Mary Page Smith first became interested in neurofeedback in 2009 to help her son who was struggling with sleep deprivation and school-based anxiety. The only neurofeedback center at that time was in Denver, and since she was working full time as a nurse practitioner, she could not commit to driving him down the hill for sessions three times a week. That led Mary Page to obtain professional training to learn to conduct neurofeedback sessions for her son, and she was amazed by the results.
Other moms noticed the positive change in Bryce and requested treatment for their families, too. With her professional certification as a neurofeedback therapist, and to meet the growing need, Mary Page opened the Colorado Center for Neurofeedback & Peak Performance in 2012. She and her business partners, Kristin Mazzarese and Marina Buswell, both board certified neurotherapists and licensed professional counselors, have since introduced hundreds of clients to the life-changing benefits of neurofeedback.
What Is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a science-based, data driven therapy which creates new neuropathways for optimal brain function. It is a proven alternative to medication and other therapies for treating conditions including anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, trauma, dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also effective for enhancing focus and achieving peak performance for athletes and corporate executives.
“Many mental health challenges are closely associated with some form of dysregulation in the brain, contributing to symptoms such as unhealthy thinking patterns, emotional distress and loss of focus,” says Smith. “If we can improve our brain’s ability to self-regulate, we can gain better control over our emotional and behavioral responses to events, relationships, or circumstances.”
While many people with mental and emotional challenges choose to take medication for an immediate impact on their symptoms, neurofeedback has a cumulative and sustainable impact on underlying conditions. Once the brain establishes new pathways, they are reinforced on a daily basis. Thus, the effects of neurofeedback are long-lasting.
Step one in neurofeedback is to get a clear picture of how your brain functions. CO Center for Neurofeedback clients start with a pain-free test called a Quantitative Electroencephalogram (qEEG). A cap which has 19 leads attached to the inside is placed on the head, and brain wave activity is recorded. The results are analyzed by two customized software applications that not only measure brain wave activity, but also measure the strength of connections taking place between different parts of the brain. When the analysis is complete, a professional, certified team member meets with the patient to review the results in detail and to discuss recommended treatment protocols to achieve optimal outcomes.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Crossen Davis, who initially came to the Center during a divorce and after a recent Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. “Kristin read my map and was able to tell me exactly what was going on in my brain. It was ‘scary accurate’—I was sold hook, line and sinker on the methodology.”
Using Games and Movies to Train the Brain
Neurofeedback therapy consists of two to three, 20-minute visits per week. The total number of sessions for each patient ranges from 20-40. In each visit, patients typically have four small metal discs (electrodes) attached to their scalp to measure brain activity as they watch a movie or play a game. The image on their screen will remain clear as long as the participant’s brain activity is aligned with the metrics programmed in the computer for their treatment protocol. If the images are pixelated, it’s an indication that the patient’s brain waves are disregulated, perhaps because of distracting thoughts, strong emotions, or stress. One of the Center’s professionally certified neurotherapists is by the patient’s side, coaching them and motivating them to achieve successful results.
“Using games and movies to provide feedback is a type of operant conditioning,” explains Mazzarese. “When your brain performs within the set parameters, your brain is rewarded. This helps to recondition your brain to achieve the goals we identified from your brain mapping.”
A Complement to Traditional Therapy
Lauren Pollema, a licensed professional counselor, was interested in the science behind neurofeedback. Based on her convincing personal experience, she frequently recommends the Center to her clients.
“I had anxiety which was getting progressively worse,” said Pollema. “I wanted an option that goes beyond ‘talk therapy’ and is an alternative to medication. Neurofeedback helped me tremendously.”
Pollema’s husband also tried neurofeedback. She says it was a definite plus for their relationship. “What was awesome is that my husband and I both did neurofeedback, comparing our maps and reviewing our progress,” she said. “It helped him understand my brain and why I act in certain ways and it helped me understand his behaviors. It gave us a lot more grace for each other.”
Pollema’s clients have experienced positive outcomes, too. “I had a client who struggled with sleep issues. For that situation, there’s only so much you can talk about therapeutically,” she explained. “At some level, there is a brain component that needs to be addressed. After neurofeedback, my client can get to sleep faster and stay asleep, which has a positive impact on her mental and physical health.”
Noticeable, Sustained Results
Neurofeedback clients report noticing significant change after 10-20 sessions on average, with some aware of subtle shifts in their behaviors after a shorter period.
“After my first session, I was so calm,” said Davis. “When I left the Center, I had to drive during rush hour in mountain traffic and, honestly, it did not faze me.” He adds, “After a few weeks, I saw a ‘night and day’ difference. I stopped taking Adderall after 15 years, I started a new company, my stress levels are much reduced, and I can think more clearly. Plus, it’s improved my pickleball game!”
The Center’s Holistic Approach Includes Counseling and Functional Nutrition Services
To increase the potential for client success, the Center offers counseling services and customized functional nutrition services. Smith, who received certification through the Institute of Functional Medicine, can assess how a client’s nutrition impacts their mental and emotional health. “We have all been told that ‘we are what we eat.’” The food you eat provides information to every cell in your body. While neurofeedback can help the brain regulate and change itself, diet is essential to all healing.”
To support clients on their healing journey, Mazzarese and Buswell provide one-on-one and group counseling. Helping students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, learning disabilities, and behavioral issues in collaboration with schools and parents is another area of focus for Mazzarese. Buswell incorporates motivational interviewing and mindfulness skills into her counseling for individuals and groups on the road to improved mental health.
Giving Children the Chance to Live Their Best Lives
Claudine Suchocki has seen quite a transformation in her 14-year-old daughter, Isabella, who has completed 25 sessions of neurofeedback. “We had such struggles. Isabella was behind in school, hard to talk to, frustrated most of the time, and reluctant to make friends,” said Suchocki. “After just three sessions of neurofeedback, I began to see a difference in her. Isabella is a happier, more joyful kid. She can focus and get her schoolwork done, she is communicating much better and her creativity has exploded—she’s even making her own clothes.”
Parents like Claudine have witnessed how neurofeedback can deliver measurable results for their children. According to a 2015 study of children with dyslexia conducted by Dr. Robert Coben, participants improved their reading scores by 1.2 grade levels after 10 weeks of neurofeedback. Mary Page saw a similar outcome for her daughter, who struggled with dyslexia beginning in third grade and who now is a successful, third-year medical student.
In 2007, Coben and Ilean Padolsky studied children with autism spectrum disorder. The results revealed an average 40 percent decrease in ASD symptoms after 20 sessions when applying the same neurofeedback methodology as used at the Center.
“Neurofeedback is such a wonderful option for families,” said Claudine. “We had tried some medication for a little while and never saw the results we’re seeing now. I would encourage others to seek out the Center because they will see results. I believe every child who struggles with brain dysfunction deserves the chance to live the best life they can.”
Colorado Center for Neurofeedback & Peak Performance
CoNeurofeedback.com | 303.670.3931
Offices in Evergreen and Wheat Ridge