Can Monitoring Brain Waves Boost Mental Health?


Some companies skip the practitioner entirely by selling pricey neurofeedback devices directly to consumers. Though unlikely to do much harm, Ms. Potter said she would be skeptical of any person or product “claiming you can simply take a piece of equipment out of a box, apply some sensors and say we’re doing neurofeedback.”

Even among seasoned practitioners, the therapy varies widely. Some insist on creating a baseline “brain map” before a patient’s first neurofeedback session — applying sensors to the skull for two hours to observe and document brain activity. Others say such maps are optional or unnecessary.

Through its accreditation program, B.C.I.A. is attempting to provide stricter standards for the industry, Ms. Potter said. To earn the group’s credentials, practitioners must have a degree in a relevant health care field, take coursework in neuroscience, complete a training program and pass an exam. However, the certificate program, the only one of its kind, is voluntary.

While its effectiveness is still debated, neurofeedback is generally thought to be safe. Even critics admit there are few side effects or downsides for those that have the time and money. So if you have read the studies, understand the criticisms, and still want to try your hand (or head) at neurofeedback — here are some things to keep in mind.

The costs of neurofeedback therapy can be prohibitive, and few insurance plans will cover it. A single session costs $100 to $300, but most practitioners say patients need at least 10 exposures, and often many more, to benefit. A brain map and analysis, which some practitioners use to set a baseline for future sessions, can cost $1,000 or more.

Neurofeedback practitioners said costs are similar to what you might pay for traditional talk therapy — and potentially less, depending on how many sessions you undergo. Some insurers do cover it, so call your provider to learn about their policies. Many neurofeedback clinics offer work sheets with talking points and questions to help you advocate for coverage.


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