LHC- Hello there and welcome to Let's Make a Health Connection, your local health connect podcast series in Vancouver, Washington. In this series, we interview and showcase the many healthcare providers and resources that are featured on our website, localhealthconnect.com. For those of you who don't know us yet, Local Health Connect is a hub where our community can easily search local resources and connect with providers for mind, body and spirit health. Thanks for listening today. I'm Jennifer Barber, a licensed clinical social worker in Washington and Oregon and I'm happy to be part of our community of providers. Today we're talking to Olga Ward. She's a certified neuro-optimal neurofeedback provider. She's the owner of Beaverton Neurofeedback LLC, located in Beaverton, Oregon. She personally benefited from neurofeedback and was impressed by this technology so much that she changed her earlier career trajectory and opened her own private practice in 2018 to help many more people in her community and beyond. Hi, Olga.
OW- Hi. Thanks for having me, Jennifer.
LHC- Oh, thank you so much for being here. Let's just jump into it and let people know what neurofeedback is.
OW- Yes, a lot of people are familiar with it, but many more are not. So yes, I would just say this in very layman terms, even though there's a lot of science behind your feedback, but in very layman terms, I would say think of it like brain training training, or training of the brain, or physical therapy for the brain. Yes, it gives direct feedback to the brain about what the brain is doing so that the brain can tap into its own neuroplasticity and make positive corrections and changes.
LHC- It sounds very technical and complicated. Can you give me an idea of how you do that?
Yes, it used to be a very sophisticated machine. So I have equipment that was designed by a science team and by the Vanguard Institute, and the particular technology I use is called neuroptimal. So you pronounced it very well.
LHC- Oh good. I was wondering if I did that right.
OW- Yes, yes, there are many different styles of neural feedback, and as brain science and technology are continuing to evolve, so are the different offerings that we have the privilege of being exposed to. So your optimal is just a type of neurofeedback, but again, think of it as brain training. Yes, and I use the specific equipment that I'm trained on. I did not create this equipment. I am simply the end user and a power user, which I'm certified in. But the way it looks is that I attach special sensors to the person's ears and scalp, and then those sensors listen to the brain, what the brain is doing at the present time, and give direct feedback to the brain, similar to us looking in the mirror. When we look in the mirror, we can make adjustments automatically, so neural feedback is feedback to the brain.
LHC- Wow, that sounds fascinating. As you are accumulating the feedback, the sensors are doing what they need to do. Is there something showing on a computer screen or are there sounds going off what happens there?
OW- Yes, yes again. It probably will slightly vary from technology to technology, but with neuroptimal it's sound-based primarily. Typically, people listen to this type of very relaxing music, and as the sensors detect cortical or electrical activity from the scalp, the music will skip or interrupt. happens many, many times per second, so some of it people don't even catch. But nevertheless, it's still feedback and the brain has the ability to, oh, what just happened? I did that and it will have an opportunity to stop and sort of micro analyze its own activity and make a correction.
OW- Yes, and the reason this is happening is because a lot of our habits in the brain are formed over many years, so we use different techniques like mindfulness, for example. various mindfulness practices and meditation to sort of stop ourselves in those familiar tracks. Maybe those are the tracks that don't serve us anymore but we just kind of go on autopilot. We can vow not to get angry or do whatever, but we still do. It's just that our bodies just kind of respond without bypassing that logical brain. So that's what we are tapping into and it's almost like beyond logical comprehension, it goes much deeper into the brain and interrupts those patterns that possibly no longer serve us and is looking for better ways of operating, better ways of supporting us.
LHC- As I'm listening, I'm a mental health provider, so I'm listening with my mental health provider brain and I'm thinking, for people who have OCD, or even if they're struggling with some addiction, those are the patterns, right? The pathways in the brain say I must ruminate on this thought and I must take it all the way to the most catastrophic thinking. These pathways are so strong. Is neurofeedback something that would help disrupt those?
