"What the method showed me was that it is possible for me to relax. It is
possible . . . to alleviate and/or "head off" anxiety as or before it rears its
ugly head . . . I learned how to detect anxiety coming on before it took over . . . What I
can tell you is that I am now able to work, live, and accomplish without the stumbling
block of anxiety . . . I would certainly recommend biofeedback to any student who has a
mental stumbling block that rules their days, rather than letting them accomplish what
they've set out to do." (Mike, SHSU)
Biofeedback is a relatively new therapeutic tool that is showing increasing promise in
the treatment of a wide variety of psychological and physical problems and symptoms.
Biofeedback is very useful for achieving stress reduction, reducing anxiety and
alleviating physical tension.
Biofeedback is a therapeutic technique that helps clients develop the ability to
control certain physiological processes. The means to do this include monitoring the
physiological response in the client and displaying the signals generated by the
monitoring technique to the therapist and client. The client uses this biological
feedback to learn about and gain control of his/her responses. Biofeedback is,
therefore, an educational process in which the client is helped to learn to control
certain physiological processes, but it is the client who assumes the responsibility for
and becomes an active participant in his/her own improvement.
The therapist utilizes different techniques to facilitate the acquisition of such
control (none of the techniques used in the Counseling Center include surgical or
pharmacological adjuncts). An additional benefit of this program is that the client
increases his/her feelings of self-control and personal mastery because it is him/her who
produces the desired changes by following the therapist's instructions and practicing
Biofeedback is a primary treatment for moderate or severe migraine syndromes, tension
headaches, and Raynaud's disease. Biofeedback is also an important adjunctive
therapy for the following conditions:
- Stress reduction
- Spasmodic torticollis
- Learning disabilities
- Functional gastrointestinal disorders
Biofeedback is used in a variety of stress and anxiety producing situations.
These situations involve job- or study-related physical and psychological problems, as
well as those cases where a person wishes to learn to relax more. In all these
cases, structured stress and anxiety reducing interventions using biofeedback has proven
to be effective. Biofeedback has shown essentially no negative side effects in any
of these situations.
Biofeedback seems to have a very low potential for damage (if used properly, of
course). There are no absolute contraindications and few relative contraindications
for this therapeutic technique:
- Unevaluated symptoms. Biofeedback should not be used for treating
unevaluated symptoms such as:
- Medical: Biofeedback usually produces an enhanced feeling of general well-being.
Symptomatic relief can mask underlying medical problems. For a safe and
effective application, the Biofeedback Consent Form (a medical evaluation of the client) is
required by the Counseling Center before applying biofeedback.
- Psychological: Biofeedback is contraindicated for psychoses and major affective
- Cognitive impairment: Cognitive impairments that interfere with
an understanding of the biofeedback process can preclude successful treatment.
- Apprehensive clients: If a client views biofeedback with
apprehension, the procedure should not be applied.
Here are some helpful guidelines to determine who would (or would not) benefit from
- Physiological responsivity: The client should show some level of
physiological responsivity; otherwise, the biofeedback procedure will not be very useful.
- Motivation: The client should be motivated. Reading
articles, brochures, or talking with a former successful client about biofeedback can help
the client understand the benefits of this procedure.
- Personality characteristics: Clients with rigid personality
traits are not very responsive to a psychophysiologically-based treatment technique.
- Secondary gains: Clients getting excessive sympathy and attention
from their symptoms may not be willing to give up those symptoms. This problem
should be solved before biofeedback is attempted.
Biofeedback can be used alone or in conjunction with other techniques such as autogenic
training, guided imagery, and Jacobson's technique.
Biofeedback will be useful if and only if the client is willing to take the time
necessary to learn the self-control skills and then practice them conscientiously as
needed. Remember, the therapist may have designed the best program, but unless the
client follows it, no benefit will be obtained.