Relationships are notoriously complex, especially those living together. Creating an environment conducive to healthy interactions is key to a couple's success. However, personality conflicts and underlying psychological conditions and responses can lead to volatile, explosive and abusive behavior. Therefore, to assist couples in building a supportive and healthful relationship, psychotherapists have created several couple's therapy models. Although, not every treatment plan is effective or curative as some might wish it to be. Relationships take continuous work, which involves diligence and commitment to move forward together. For those couples willing to commit to therapy, neurofeedback conditioning has seen some positive results, and it typically begins with determining environmental and situational triggers.
Environmental and Situational Triggers
Part of building a healthy relationship is creating an environment where both partners feel comfortable and safe. Unfortunately, some conditions, such as intermittent explosive disorder, can create some confusion as to how to establish such an environment. That is why a therapist will typically spend some time trying to understand situational triggers that lead to violent outbursts; the theory being that removing or limiting exposure to these triggers will lessen the volatile reaction.
It is necessary to understand the role of the environment and triggers because without being addressed, the explosive behavior of one or both partners will only further negate relationship success. Also, without resolution, other vulnerable parties, such as children, might begin to mimic the rage and anger that exist in the home.
Challenges of Therapy
One of the significant obstacles to therapy is the lack of time. Most insurance or managed care companies limit couples to between three and ten sessions, which is likely not long enough to get to the bottom of the problem, especially in relationships that are prone to physical abuse. Therefore, the focus on brain wave therapy is about conditioning a rapid neurological and physiological response to diminish frustration and increase relaxation and thoughts of safety. While this treatment alone will not resolve the underlying conflict, in combination with traditional therapy, it can help a couple have positive feelings toward each other that allow for more productive conversations and disagreements.
When combined with traditional therapy, biofeedback training can elicit more positive emotions between two partners, and it can allow each to self-regulate their levels of anxiety and frustration. The neurofeedback approach requires multiple sessions and a progression through at least three different phases of treatment.
The initial phase of treatment is about introducing the methodology and the tools used to train the patients in brain wave control. Through the use of an EEG machine, three electrodes or sensors and auditory sounds, a patient learns to amplify their slow brain wave activity to enhance feelings of well-being and promote emotional and behavioral control. Two electrodes are placed on the earlobe and the back of the neck. The last sensor is placed on the scalp to record the EEG readings.
The second phase is geared toward individualized practice. Each patient is hooked up to the EEG in separate, independent, 30-minute sessions. During these sessions, they are taught to meet preset amplifications of Alpha and Theta brainwaves. They will progressively work through increasing amplifications until they have mastered the skill. They will also be working by themselves at home to practice these techniques without the EEG.
The final phase is about home generalization and practice, but together with the inclusion of touch therapy. The couple decides on an agreed-upon time to sit with each other. They will spend time holding hands and practicing breathing and focus techniques to achieve slow brainwaves, allowing each person to feel relax and safe with the other.
The use of neurofeedback in couples therapy is still not well-documented. However, we have experienced success in its implementation, and feel confident in the treatment's ability to lower stress levels and promote positive associative experiences.