Biofeedback Therapy for Addiction Treatment
We present the information on this page as a generalized, educational overview. Specific details below regarding treatment protocols may not reflect the protocols utilized by Compass Recovery.
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you would like to learn more about Compass Recovery and our individualized programs for those struggling with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders.
What is Biofeedback Therapy?
Biofeedback is a non-drug technique and a therapy used to help control certain bodily functions such as heart rate and response to different sensations.1 During biofeedback, you are connected to electrical sensors that monitor your body’s reactions and help you receive instant information about your body. The information allows you to make specific changes to your body, such as relaxing certain muscles to reduce pain. Biofeedback helps you try different ways to change how you feel by having real-time information on how your body responds to different things. Biofeedback can help with chronic pain, headaches, anxiety, urinary incontinence, high blood pressure, and even in the treatment of substance use disorder.1
EEG Biofeedback and Neurofeedback
One type of biofeedback is brain wave feedback. Brain wave feedback works using scalp sensors to monitor your brain waves using an electroencephalograph (EEG).1 This type of biofeedback is called EEG biofeedback or neurofeedback.2 EEG biofeedback or neurofeedback is a way to address problems of brain dysregulation by learning to train the brain. By observing the brain in action, we can reward the brain when changing its activity and patterns to create a better outcome.2
Biofeedback Therapy for Addiction
EEG Biofeedback for Substance Use Disorder
EEG Biofeedback for Alcoholism
EEG for Heroin Addiction
EEG for Cocaine Addiction
Studies of Biofeedback in Substance Abuse Treatment
One of the earliest uses of biofeedback in substance abuse treatment came from two doctors named Dr. Eugene Peniston and Dr. Paul Kulkosky, who used it to treat alcoholism.3 They developed the protocol during the late 1980s and 1990s and conducted a study in which they used the Peniston protocol. This protocol involved using finger temperature biofeedback to raise the body’s temperature and then increase the brain’s alpha, and theta amplitudes. This treatment helped create a deep state of calm. During this calm, participants were provided a guided visualization of their ideal personality, an alcohol rejection scene, and instructions to internalize these scenes into the subconscious. These studies resulted in 80% abstinence rates amongst participants.3
Scott-Kaiser Modification of the Peniston Protocol
The Peniston Protocol was later revised to include the approaches used in the Peniston Protocol for substance abuse (not just alcohol) and frontal alpha symmetry training for depression, slow cortical potential training autism spectrum disorders, and qEEG-guided neurofeedback as a universal treatment for other disorders. The Scott-Kaiser modification was shown to be effective in treating other substance use disorders and mental health disorders.3
CBT and Neurofeedback in Substance Use Disorders
Biofeedback for Mental Health Disorders
How is Biofeedback Used to Treat Anxiety?
For many people, anti-anxiety medication does not seem to be as helpful as one would have hoped. With many side-effects, more and more people are looking for options beyond medications to treat anxiety.4 A great non-invasive non-pharmacological option is biofeedback. During biofeedback therapy, special sensors monitor your heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, or brain activity, all things which are affected by anxiety. Having this information, you can try to make changes to heart rate, breathing rate, and more. This practice can teach your body how to help your brain to calm down during sensations of anxiety. Studies have shown that anxiety and depression rates are reduced after three months of neurofeedback training.4
How is Biofeedback Used to Treat PTSD?
One of the most effective treatments of PTSD is exposure-based therapy; however, exposure-based treatment can be too intense for some people, causing them to drop out of treatment. Therefore, biofeedback might be useful in the treatment of PTSD. Biofeedback can help change how the brain reacts to different stimuli without unnecessary distress.5 Biofeedback can reduce the fear response that individuals with PTSD might experience when triggered by something that reminds them of their traumatic event.5