Which professionals use neurofeedback?
It is estimated that between 2,500 to 3,500 health professionals now use EEG Neurofeedback. The majority are licensed psychologists, neuropsychologists, therapists, marriage and family counselors, and social workers. There are a growing number of psychiatrists and physicians, registered nurses, and other professionals including neurofeedback as well. Some hire technicians to run the sessions which they supervise to help serve more people. Most do neurofeedback in addition to other therapies.
Most of the clinicians using neurofeedback are in private practice. A number are associated with universities. Several professional organizations have been created around the world to support increased professional education for this emerging modality.
A group of psychologists and psychiatrists have presented a workshop on neurofeedback at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting which has been very well received.
So far, there has been little institutional involvement for neurofeedback. That means few schools, and very few hospitals, psychiatric units, or large mental health centers incorporate this modality. There are no large neurology or pediatric practices using it that we are aware of. NOTE: There are a number of major mental health and addiction programs in Mexico using neurofeedback.
The use in schools is a whole story in itself.
Here’s our speculation about institutions, based on observation over many years.
It’s easy for individual clinicians to decide to use neurofeedback on their own. In a larger institution, there’s always a committee. All it takes is one committee member who says, “I don’t think there’s enough research”, and then everything stops. Regardless of whether it works, and neurofeedback works well.
We’ve addressed those issues and research questions elsewhere in the FAQs. There’s plenty of research on neurofeedback’s success, but getting a committee to read it all and have a balanced response to it is another question. Professionals who dig into the field, the research, and the neuroscience, largely become supportive. It’s the education that takes time. It’s the education of committees that would create the opportunities in institutions.
The reason there are a number of institutions in Mexico using neurofeedback successfully? One therapist, Michael Hoffman, had high level contacts at some major addiction centers through his work with the United States government. After learning neurofeedback, he spent significant time doing educational seminars at one of the largest centers in Mexico. Once the first group understood it, they supported it for addictions. It’s been so successful, that it’s now spread to many of the top centers in Mexico. It’s been adopted for use in depression, anxiety, and other major psychiatric disorders. It all started with education.
Following that lead, a major addiction center in the United States allowed onsite, in-service training for staff, supported by their Medical Director. They have now started the first major program for addictions using neurofeedback in the United States. We think this will lead to significant growth as other U.S. institutions observe their outcomes.
2) Lack of Marketing
There is no company targeting institutions or larger practices to adopt neurofeedback. It’s takes a major effort to get ANYTHING approved by institutional or large-practice committees. Companies who succeed have large marketing forces and spend a lot to educate key members of committees. Because neurofeedback is non-proprietary technology, no company has funding to provide a targeted marketing effort.
3) Lack of MD Support
Those most attracted to neurofeedback are psychologists, social workers, and other mental health providers. In institutions, doctors rule the roost and help drive treatment decisions. They have not been targeted by any neurofeedback organization and most doctors simply don’t know of its successful impact.
4) Funding is Everything
Neurofeedback is not a big moneymaker. It can take two to three years before it makes significant money. There are always questions about reimbursement and the financial model. In today’s world, spending money on something that only helps patients, but doesn’t make any significant contribution to the bottom line, is a difficult choice for many institutions.