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The Transforming Power of Alpha-Theta Neurofeedback

Alpha-theta neurofeedback training can serve as an effective treatment for addictions, anxiety, depression, stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as peak performance achievement. Alpha-theta neurofeedback differs from standard neurofeedback in that the latter has three main goals: identifying irregular brainwaves (alpha, beta, delta and theta); guiding those brainwaves back into regular patterns; and teaching the brain to maintain regular patterns permanently.

The goal of alpha-theta training, however, is to move the client into a deeply relaxed state between wake and sleep. This twilight state is achieved by working with the alpha brainwaves (8-12Hz, or hertz) and theta brainwaves (4-8Hz). These two frequencies are best known for their relaxation and creative qualities. The continual shifts between conscious and unconscious awareness that this therapy produces can be observed by the relationship between alpha decreasing and theta increasing. When these two waves cross over, deep integrative work can occur.

There are many major studies on the benefits of alpha-theta neurofeedback dating from 1969. Alpha-theta training was originally used for alcoholism and PTSD. In 1989, Dr. Eugene Peniston and Dr. Paul Kulkosky of the University of Southern Colorado published a study using alphatheta training to treat chronic alcoholics in an inpatient setting. The study was performed on Vietnam veterans at a veteran’s affairs hospital, and those men achieved an 80 percent recovery rate. The veterans reported that not only did they stop drinking, but also they stopped obsessing about the war and reported improved personalities. Follow-up studies at three and 10 years later found that these men remained abstinent from alcohol because the cause of their alcoholism had been dealt with. Another study in 1991 focused on inpatient veterans with only PTSD, but no alcoholism. All patients in the study achieved signifi cant improvement through alpha-theta neurofeedback. An 18-month follow-up found their improvement remained.

Alpha-theta training has all the benefits of hypnosis because the unconscious mind is being re-programmed, but unlike hypnosis, alpha-theta training clears out traumatic experiences that have put the brakes on one’s ability to progress or cope. Everyone has outdated negative, life-limiting beliefs that reside in the unconscious. The brain operates as if those beliefs are still true and drives our thoughts, outlook and actions. Alpha-theta training helps the unconscious mind to process earlier troubling experiences because the brain, while idling in this crossover state, allows the mind to integrate the trauma, resolve the issue and move on.

Other positive outcomes that are observed with alpha-theta neurofeedback are reduced depression and anxiety; increased concentration; reduced fight-or-fl ight states; and better working memory. It is regularly used in the realm of performance enhancement training or stress management as a means of optimizing personal growth. Athletes, musicians, executives, scientists and artist are successfully using alpha-theta training to perform at their highest potential and to break out of slumps in their professions. Other common benefits include increased stability, conscientiousness, boldness, inner calm, awareness, ability to tolerate upsetting thoughts, fewer binge eating episodes and improved immune systems.

The crossover state is a unique condition that allows for the emergence and integration of past trauma or novel solutions to challenges, which confound conscious processing. A key feature of the crossover state is dream-like images. These images may be in the form of recovered memories or snapshots. As the unconscious mind is allowed to integrate past negative experiences, there is less irritability, restlessness, agitation, depression, sadness, panic, fears, phobias or lethargy, and there can be recovered memories necessary for healing. Other signs that this necessary integration is occurring are reduced reactivity, improved sleep, boundary clarifi cation, calmness, increased creativity and concentration.

In summary, alpha-theta training can help one visualize new skills and enhance performance, and it helps one gain insight into situations or process difficult past events that are creating physical, mental or emotional problems in the present. The primary goal is to enhance self-awareness, which is necessary for appropriate social interaction. The more socially accurate our behavior is in social exchanges, the more resources we garner and the more we interact with others and thrive.

Kristin Klocko is a doctor of pharmacy, registered pharmacist, and has certifications in Hyperbaric Oxygen Th erapy, Neurofeedback, and Genetic Analysis. She is owner of Health His Way, 1492 Pebblestone Cove, Wheaton. For more information, call 630-254-0766 or visit

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