Blog post by Paul Swingle, PhD, RPsych, BCN, BCB @drpaulswingle & Elizabeth Hartney PhD, RPsych, BCN, BCB
We are both healthcare practitioners (Registered Psychologists) who have worked for years as healthcare leaders, while also practicing a specific psychological approach called neurotherapy. To those of us who work in both roles, the benefits of neurotherapy to organizations is obvious, although many of our peers who work exclusively in one area or the other don’t immediately see the connection. We hope to shed some light on how neurofeedback can benefit organizations with this blog, our upcoming HMF article, and the tweetchat on neurofeedback which will be held on May 8th, when we invite you to join us with your questions.
There are several levels through which neurotherapy benefits organizations. Like physical exercise, any activity that improves the health and/or efficiency of individuals within organizations – and neurotherapy does both – is of benefit to the organization. Activities with comparable benefits include physical exercise, meditation, Yoga and any intellectually engaging or challenging activity. If individuals are healthier and more mentally alert, organizations reap the benefits.
However, neurotherapy is rather unique in that the modification of brain functioning is not a secondary benefit of a peripheral activity, such as physical exercise, but rather the neurological functioning of the brain is directly modified. The process by which this is accomplished is to make brain activity, in terms of brain wave (EEG) activity, directly available for instrumental and/or classical conditioning. This is a relatively new development, which has been enabled by rapid development in technology over last four decades. Although we could measure the Electroencephalograph (EEG), and we have known since the 1940’s that brain wave activity can be classically conditioned (Jasper & Shagass, 1941) we could not directly manipulate the brain wave activity with the timing precision required for conditioning in clinical contexts. More recently, we have learned that brain wave patterns are associated with specific physical and mental conditions (summarized in Swingle, 2010, 2015). The result is neurotherapy, a clinical procedure in which symptoms are treated by correcting the neurological patterns underlying the symptom, without resorting to medications and dealing with the corresponding side-effects. We are now able to conduct neurotherapy very efficiently – given the right training and equipment.
So how can brainwave therapy benefit an organization? Obviously, at the most fundamental level, if an employee has a problematic condition, such as sleep disturbance, involuntary movement condition (e.g., tics), anxiety, substance use disorder, or depression, any improvements in the person’s condition is directly beneficial to the organization. Effective treatment will reduce sick time, improve employee engagement, and improve performance.
At the next level, individuals who are experiencing cognitive problems, such as difficulty sustaining focus and attention, or declines in cognitive functioning, “brain brightening” neurotherapeutic protocols driven by identified EEG anomalies directly improve intellectual functioning. Work time lost through the declines in efficiency of healthcare workers struggling with such conditions are regained, along with the immeasurable benefits of improved self-esteem and self confidence in ones contributions to the organization and the wider community the organization serves.
By extension, if neurotherapy can help to restore declining functioning, then optimal functioning can be facilitated by enhancing neurological functions associated with brain efficiency. This is particularly beneficial to leaders, who need to function at an optimal level across a range of domains which are impacted by neurological health, including social interactions, decision-making and other executive functioning skills, mood, and stress management skills. Such optimization, like peak physical conditioning, often requires maintenance to sustain the gains.
Skill enhancement is an exciting application of neurotherapeutic techniques. While we have well-established neurotherapy protocols to support the development of children’s reading skills, for example, by having the child read while simultaneously directly training a relevant area of the brain, more recently, we have found that the surgical skills of ophthalmologic surgeons in training have also been shown to be enhanced by neurotherapeutic treatment (Ross, 2009).
What lies on the horizon for neurotherapy within organizations? Work is currently proceeding in the utilization of “group” EEG (neuro) feedback to facilitate the enhancement of the emotional ambiance and communication efficiency within groups. This procedure has been found to be beneficial with couples and families in counselling, and has the potential to be an efficient manner for improving synchronous teamwork, and the functioning of working committees in organizations.
If you are interested in learning more about this approach to leadership development, join us on the next #hcldr tweetchat on Tuesday May 8th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) when we will be addressing the following questions:
- T1 Do you believe the brain can be trained and behaviors changed through techniques of mindfulness, neurotherapy, etc.?
- T2 The term “neuroplasticity” has a negative connotation because of outlandish claims by brain-game makers, but the science is solid. How might the stigma be countered?
- T3 Neurotherapy is an effective way to deal with stress, depression & poor quality sleep BUT it requires work vs popping a pill. How can practitioners change this narrative?
- T4 If you had the opportunity to train-your-brain through neurotherapy, what would you seek to do?
We look forward to connecting with you then.
For more information please visit our website www.swingleclinic.com
Jasper, H., & Shagass, C. (1941). Conditioning of the alpha rhythm in man. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 28(5), 373-388. http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1965-00600-001
Ross, T. et al. (2009) Optimizing microsurgical skills with EEG neurofeedback. BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10:87, https://bmcneurosci.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2202-10-87
Swingle, P. G. (2010) Biofeedback for the brain. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. https://www.amazon.com/Biofeedback-Brain-Neurotherapy-Effectively-Depression/dp/0813547792
Swingle, P. G. (2015) Adding neurotherapy to your practice. New York: NY: Springer. https://www.amazon.com/Adding-Neurotherapy-Your-Practice-Neurofeedback-ebook/dp/B00VJI2YR4
Enhancing health leadership performance using neurotherapy, Paul G Swingle and Elizabeth Hartney, Healthcare Management Forum, 2 May 2018. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0840470417751158