LCPC, NCC, CCMHC, DCMHS
Certified Trauma Specialist
I am always looking for ways to help my clients. Many years ago I came across traditional neurofeedback. I saw that it could be a valuable part of my practice. Unfortunately, traditional neurofeedback is operant conditioning. That means that we are training specific brain waves to respond to specific stimuli. I would sit clients in front of my computer to watch a movie. If their brainwave was responding in the way I desired, the picture or sound would become clearer or louder. If their brainwave didn’t “behave”, then the picture or sound would fade. As you can imagine, this process could be tedious, time consuming, and expensive for the client. It was common to ask my clients to come three times a week for at least 20 to 30 sessions.
In the Fall of 2009, my daughter in law called in a panic. My grandson who is very bright, but also very ADHD (rooms would start to vibrate whenever he entered), was failing 4th grade. He could not concentrate long enough to finish a test, do his homework, or read a book. She wanted to know if she should start him on medication. I told her that a highly recognized neurofeedback specialist practiced just 20 miles from them at the University of Utah Medical Center. I recommended that she try neurofeedback first before starting medication because my grandson’s brain was young and still developing. If neurofeedback didn’t work, they could always start medication. This was late October. By December, my grandson doing very well at school. I was amazed at the speed of his progress. I questioned my daughter in law about what their sessions were like. She told me the doctor was using LENS. I decided right then and there that I was going to become a LENS practitioner. In the spring of 2009, I took my first training. I have never looked back. My traditional neurofeedback equipment is in a closet gathering dust.
I am a trauma specialist. Most of my clients describe some sort of anxiety symptoms. As soon as I see “anxiety” on a client’s intake form, I mention that I offer LENS. I tell them that LENS works very smoothly with my other therapy modalities. It generally takes 5 to 15 minutes of a session. We usually know if it is going to be beneficial for the client as early as the first four sessions. Sometimes I start sessions with LENS as a way to prepare the brain for the other modalities. Sometimes I end the sessions with LENS because it seems to consolidate learning. LENS is very easy on my clients. They just sit quietly with their eyes closed. The feedback is based on their own brainwave fed back to them through the computer. I have had more than one client tell me that LENS is like a “massage of the brain”. Another common reaction is, “I can breathe again. I never realized how tight my chest was!”
When I did traditional neurofeedback, I was very concerned about the placement of the electrodes because we believed that treating specific locations of the brain impacted specific symptoms. In contrast, the LENS works globally. That means that when I place an electrode, I am impacting every neuropathway connected to that site. As a result, I can’t always predict how the brain is going to choose to heal. I believe that there is something innate in the body that wants to move towards health. I simply trust that the brain will respond to the feedback in the way that is best for that client, not always in the way the client expects or desires. The following story illustrates that point.
Several years ago, I had a client come in for LENS because he had had two surgeries for brain tumors. His wife always came with him. Her goal was to have him “like he used to be.” The brain tumors had left him with some deficits. His speech was impacted. Sometimes he would “space out” and not be aware of it. He had also lost his sense of smell. We did LENS weekly over an extended period of time. His speech improved. Eventually, he rarely “spaced out”, and his sense of smell returned. However, the goal of him “being like he used to be” was not accomplished. “He talks and jokes with everybody, but he is just silent or angry with me.” The wife told me. The client told me privately that he was reacting differently towards his wife because he had become very aware of how critical his wife was and he was not happy in his marriage. The LENS can increase clarity and that can be a two-edged sword.
I had a client come in for insomnia. She had not been able to sleep for months. Even sleep medications had stopped working for her. She was desperate. She wanted to try LENS because she had exhausted her other options. I knew from experience that many of my clients reported sleeping better and having vivid dreams after LENS treatment. I told her that I didn’t know if LENS would help, but we would give it a try. After our first session, she reported that that night she was able to sleep for several hours. By our third session, she was sleeping most nights for about 5 to 6 hours at a stretch.
In my general practice, I do not see children. However, since I am currently the only LENS practitioner in Idaho, I do see children for LENS. Many years ago, I worked with a young girl with Downs. She was basically non- verbal and had jerky muscle movements. Her verbal abilities increased as did her ability to move more fluidly. Her mother was thrilled to see her trying to keep up with her cousins at a family reunion and shouting, “Wait for me!”.
Recently, I had a young child in my office who was so anxious he wanted to switch schools. He cried easily and did not smile. We did a combination of LENS and EMDR. As treatment progressed, he started reporting feeling happy. He started interacting with his schoolmates. At the end of treatment (six sessions), he could not remember wanting to transfer schools.
I have limited experience with body LENS. I am not medically trained or certified so I generally stay away from treating medical issues. I did have a client who came in on crutches. She had severely sprained her ankle. I offered to do body LENS on her ankle as an experiment. We were both amazed to watch the swelling come down. She also reported that the pain had decreased significantly.
I also used body LENS on a client who had been a police officer and seriously injured her back several times. These injuries left her unable to work. Most days were spent in bed or on the sofa. We used a combination of traditional LENS, body LENS, and EMDR to help her get off her pain medications and regain her ability to perform day to day life activities.
I have seen LENS work “miracles”. I wish it were a miracle for everybody. My own daughter has bipolar disorder. I have used LENS to help her with her anxiety, but it is not a cure for her mood swings. I have had a few other clients that for whatever reason, did not seem to respond to the LENS. However, in my experience, more people respond positively than those who do not. I look at LENS as a valuable tool in my therapy box.