Neurofeedback helps at any age

submitted by Dr. Maria DiDonato, D.Ed. Psychologist, Achievement & Wellness Center, www.achievewell.net

Marge (not her real name) was a perky, attractive middle-aged woman. She was independent and wanted to stay on the top of her game. She enjoyed her job and felt good about having a meaningful lifestyle. Stress with family situations and job demands were causing her to feel overwhelmed as she tried to keep a positive attitude and maintain balance. Unavoidably, she found herself worrying and developing a depressed mood, making her routine seem burdensome.

The non-medication approach of neurofeedback was appealing to her as she wanted a more holistic approach with her health care. When Marge began neurofeedback, she described anxiety and depressed mood as her biggest concerns. Besides worrying less, she wanted to establish boundaries with others, instead of being everyone’s go-to person. Staying efficient at her job was necessary and important.

Marge began treatment with counseling, neurofeedback and autogenic training. She quickly began experiencing a positive state of mind and more confidence. Neurofeedback training and counseling reinforced her positive mood and thoughts.

Autogenic self-regulation training helped her feel more in control and stay in control. She began setting healthy boundaries with others. Gradually, as she showed improvement, her sessions were less frequent and she became more confident. She was able to recognize that her age would not slow down her alertness and efficiency. Instead, she felt mentally sharper. 

Neurofeedback helps establish a habit of positive brain wave balance. With autogenic training, the individual learns to maintain control with external stressors. Individuals gradually change their lifestyle and coping strategies to a more positive approach.

Older individuals quickly recognize that their cognitive alertness and efficiency is a positive asset and they become more confident with their life experiences. Neurofeedback empowers cognitive efficiency at any age. No one is too old to have a sharper mind.

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Lenape Valley Foundation offering mental health first aid training

Lenape Valley Foundation is offering a training course for Mental Health First Aid Certification on Wednesday, March 26th, from 8:00am to 4:30pm, at their headquarters located at 500 N. West Street, Doylestown. This training is made possible through a grant from the Bucks County Department of Mental Health/Developmental Programs.

Mental Health First Aid is a groundbreaking public education program that helps the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. Mental Health First Aid is offered in the form of an interactive course that presents an overview of mental illness and substance use disorders in the U.S. and introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact, and gives an overview of common treatments.

Those who take the course to certify as Mental Health First Aiders learn a five-step action plan encompassing the skills, resources and knowledge to help an individual in crisis connect with appropriate professional, peer, social and self-help care.

The training course is free and lunch will be provided. Registration is required. To register, call Nicole Wolf at 215-458-4220 or e-mail Nicole.wolf@lenapevf.org. A certificate of course completion will be given to participants at the end of the training.

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Passing grades with neurofeedback

submitted by Dr. Maria DiDonato, D.Ed. Psychologist, Achievement & Wellness Center, www.achievewell.net

Steve (not his real name) struggled with maintaining academic success and keeping his life in order with good choices. In trying to manage the responsibilities and pressures of college, he frequently found himself making poor choices. Socially, he was unable to maintain positive relationships. He could not seem to come out of the spiral. As he stumbled with keeping on track with his academic goals, he kept falling back into the same self-defeating behaviors.

He came to neurofeedback treatment seeking an alternative to the treatment he was already receiving, hoping to improve his life. He struggled with anxiety, inattention, lack of motivation, and depression. His self-medicating behaviors were part of the problem. He needed to be able to focus better in class, complete his assignments and follow through with the academics necessary for a successful career. 

As part of a diagnostic intake, the quantitative electroencephalogram identified areas of inattention, anxiety and depression that were triggering the self-defeating behaviors.  Steve’s treatment plan consisted of neurofeedback, which addressed the brain wave imbalances that were associated with the emotional and behavioral issues. He also began Heart Math, which is a type of biofeedback where he learned control over his daily stressors by altering breathing and heart rate. In learning autogenic training he reacted more positively to stressors. 

Neurofeedback training is an effective modality that reinforces and rewards brain waves that are associated with more positive feelings and behaviors. Over time, these changes become permanent with individuals more consistently following a pattern of healthy behaviors, making better choices and successfully changing the direction of their lives into healthier outcomes. Heart Math is effective in autogenic training for self-control and stress management. Steve is making excellent progress, has successfully completed another semester in school, and looking forward to completing a college degree and a more successful life style.

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Lenape Valley Foundation

The staff members of Lenape Valley Foundation (LVF) have provided compassionate assistance and hope to thousands of children, adults, and families in Bucks County for over half a century. The mission of LVF is “To partner with members of our community encountering mental health, substance use, intellectual or developmental challenges as they pursue their personal aspirations and an enhanced quality of life.”

LVF has excelled in its ability to provide a comprehensive behavioral health system for our Bucks County neighbors and friends by offering more than 30 high-quality programs. By offering services related to crisis, clinical, case management, rehabilitation and residential programs, just to name a few, LVF provides comprehensive resources critical to those individuals with mental illness, substance use issues, intellectual or developmental disabilities.

