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NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors


Neurofeedback is a brain-training technique used to improve the brain’s ability to self-regulate and thus to become more flexible and resilient. It attempts to undo changes to the brain caused by trauma and works by helping the brain re-learn how to produce brainwave patterns that help it to function effectively.

In neurofeedback therapy, technology is used to measure the brain’s activity via sensors placed on the person’s scalp. These measurements are then used to provide visual and auditory feedback via games or films shown on a computer screen.

Prior to neurofeedback training sessions, the clinician conducts a thorough clinical and qEEG assessment to determine suitable training protocols. During training sessions, the client plays a computer game or watches a film, and they receive real-time visual and auditory feedback about their brainwave activity. The brain adjusts its brainwave patterns in order to continue to receive positive feedback.

Through regular, twice-weekly training sessions, the brain becomes better regulated, and this has cascading effects on the client’s symptoms. Over time, positive changes are observed in the client’s psychological, cognitive and behavioural functioning, leading to better mental health and better quality of life.

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How does it work?

A specially designed computer game is used to help participants produce brainwaves in the ‘normal’ range. Participants are attached to the computer by a non-invasive electrode placed on their head. They are then helped to enter a state of deep relaxation.

Supported by a trained counsellor, participants learn how to ‘operate’ the computer game by producing brainwaves at particular frequencies. Brainwaves at frequencies outside the ‘normal’ range produce no positive result in the game.

After regular sessions practicing with the computer, participants eventually learn how to produce these brainwaves unassisted.

In the next stage, participants begin to address their conscious and unconscious memories of torture and trauma in a safe and controlled way. In becoming aware of these memories, and in learning to produce a different response in the brain to those memories, they start to regain control of their lives.

How successful is Neurofeedback?

The initial aim of this program is to help reduce the symptoms of refugee trauma such as anxiety, hyper vigilance and sleep difficulties. We then work with refugees to address issues around their experience of torture and trauma.

Neurofeedback has been successful in treating people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder. Our own results show that the program is making a positive difference in the lives of refugee children and adults.

While sample sizes are still small, we have recorded improvement in more than 85% of participants. These positive results have been confirmed by feedback we’ve received from parents, teachers, counsellors and others.

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