Book Review – Lawrence Edwards

Neurofeedback In The Treatment Of Developmental Trauma by Sebern Fisher

I highly recommend Fisher’s new book for all clinicians working with people who have suffered developmental trauma, and especially for neurofeedback and biofeedback therapists. This text is also very informative for anyone interested in understanding the profound changes that neurofeedback training empowers the mind-brain-body-self to create through this unique type of self-regulation training.

Fisher brings decades of clinical skills and insights gained from working with children and adults suffering from some of the most debilitating and intractable disorders, made all the more challenging since they have so often been caused by the abuse and abandonment inflicted by parents and caretakers. Through the many cases of developmental trauma she discusses we see the extremes of dysregulation in the brain and nervous system. The subtitle of Fisher’s book, Calming The Fear Driven Brain, points directly to the critical issue that we as neurofeedback/biofeedback clinicians address so uniquely and powerfully with these modalities.

The extremely disruptive nature of chronic fear on the brain, autonomic nervous system, endocrine system, and really the entire body, in addition to how it distorts interpersonal relations and one’s relationship to oneself, is painfully apparent in individuals who have been through abuse, abandonment and other forms of violent trauma. Fisher makes the point that fear plays a major role in many psychological and physical disorders. She discusses her own discovery of neurofeedback training as an intervention that can alter the circuitry of the brain in ways that no other therapy she had employed in decades of clinical work could do and led to amazing positive outcomes for her patients.

In a very engaging and clear style Fisher leads the reader through the multiple layers of connectivity between brain, body, and self. She draws on Allan Shore’s work on the importance of the caring attuned mother for facilitating the infant’s development of affect regulation and how the right orbital frontal cortex plays a central role in this development. Failure at this early stage of development sets up a life-long pattern of inner chaos and dysregulation. Talk therapies and medications haven’t been effective in changing these patterns. Neurofeedback and biofeedback offer the means for empowering the brain to gain control of its functions in ways that no other modality provides.
Neurofeedback clinicians will be especially interested in Fisher’s discussions of neurophysiology and the development of EEG training protocols using the 10-20 system of sites and their correlations with symptoms and underlying dysregulation in brain regions associated with the individual’s functions being disrupted.

Fisher also broaches subjects rarely discussed in biofeedback and neurofeedback: transference and counter-transference. These critical interpersonal dynamics related to the patient’s projections onto the therapist (transference) and the therapist’s projections onto the client (counter-transference) impact the therapeutic bond between patient and clinician. They can either support a successful outcome or lead to a failure not due to the biofeedback or neurofeedback training protocols, but to the failed bond between patient and clinician. This is especially important in working with individuals with developmental trauma because what they suffered has its origin in failed interpersonal bonding. But transference/counter-transference are present in all therapeutic encounters and clinicians need to be very conscious of these in order to enhance their chances for successful outcomes for their patients. Kudos to Fisher for bringing greater awareness of transference and counter-transference to biofeedback clinicians.

Lawrence Edwards, PhD, LMHC, BCN Senior Fellow
Founder & Director of OPTIMAL MIND®
Faculty Member, New York Medical College, Dept. of Family Medicine
Past President of the Northeast Regional Biofeedback Society
Private Practice: Armonk, NY