These individuals and their families have found hope, a renewed spirit, a revived sense of dignity, and the opportunity to live a full and productive life by joining with LVF on their journey to recovery.

For more information visit www.lenapevf.org or call 215-345-5300. For crisis services, call 215-345-2273 for Central Bucks or 215-785-9765 for Lower Bucks. LVF also offers Mobile Crisis Services.

LVF will hold its Annual Golf Outing at Doylestown Country Club on Monday, June 9th. For more information call Suzanne Rhodeside, Community Relations Director, at 267-893-5280.

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Lenape Valley Foundation

The staff members of Lenape Valley Foundation (LVF) have provided compassionate assistance and hope to thousands of children, adults, and families in Bucks County for over half a century. The mission of LVF is “To partner with members of our community encountering mental health, substance use, intellectual or developmental challenges as they pursue their personal aspirations and an enhanced quality of life.”

LVF has excelled in its ability to provide a comprehensive behavioral health system for our Bucks County neighbors and friends by offering more than 30 high-quality programs. By offering services related to crisis, clinical, case management, rehabilitation and residential programs, just to name a few, LVF provides comprehensive resources critical to those individuals with mental illness, substance use issues, intellectual or developmental disabilities.

These individuals and their families have found hope, a renewed spirit, a revived sense of dignity, and the opportunity to live a full and productive life by joining with LVF on their journey to recovery.

For more information visit www.lenapevf.org or call 215-345-5300. For crisis services, call 215-345-2273 for Central Bucks or 215-785-9765 for Lower Bucks. LVF also offers Mobile Crisis Services.

LVF will hold its Annual Golf Outing at Doylestown Country Club on Monday, June 9th. For more information call Suzanne Rhodeside, Community Relations Director, at 267-893-5280.

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A knockout blow to stress with neurofeedback

submitted by Dr. Maria DiDonato, D.Ed. Psychologist, Achievement & Wellness Center, www.achievewell.net

Rocky (not his real name), a successful businessman, was trying to navigate a stress filled life. He was experiencing shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, stomach problems, nervousness and anxiety. Medical evaluations were benign for any underlying health problems. 

As he looked at his lifestyle, Rocky recognized that his busy work demands, family responsibilities and related situations were exacerbating matters.  Rocky’s previous attempts to help his health situation with medication were only partially successful, and he continued to have difficulty sleeping.

Rocky wanted to gain better control of the anxiety that had been disrupting his life. Soon after starting treatment, he began to notice a calming effect. He felt he was beginning to take control and the neurofeedback, along with counseling, was helpful in quieting his levels of anxiety. 

He also began peripheral biofeedback training for breathing and heart rate, both of which helped with managing stressors that emerge in his daily life. Facing the ever-present life stressors, he now has real tools and a healthier, more positive outlook.

Neurofeedback training helps with regulating brain waves. A form of conditioned response, neurofeedback rewards positive brain waves to help produce calming effects and reduces the stress response. Neurofeedback has been shown to be effective in reducing the responses that are associated with busy lifestyles. 

Heart rate variability training, a complimentary form of autogenic training, allows individuals to learn to control their ongoing stress response in a controlled setting. The training can carry over into their daily lives.

Along with cognitive behavioral therapy, both these methods of biofeedback helped Rocky gain control of his emotional response to his life stressors. He is feeling more in control and is making more positive and permanent changes in his life.

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Neurofeedback: A winning choice

submitted by Dr. Maria DiDonato, D.Ed. Psychologist, Achievement & Wellness Center, www.achievewell.net

Penny (not her real name), a very pleasant fourth grader was struggling with attention and academics since kindergarten. Her parents’ concern for her inability to learn was ongoing for several years. She was not making progress in reading and math, and she appeared to drift in and out of attention during class and homework.   

Her parents were frustrated with getting help from the school who appeared to be ignoring the real problems. They were providing help for their child privately, but Penny’s struggles were growing with each year.

Penny’s situation was somewhat complex. She received a full neuropsychological evaluation that included a quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) as part of her evaluation for ADHD. Following this assessment, Penny began a course of neurofeedback for attention problems and she immediately began to improve.

That evaluation also identified underlying processing problems related to her learning difficulties. Referrals to specialists are proving fruitful in helping with her additional remediation. Remediation from other specialists is necessary to help with Penny’s learning problems, but she is definitely on her way to making progress academically. 

Schools are not always helpful in identifying problems and providing appropriate remediation for specific learning needs.  Despite recourse to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), a law that requires schools to identify and remediate learning needs in children, parents often find themselves battling the school for help.

Parents need to know their rights and alternatives to seeking remediation while they provide for their child’s educational needs. Neurofeedback provides the most effective remediation for ADHD, a modality that is superior to stimulant medication.

