An Introduction to Neurofeedback: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Backed by research, Neurofeedback therapy offers the potential for lasting benefits for your mental and emtional wellbeing

Neurofeedback therapy concept
Representation photo | Image by DCStudio on Freepik

Neurofeedback therapy is a groundbreaking concept which offers us the opportunity to understand and regulate our own brain activity. Around the world, there’s a growing interest in using neurofeedback for both personal growth and therapeutic purposes.

What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is a technique that allows individuals to learn how to control and regulate their own brain activity. It involves monitoring a person’s brainwaves and providing real-time feedback, typically through visual or auditory cues, to help them understand and modify their brain’s functioning.

The potential neurotherapy offers includes improved focus, emotional regulation, and cognitive performance. On top of this, it has even been found to improve athletic ability. For those seeking self-improvement, it’s akin to a gym for the brain, with exercises designed to optimize mental fitness.

Types of Brainwaves and Their Significance

There are five main types of brainwave frequencies:

  • Delta waves: These are slow waves, associated with deep sleep and healing
  • Theta waves: These occur during light sleep or deep relaxation and can be linked to creativity and intuition.
  • Alpha waves: These appear when we’re in a calm, wakeful state and contribute to relaxation and focus.
  • Beta waves: These are present during active thinking, problem-solving, and concentration.
  • Gamma waves: These are the fastest waves and are linked to high-level cognitive functions, like memory and perception.

In neurofeedback therapy, the goal is to target and enhance specific brainwave frequencies. For example, if someone seeks to improve their focus and concentration, neurofeedback can assist by providing real-time feedback to encourage the brain to produce more beta waves. Over time, the brain naturally becomes more adept at generating these preferred frequencies, leading to improved concentration and enhanced mental focus.

How Does Neurofeedback Therapy Work?

The process of neurofeedback therapy involves the use of specialised equipment and technology, primarily electroencephalogram (EEG) devices, to monitor brainwave patterns in real-time.

Neurofeedback therapy begins with a crucial initial phase, which is brain mapping and assessment, designed to identify an individual’s unique brain activity characteristics and create a customized neurofeedback training plan.

The therapy itself is broken down into a step-by-step training program where individuals participate in exercises aimed at regulating and optimizing their brain activity. These exercises typically include tasks that encourage the brain to produce desirable brainwave patterns, rewarding the individual when they successfully achieve them.

For example, if you’re trying to reduce anxiety, you might see calming images when your brainwaves are in the right state. Over time, your brain learns to produce these desirable patterns on its own, helping you achieve a more balanced and relaxed mental state. It’s like teaching your brain to play a video game with the goal of achieving specific brainwave patterns for better mental wellbeing.

Neurofeedback Therapy: Step by Step

Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Initial Consultation

The first step is to get in touch with a certified neurofeedback therapy clinic. This will give you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have and find out more about your chosen clinic and how it is run.

This will also give the clinic a chance to get to know you and your needs and requirements, giving both parties a clearer idea of whether neurofeedback therapy is right for you.

Step 2: Creating a Training Plan

The next step is to identify the obstacles in your path and create a tailored brain training program. This process involves the use of a QEEG brain map, which consists of a set of sensors attached to a cap (similar to a swimming cap). These sensors capture the electrical impulses generated by your brain, providing valuable insights into your brain activity.

The data collected in this step serves as the foundation for designing a brain training program tailored to your individual needs. During this assessment phase, you will also have the opportunity to meet your neurofeedback therapist, gaining insight into the therapist’s work and understanding of what to anticipate from the training process.

Step 3: Neurofeedback Sessions

During your neurofeedback therapy session, you will be guided by a trained therapist while a sensor cap measures your brain activity. The therapist will provide real-time feedback based on your brain’s electrical signals, which can be in the form of visual displays, games, or music.

Through these activities, you will learn to self-regulate your brain activity, aiming to achieve improved focus, relaxation, or other desired mental states. The therapist will monitor your progress and adjust the training as needed to help you achieve your individual goals.

How Effective is Neurofeedback Therapy?

Neurofeedback therapy offers a positive and non-invasive path toward improving cognitive and emotional well-being. While its effectiveness can vary depending on individual factors, the potential for positive outcomes is a compelling reason to explore this holistic approach.

Many individuals have reported enhanced focus, reduced stress, and improved emotional regulation, making it an appealing option for those seeking to boost their mental and emotional health. Additionally, the possibility of lasting benefits after the therapy concludes adds to its appeal, making neurofeedback an encouraging avenue for individuals looking to enhance their overall well-being in a natural and personalized way.

There is also a wealth of research supporting the efficacy of neurofeedback therapy. In a 2011 study, for example, researchers found improved working memory following a course of neurofeedback therapy sessions.

Neurofeedback Therapy at Home

Some clinics now offer neurofeedback therapy at home, providing you with the same services you would be offered in person, but from the comfort of your own home.

You will typically be provided with a complete neurofeedback station that your therapist can connect to remotely. Sessions are conducted via internet link, and offer all the benefits of an in-person session.

Although many people may prefer to have face-to-face sessions, neurofeedback therapy at home offers the advantage of saving on time and travel expenses.


Neurofeedback therapy is a revolutionary approach to enhance mental and emotional wellbeing by enabling individuals to control their own brain activity. The step-by-step process, from initial consultation to personalized brain training, empowers self-regulation. Backed by research, it offers the potential for lasting benefits and is accessible through at-home sessions, making it a promising avenue for personal growth and therapeutic purposes.

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James Roy is the technical director of Brainworks Neurotherapy, a leading provider of neurofeedback training.


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