Combined EMDR and neurofeedback therapy has proven useful in children with trauma.
The developmental impact of relational trauma is enormous. The structure of the brain is developing during the first years of life, and any traumatic event affects all areas of its formation.
On the other hand, there is no greater trauma in childhood than experiencing abandonment. The social brain of the newborn, baby and child will look for known signals that can provide calm to feel security, to guarantee a basic security that allows them to stay relaxed to be able to attend to the world without the perception of a constant threat. If this is not the case, the nervous system experiences chronic levels of overactivation or underactivation that are maintained even after having an adequate system of care and attachment.
Neuromodulation in trauma cases
In the foreword to the book Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Calming the Fear-Driven Brain by Sebern F. Fisher, Bessel A. Van der Kolk tells us how he met S. Fisher in 2007 at a conference on attachment and how in that encounter he faced a new paradigm, a new way of understanding the mind, the brain and the body. He tells us how he interviewed patients treated with neurofeedback at the S. Fisher center, and how surprised he was by their statements. One of them collects and summarizes the evolutions described by these patients:
“Yes, I gradually became an attached person. When you are not afraid or confused, you can meet people in a different way ”.
Vitaliza professionals have been intervening with neurofeedback since 1999 and we count on the enthusiasm of Bessel A. Van der Kolk, one of the leading specialists in trauma, when assessing neurofeedback. This leads us to subscribe to his words: “Probably the biggest challenge in mental health is how we can help patients with serious affect regulation problems, like the ones I interviewed in Sebern’s office.
This is often the result of severe abuse and neglect during childhood – also known as developmental trauma – in which lack of synchronicity in early caregiver relationships leads to abnormal rhythms of the brain, mind, and body. ” “In neurofeedback, we seem to encourage the brain to establish new oscillatory patterns that enhance its natural complexity and its inherent and necessary bias toward self-regulation.”
At Vitaliza Psicología de la Salud, neurofeedback is part of our therapeutic intervention, to help and facilitate the regulation of the central nervous system.
Early Leaving Trauma Therapy
Two years ago we started an investigation with children who have suffered early abandonment ; We had been intervening for years with the adopted child population and with their families, and we set out to investigate what we had observed at the clinical level until then.
One in four internationally adopted minors between the ages of 8 and 12 in Spain have problems with school adaptation, while more than a quarter of parents report externalized and internalized problems, in addition to poor adaptive skills, which require attention specialized. When they reach adolescence, internationally adopted children are referred to mental health services more frequently than non-adopted children.
In our Vitaliza psychology office, we frequently meet families with internationally adopted children who come in search of psychological support, especially in ages prior to adolescence. The evaluation and treatment of these cases requires an approach that takes into account both school adjustment difficulties and deficits in cognitive functions, as well as behavioral problems and the abilities and capacities that children and their families have to cope with them.
The empirical evidence available on the efficacy of treatments focused on trauma in the child and adolescent population is limited and usually focuses on treating traumatic symptoms, while other psychological symptoms that very frequently derive from exposure to trauma tend to be relegated to the background. and cause more disability.
For this reason, at Vitaliza we wanted to empirically demonstrate that neurofeedback training can serve as an emotional stabilizer, combined with other therapies such as eye movement reprocessing therapy or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), improving emotional regulation and providing experiences of achievement and emotional connection.
Conference on Trauma and Neuromodulation
The experienced professional in Neurofeedback Sebern Fisher, with whom we will have the opportunity to learn in Conference on Trauma and Neuromodulation, expresses in her book Neurofeedback in the treatment of developmental trauma , that thanks to brain training, we can alleviate the consequences of abandonment in early childhood.
This study will be presented at the first Conference on Trauma and Neuromodulation, which will take place in Madrid from April 16 to 19, organized by the Spanish Society of biofeedback and neurofeedback, SEBINE. In these days we will present our research, which aimed to evaluate the emotional, cognitive and behavioral changes associated with the combined treatment of neurofeedback and EMDR in internationally adopted children between 8 and 11 years old.
These Days are an opportunity to learn how Neurofeedback works and what it can contribute to Developmental trauma. The Conference will count, as we have already said, with the presence of the renowned expert in trauma S. Fisher. In this space we will have the opportunity to share the results obtained after applying the combined neurofeedback and EMDR treatment.
These results support the hypotheses raised, finding statistically significant results reported by both children and families, in all areas evaluated. As relevant data, it should be noted that the area in which the most evidence of improvement from various sources of information is concentrated is that of cognitive functioning. Parents observed statistically significant reductions in attention problems, somatic complaints, hyperactivity-impulsivity, anger, and isolation. The children reported an improvement in family relationships and self-esteem, both statistically significant.
This shows a greater adaptation to diverse contexts, in which both parents and children see important signs of improvement that seem to confirm each other. All this leads us to confirm that the combined intervention of neurofeedback training and EMDR improves emotional regulation in children with abandonment trauma, in addition to other cognitive areas. To quote the prestigious therapist Sebern Fisher again, “Just as emotional regulation is the first task of good parenting, it is also the first task of effective therapy.”
Authors: Anabel de la Cruz, neuropsychologist. Cristina Cortés psychologist specializing in trauma.