In Penny’s case, her problems were more than attention, so she was able to access comprehensive help for her success.

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Neurofeedback: A brain calming experience

submitted by Dr. Maria DiDonato, D.Ed. Psychologist, Achievement & Wellness Center, www.achievewell.net

Sonia (not her real name) struggled in middle school academically and displayed difficulty with behavioral controls. With very low grades, Sonia was in danger of failing. 

Impulsivity was severe and she was getting involved with risk-taking and acting-out behaviors in all areas of her life. Her parents were very concerned especially since none of the medications or the therapy seemed to be helping. 

Socially, she was making poor choices with her circle of friends. Her parents were exasperated because nothing seemed to help. Sonia admitted ongoing difficulty with behavioral controls.

She cried frequently and easily. She was unable to be the student she was at a younger age, which was a big disappointment to her.

After an initial evaluation, she began neurotherapy for the ongoing behavioral and emotional difficulties. Sonia began experiencing calmness and less impulsivity almost immediately. She continued with the twice-weekly sessions, and her life was gradually turning around.

She began to smile more in the sessions. Her mother was becoming less worried about her social connections and behaviors. Sonia was making better choices.

Academically, her grades were improving as her confidence was building. The following school year she was on the honor roll, participated in school sports and was making good choices socially.

She exchanged smiles for tears, and was able to gradually discontinue her medication.

This is the start of Sonia’s second year of a happier life. As she continues to be symptom free, her sessions are spaced out, and she will graduate from treatment.

Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback treatment that helps balance brain wave activity by rewarding the positive waves that are correlated with healthy behaviors. Sonia was able to stay with the program to get a life changing improvement.

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Win-win with neurofeedback: School & athletics

submitted by Dr. Maria DiDonato, D.Ed. Psychologist, Achievement & Wellness Center, www.achievewell.net 

Robert (not his real name) is a high school student who struggled with concentration and focusing since he was a youngster. He was easily distracted; his mind wandered during tasks; and he had difficulty following multiple directions, meeting deadlines and following written directions. Robert needed a lot of support from his parents.    

He was a good athlete, which motivated him to keep trying in school. Entering high school was particularly difficult, since the demands would be even greater. Longer assignments would require longer periods of concentration.  Robert was already taking stimulant medication and reported he did not experience a significant amount of improvement with sustaining his attention and concentration and working independently.

He and his parents decided it was time to explore other options. 

After an initial visit, he was given an evaluation that included tests for Attention Deficit Disorder and a quantitative electroencephalogram (QEEG), a brain map. Results of the ADD test indicated continuing difficulty with sustained attention and concentration, despite the medication.  Results of the brain map indicated excess slow wave activity that would interfere with sustained attention and concentration. Processing problems were also identified with the brain map, and these were interfering with his academic success.

After beginning treatment, Robert began improving almost immediately. He even sharpened up in all aspects of his sports performance, becoming more efficient in his concentration and coordination. This boosted his confidence and won his coach’s approval.

He was experiencing a much easier and successful time in school with working independently. After 40 sessions, an ADD re-evaluation indicated significant improvement in attention and concentration.

Because the processing problems were still a concern to Robert and his parents, treatment has shifted to those areas.

Robert’s story is evidence that neurofeedback is a safe, effective, long-term treatment for ADD and processing problems as well as other disorders.

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Neurofeedback: Making a child happy in school

submitted by Dr. Maria DiDonato, D.Ed. Psychologist, Achievement & Wellness Center, www.achievewell.net

Holly (not her real name), a sixth grader, struggled in school for several years. With difficulty focusing in school and during homework, she required parental assistance in all schoolwork. She often ended up in tears, causing frustration for her and her parents. One parental concern was that despite all their best efforts, Holly was slowly getting discouraged and could easily give up.

They were searching for non-stimulant solutions to help their daughter. On a recommendation, they consulted for an evaluation and treatment plan.

Holly tested positive for Attention Deficit Disorder. Results of an electroencephalogram provided information as to the exact nature of the attention problem. Neurofeedback was started immediately and Holly began to perk up at the office, home and school. She smiled more and seemed happier.

Her teachers were happy to report that homework and class work were improving as Holly continued to make progress with her twice-weekly neurofeedback sessions. Her parents were still noticing some academic difficulty even after her attention improved.

Believing there was a possibility of a learning problem, her parents pushed for an evaluation by the school. This was done in order to assess Holly’s ability and level of success in different academic areas.

As a result of the evaluation, a reading disability was identified. Once the reading disability was identified, a plan for remediation could be initiated.

In Holly’s case, it appeared that ADD symptoms masked her reading problem. As is often the case, once the attention issues are addressed, academic problem becomes more evident.

Holly’s case is not unusual. Often times, several problems occur together, making the situation appear very confusing.

By isolating the ADD and treating it with neurofeedback, parents were able to recognize and address underlying learning issues. 

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