OW- Yes, absolutely. Again, it goes much deeper than simply verbally pledging not to think about something again, and you can follow your heart because you can. Then you just kind of get trapped back into that same old pattern. It's almost like that groove becomes a freeway. As a result, you can't stop yourself from going there.Then you beat yourself up and wonder, "Why am I making this choice over and over?"I know better. That kind of thing happens so often that it kind of disrupts the brain level. It gives more opportunities to make different choices. I have seen people with tons of anxiety clients, but certainly some have OCD as well, and what I've seen them report back to me and say. Oh, I have this familiar loop that I just finished thinking about. Then it starts over, and then it starts over again.and with even just the first couple of sessions of neurofeedback, they catch themselves. That loop is being interrupted, and they're able to switch tracks more easily. and uh, it's almost like they're able to get redirected easily on their own. And yes, if they're seeing a therapist, they're able to use those tools that they learned in therapy more effectively. Because their physiology is better supported, they use those tools instead. You can read all the books and you can go to all the classes. You can go to certain universities, you can do a lot of talk therapy. But if you're more of a downstairs person, your brain will bring you right back. I just feel completely powerless.
LHC- Are there other reasons people might be interested in neurofeedback? Like, who would this be most suitable for?
OW- Yes, well, when I first discovered it myself, it was from the book, "The Body Keeps the Score".
LHC- Yes, indeed.
OW- Yes, the brain, the mind, and the body, and the healing of trauma. So I have it on my desk right in front of me right now and chapter 19 talks about neurofeedback in detail. and it's titled "Applied Neuroscience rewiring the fear-driven mind with brain computer interface technology". So it's just another tool. Fortunately, we have lots of tools. how to heal the brain and we know that trauma will directly affect the wiring of our brain. This amazing technology was developed by clinical psychologists years ago to help the brain's wiring and to help heal the brain from trauma from PTSD. So it definitely helps with, you know, trauma. It helps with things like concussions. So, when there is physical trauma to the brain, not only emotions, but also physical.Um, so anything that creates a disbalance in the brain will create unwanted side effects. If you will, we'll create various labels and diagnose different diagnoses if you will. So, neurofeedback supports the brain in coming back to balance and working at its highest and best potential. Because if the brain is not working well for some people, what that looks like is they have this squirrel brain, where they can't focus. You know, some people may be diagnosed with ADHD and other people just occasionally have these symptoms. But nevertheless, it's the brain. It starts with the brain and the brain's wiring. So some people also seek neurofeedback because they can't shut off the brain at night and they might, you know, try this and the other or sometimes more commonly rely on medication. But if they're interested in it, they're like, but it's my brain. that just wouldn't turn off. What can I do about it? So people would use neurofeedback for that as well. Again, think of it like physical therapy for your brain. When the brain is working well, you're not going to have insomnia. You're not going to have OCD or your PTSD symptoms will improve dramatically. There are a lot of good things that can happen, and some people just simply do it for better memory or better focus. Maybe better processing speed. Some people just say, "Oh my brain works like 10 tabs are open, five of them are frozen, and I don't know where the music is coming from." So what could it be? Yes, I'd say so. I know it's funny, but it's so frustrating to live with a brain that's working like a very slow operating system. Right? And so many issues can happen. You can be frustrated and, yes, you can be completely unproductive, but also at night you might be just spinning and not be able to fall asleep. So that's usually an ineffective, inefficient brain there for you. Um, so that's that, so I know it's a long answer, but um, essentially. If the brain is healthy, you will do much better. Start now, whether you have a formal diagnosis or simply want your brain to work better.People do it simply for peak performance. kind of like you're going to the gym. You don't have to have loads of injuries to go to the gym. You can just go to the gym because you want to go to the gym, and that makes you feel good. So neurofeedback is kind of used on the spectrum for serious problems. like stroke recovery. PTSD or just because you feel like you want to be quick and sharp and, um, reduce stress. all those good things that we all want.
LHC- So who is this most suitable for? I'm obviously thinking of adults, but can you also work with children using neurofeedback?
OW- Yes, absolutely well, I probably can't speak for all types of neural feedback, but myself, I have the youngest client I had was a two-year-old. Because the beauty of neurofeedback is that you don't need to be verbal to use this type of therapy. process. It's pretty passive. That's kind of one of the benefits, but yes, absolutely. It's completely safe and non-invasive to use on children. Usually, parents would bring children to me for things like ADHD, anxiety, or emotional regulation. When they're just kind of learning to regulate their emotions and maybe spending a nice day, you know, in tantrums. Yes, there's some coaching that could go hand in hand for the parents to help these children. So the parents are, you know, working well with parenting. However, sometimes you can be the best parent and the child is still struggling. So, neurofeedback can certainly be highly supportive.
LHC- Fantastic. I'm really curious if somebody has never had a neurofeedback session before and they call you to schedule their very first appointment. Can you walk us through what that very first appointment would look like so that people know what they could expect?
