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5 Innovative Therapies That Help Heal the Nervous System
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When most people think of “therapy”, they often visualize a serene setting where an individual reclines on a couch, recounting tales of their past, as an attentive therapist scribbles notes, punctuating the silence with the occasional, “And how does that make you feel?”.
But it’s 2023, and the face of therapy has evolved considerably from this traditional portrayal.
Today, there’s a plethora of over 50 psychotherapeutic approaches and subtypes to explore. Among these, somatic therapies have gained prominence. Rather than solely focusing on the mind, somatic therapy emphasizes the intertwined relationship between our body and emotions.
Our mental well-being is deeply interwoven with our physical health. In fact, traumatic events can have profound impacts on regions like the cerebellum, situated near the base of the brainstem. This pivotal area interfaces with an intricate neural network known as our nervous system. Occasionally, our nervous system can become “stuck” due to past traumas or stresses. To truly heal and recalibrate, it often requires a blend of somatic and brain-based therapeutic approaches.
Below you will find 5 innovative therapeutic techniques that help heal a dysregulated nervous system.
Source: (BSP UK)
“Where you look affects how you feel” is the motto of this brain-based modality. David Grand who was an EMDR (Eye-Movement-Desensitization-Reprossesing) therapist, discovered this technique known as brainspotting. This technique is more flexible compared to EMDR which you’ll learn about in number 4. The human eyes are used as a map to activate different parts of our brain.
Let me give an example of how you see Brainspotting in real life. Ever noticed how when individuals are deep in thought or processing complex emotions, their eyes drift in certain directions? This spontaneous eye movement, often returning to the original focal point, is a real-life testament to the principles behind Brainspotting.
This technique delves deep into the subcortical or reptilian part of our brain. Constituting about 25% of our brain matter, the subcortical region is fundamental to our nervous system. It’s the storage hub for fear responses, automatic bodily functions, and memories.
Contrary to popular belief, not all issues can be logically reasoned away. This is because many of our deepest traumas and “stuck” emotions aren’t lodged in the frontal cortex, the seat of our conscious thought and cognitive intelligence.
In a Brainspotting session, the therapist finds an activated brainspot by looking at the client’s eye movement and reactions and by the client reporting what’s going on in their body. There are signals the body can give out which indicate a brainspot is found such as twitching, eye wobbling, gulping, blinking, burping, etc.
The client can also feel they have found a spot by feeling changes in their body sensation (ex: right hand feeling hot in temperature, heart racing, tension in the body) or memories and strong feelings showing up. Once the spot is found the therapist and client spend time on the spot and process for a length of time. The goal is to release the problems that are stuck and therefore feel less activated and live a more present life.
Brainspotting can help with PTSD, Developmental Trauma (attachment issues), Anxiety, Depression, chronic pain, and performance issues.
Neurofeedback is a non-drug, non-invasive, reward-based system for training brain function. This brain training teaches the brain to produce calmer electrical activity which effectively addresses a broad range of anxiety conditions. By conditioning the brain to produce calmer brain wave frequencies, the person feels quieter, more peaceful, and better emotionally regulated.
Neurofeedback has been around for a few decades. There are different kinds of neurofeedback treatment. The “old school” traditional neurofeedback takes brainwaves picked up from the brain and transmits them on a computer screen often in the form of a video game or movie. The person receiving treatment is creating the brainwaves themselves.
An example of the traditional version would be when an individual is watching a movie, the picture will fade if the person is not concentrating enough. The person will notice and go back to concentrating and the image of the movie will become clearer.
In a newer form of neurofeedback (direct neurofeedback) , you can have brainwaves stimulated by using small electrodes placed on your forehead and scalp. These are low-intensity electromagnetic signals and is less than a cellphone signal. This treatment is FDA-approved and safe.
This treatment is useful to treat for Anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, migraines, stress, and depression.
3. TMS (TRANSCRANIAL MAGNETIC STIMULATION)
This procedure is similar to direct Neurofeedback. TMS is a procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of major depression. It is also a noninvasive treatment however the signals are more powerful than what used in neurofeedback. The FDA has also approved this type of therapy.
During an rTMS session for depression, an electromagnetic coil is placed against the scalp of your head. This coil delivers magnetic pulses that stimulate nerve cells in the region of your brain involved in mood control and depression. It’s thought to activate regions of the brain that have decreased activity during depression.
4. EMDR (EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING)
Source: (Retreat Behavioral Health)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. It was started by Francine Shapiro in 1987. She assumed that eye movements had a desensitizing effect, and when she experimented with this she found that others also had the same response to eye movements.
Just like the concept of Brainspotting, eye movement and processing help to release what is stuck in the nervous system. The protocol is different from Brainspotting though. EMDR utilizes eye movement as a form of bilateral movement.
EMDR follows a specific regimen for use. A therapist will gather history and pertinent information about the trauma. You then receive education on the process and what to expect. Your target memory gets activated, you go through the desensitization and reprocessing phase, and then the installation occurs.
EMDR is primarily used for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It can also be used for Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias and social anxiety/phobia.
5. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a type of counseling intervention that stimulates acupressure points by pressuring, tapping, or rubbing these points while focusing on situations that represent personal fear or trauma. By tapping, the person using this technique is using similar effects of the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture, and are also utilizing bilateral stimulation to help process their issues. This technique was founded in the 1990s by Gary Craig.
Tapping procedures can differ slightly, but most use these locations: the heel of the hand, three locations around the eye, the area below the nose, the area below the lips, the collarbone, the underarm, and the top of the head. From seven to nine taps are delivered on each spot.
EFT can help with PTSD, stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health-related issues.
These five therapeutic orientations are but a glimpse into the vast world of interventions designed to improve mental health. Our current era is marked by an explosion of innovative techniques and approaches that cater to diverse needs and challenges. Every individual is unique, and what works for one may not resonate with another. It’s crucial to explore, be open, and find the method that aligns with your journey. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and with the myriad of options available, there’s a suitable path for everyone aiming to enhance their well-being.