
Treating the whole person
Biofeedback is both evidence-based for particular conditions and personalized for individuals. When I first meet with a client, I run an evaluation looking at the response to stress of multiple systems including heart rate, respiration, blood flow, muscle tension and reactivity. Training plans are based on the presenting issues and the results of the evaluation. Research evidence and clinical experience show that biofeedback benefits many conditions, including:
I have been Board Certified in Biofeedback for over a decade. I also coordinated the Biofeedback program in Behavioral Medicine at the Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School site. I continue to mentor clinicians in biofeedback and speak to professionals and the general public on using biofeedback to improve health for children, adolescents and adults.