Jan. 13, 2010 -- Question: What is biofeedback, how does it work and for what conditions is it a useful treatment? (What are the sessions like and how many sessions might be necessary?)
Answer: Biofeedback involves specialized equipment that helps an individual to learn to consciously control involuntary responses such as heart rate, brain waves, muscle contractions and even temperature. These normally unconscious physiological processes are electronically monitored and relayed back to the patient. A variety of imagery exercises and relaxation techniques allow changes in these processes, and over time the patient learns to manipulate these aspects of physiology that previously were thought out of our control. Biofeedback has been shown to be particularly helpful for people with high blood pressure, high stress levels, anxiety, and migraine headaches. Biofeedback is most often done by a psychologist with specialized biofeedback training, and the length of the sessions are variable but generally within the confines of the typical psychotherapy hour, which is 45 to 50 minutes. The number of treatments depends on the problem, but generally results are seen rather quickly if the technique is going to be helpful.