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Updated on May 3, 2023
4 min read

What is Neurotherapy? Is it Effective in Addiction Treatment?

Key Takeaways

  • Neurotherapy is a noninvasive form of treatment to improve brain functioning.
  • Neurotherapy treats many conditions, from ADHD to PTSD.1
  • Treating the brain with neurotherapy is most effective when combined with traditional therapy.
  • Doing neurotherapy sessions can be expensive and time-consuming. It’s not for everyone.

What is Neurotherapy?

Neurotherapy is also known as neurofeedback and electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback.4 It’s a drug-free treatment that improves brain function by changing its electrical activity (brainwaves) over time.13, 14

Neurotherapy talks directly to the brain to show the brain its desirable and undesirable patterns. It can be likened to holding a mirror up to your brain so it can see itself.

Research suggests that the brain is dynamic; it can modify, change, and adapt structure and function throughout life and in response to experience. This is known as neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to adapt by forming new neural networks over time.16, 19

Once your brain becomes aware of new information, it can make changes. It can do away with the undesirable patterns and repeat the desirable ones. 

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7 Types of Neurotherapy

There are seven types of neurotherapy:11

  1. Frequency/power neurofeedback. This type of neurofeedback analyzes the frequency of your various brain waves.10
  2. Slow cortical potential neurofeedback (SCP-NF). SCP-NF aims to improve brain performance by self-regulating cortical excitation thresholds. It looks at the slow event-related changes.
  3. Low-energy neurofeedback system (LENS). LENS helps the brain develop new neural pathways over time.
  4. Hemoencephalography (HEG) neurofeedback. HEG boosts blood flow to your brain to improve mental and emotional functioning.20
  5. Live Z-score neurofeedback. Live Z-score neurofeedback encourages brain flexibility and connectivity.9
  6. Low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORETA). LORETA mathematically analyzes EEG signals to determine where they’re coming from within the brain’s cortex.
  7. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). fMRI uses imaging to look at regional changes in your brain metabolism over time.6

Neurotherapy Uses

Neurotherapy can be used to treat several mental health disorders and other conditions.3, 5, 7, 12

  • Depression and anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Chronic pain
  • Learning disabilities
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disorders
  • Migraines
  • Addiction

Brain stimulation from neurotherapy has been shown to induce relaxed attention, which can help people dealing with ADHD.12, 18

Stimulating brain wave activity is also proven to help people struggling with anxiety and depression. 

In one study, after 30 neurotherapy sessions (coupled with heart rate variability training), 57 percent of people with severe anxiety and 45 percent with severe depression felt better. They showed “normal” brain activity following treatment.21 

The same is true for PTSD. Just 24 neurotherapy sessions have been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD significantly.8

Some science reports that neurotherapy can improve ASD behaviors, including emotional outbursts. Neurotherapy has also notably or completely improved migraines.17

Is Neurotherapy Effective in Addiction Treatment?

Neurotherapy is considered an effective addiction treatment. The treatment can help to reduce the desire and cravings for substances like cocaine and alcohol.2

However, experts find that neurotherapy is most effective when combined with traditional therapy approaches. Cognitive behavioral therapy is commonly used alongside neurotherapy.

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Pros and Cons of Neurotherapy

Like all types of treatment, there are both pros and cons to neurotherapy. Here are some of the most common pros:15

  • Improved memory
  • Better mental clarity and focus
  • Decreased impulsivity
  • Less anxiety
  • Enhanced sleep

Neurotherapy is also a long-lasting treatment with no known side effects. It teaches the brain how to perform more optimally. This means that your brain can function better after you stop the treatment.

However, all treatments have their downsides. Here are some cons of neurotherapy:

  • Time-consuming (it can take months to work)
  • Expensive
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Is Neurotherapy Safe? 

Neurotherapy is considered a safe, non-invasive treatment. It only places electrodes on the scalp to monitor your brain activity. These electrodes don't transmit any signals to your brain.

During a typical session, you’ll sit in a chair, and your doctor will place the electrodes on your scalp. This process is painless.

Your doctor will guide you through several activities while the electrodes record the electrical activity in your brain. For example, they might ask you to look at images, listen to music, or play games on your phone.

When you do, the electrodes give your brain instant feedback. Over time, your brain learns how to develop and sustain the desired brain activity. 

A neurotherapy session is usually about half an hour to an hour long. Treatment usually consists of about 30 to 40 sessions, though it varies depending on the person and their needs.

Alternative Treatments

Alternative treatments vary depending on your condition. Some alternative treatments that may be helpful across the board include the following:

Summary

Neurotherapy is a safe and effective treatment to improve brain function. It’s best used when paired with other traditional forms of therapy. However, this non-invasive procedure takes time and costs money, so it’s not for everyone. 

Talk to your doctor about whether or not neurotherapy is the right treatment for you. Depending on your condition, there are also alternative treatments you can explore.

Updated on May 3, 2023
21 sources cited
Updated on May 3, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. AN;, Schore. “Dysregulation of the Right Brain: A Fundamental Mechanism of Traumatic Attachment and the Psychopathogenesis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  2. Dehghani-Arani, Fateme, et al. “Neurofeedback Training for Opiate Addiction: Improvement of Mental Health and Craving - Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.” SpringerLink, Springer US.
  3. The Effectiveness of Using Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Systematic Review.” Sage Journals.
  4. Electroencephalographic Biofeedback.” Electroencephalographic Biofeedback - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.
  5. Ghosh, Tulika, et al. “The Efficacy of Electroencephalogram Neurofeedback Training in Cognition, Anxiety, and Depression in Alcohol Dependence Syndrome: A Case Study.” Industrial Psychiatry Journal, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  6. Glover, Gary H. “Overview of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.” Neurosurgery Clinics of North America, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  7. Hoogdalem, Lothar E. van, et al. “The Effectiveness of Neurofeedback Therapy as an Alternative Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders in Children.” Journal of Psychophysiology.
  8. Kolk, Bessel A. van der, et al. “A Randomized Controlled Study of Neurofeedback for Chronic PTSD.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science. 
  9. Live Z-Score Neurofeedback.” Researchgate.
  10. Low Resolution Brain Electromagnetic Tomography.” Low Resolution Brain Electromagnetic Tomography - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.
  11. Marzbani, Hengameh, et al. “Neurofeedback: A Comprehensive Review on System Design, Methodology and Clinical Applications.” Basic and Clinical Neuroscience, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  12. Nazari, Mohammad Ali, et al. “Effectiveness of EEG Biofeedback as Compared with Methylphenidate in the Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Clinical out-Come Study.” Neuroscience and Medicine, Scientific Research Publishing.
  13. Neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback).” CHADD.
  14. Neurotherapy: Treating Disorders by Retraining the Brain.” IEEE Brain.
  15. Omejc, Nina, et al. “Review of the Therapeutic Neurofeedback Method Using Electroencephalography: EEG Neurofeedback.” Bosnian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  16. Shaffer, Joyce. “Neuroplasticity and Clinical Practice: Building Brain Power for Health.” Frontiers in Psychology, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  17. Stokes, Deborah A, and Martha S Lappin. “Neurofeedback and Biofeedback with 37 Migraineurs: A Clinical Outcome Study - Behavioral and Brain Functions.” BioMed Central, BioMed Central.
  18. Van Doren, Jessica, et al. “Sustained Effects of Neurofeedback in ADHD: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis - European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.” SpringerLink, Springer Berlin Heidelberg. 
  19. Voss, Patrice, et al. “Dynamic Brains and the Changing Rules of Neuroplasticity: Implications for Learning and Recovery.” Frontiers in Psychology, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  20. What Is Heg?” Nctneurofeedback.
  21. White, Elyse Kemmerer, et al. “Combined Neurofeedback and Heart Rate Variability Training for Individuals with Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression: A Retrospective Study.” NeuroRegulation.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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