OW- Oh yes, absolutely, and I have a little video on my website that kind of gives you glimpses of what the experience is like. But generally, people can schedule the first appointment. I have them complete the online intake ahead of time, and when they arrive, we have a little chat to clarify their goals and what's happening for them. I am able to answer questions. I'll show them the technology and then when we're ready, most of them are pretty excited about getting started. I would place them and they would be seated in a nice, comfortable recliner. Um, especially if it's an adult, I would kind of lean them back so they're almost like a nice and comfortable reclined position. I put a weighted blanket on them and then I put the little sensors on them, and then they just kind of relax for the entire session. They're listening to this music while the computer is doing work. Um, a lot of adults end up kind of dozing off a little bit, so it's a pretty passive experience. Um, I do work a little bit differently with children who are kind of wiggly and do not want to take a nap. With the parents' permission, we can do something like a visual experience. and so they can watch a movie during the session. Of course, the session is usually 33 minutes long because of the actual neurofeedback. My movies are like an hour and a half, so usually when they're done with the session, they ask their parents when they can come back because you probably want to continue watching the movie. But yes.
LHC- Good trick.
OW- Yes, good trick.
LHC- Okay, wonderful. You said that you opened in 2018, but before that you decided to change your career trajectory. I'm curious about what happened to make you change your path and what brought you into the world of neurofeedback?
OW- Yes, big changes happened even before 2018. A few years before that, my husband and I adopted one of our kids from foster care. Even with the best kind of knowledge and all the training that we were given, we were struggling quite a bit with our daughter. She was eight at that time and she came to us on medication and she and she didn't have a good therapist. So those things were in place, but we were still in crisis every day. It was just that things were very very bumpy. Um, and so that's when I was looking for well, I didn't want to introduce yet another medication to her, and the therapist was already doing a wonderful job. What can I do to support my child and myself so that we can get out of this fight and flight that's constantly going on in our home? And so I learned about neurofeedback and I was completely fascinated that, especially after reading and learning more about it from the book, the body keeps the score, which is specifically about PTSD and trauma and what happens to the brain. and I had to try it. So yes, and uh, once I saw that it was working, I actually used it on myself first because I was starting to get stressed out. I was not doing a good job of parenting even with all the knowledge and experience that I had. With the therapeutic support that I was given, I was just starting to feel like I was burnt out. So I had to seek care for myself, and I noticed the effects of the neuroptimal neurose back within the first couple of sessions. Um, so at first I felt like I was just kind of calm and relaxed and just sort of unbothered. I am much more grounded and able to use more of my logical brain and not get so emotional and triggered all the time. But over time, I just found that the little things that used to irritate me or trigger me quite a bit were just not a problem. and so I was able to use all the skills that I've learned from the training, from the books, and from the therapy sessions. I was able to use them rather than simply being triggered and flying off the handle, if you will, or shutting down.And so I was so enthralled with it that I had to research the heck out of it. Of course, I had to introduce it to my daughter, and that was highly helpful. And then I decided that the rest of the world needed to know about it.I need to be able to…
LHC- Yes, it sounds like it changed your family.
OW- It totally did. It totally did. Yes,
LHC- Thank you so much for sharing that. That's pretty incredible. What an incredible change!
OW- Yes, yes
LHC- So I'm curious if somebody wants to work with you and learn more where they can find you? You said you had a website and we also know that you have a profile on local health connect. What is your website?
OW- My website's URL is beavertonneurofeedback.com . So yes, I always tell everyone, website, website, website and I've developed, personally developed and written many blogs and articles. I wrote them with the intention of educating because not very many people are familiar with neural feedback or understand how it works or what it's used for that kind of thing. So I just wrote blogs to kind of answer a lot of those questions. So that's all on my website. There are some videos that explain what happens in the sessions. The frequently asked questions are also there. and um, people can also schedule with me through the website as well.
LHC- That's so great. Okay, fantastic. Do you have anything else you'd like people to know about you and your business?
OW- Yes, one, so for those who are not too super local, I feel like, "Oh, maybe Beaverton is a little bit out of reach, but I really want to learn more or really need this." I also offer rentals. The nearest neurofeedback equipment can be used at home, and I train people how to use the machine and provide full technical support and guidance. So they can always rent the equipment and use it at home as well, and I have that information on my website.
LHC- That would be very convenient.
OW- It was very convenient. That's the way I started for my family and then ended up purchasing my own equipment and becoming a certified provider because I just did not want to give up the machine.
LHC- It is so great. We are lucky to have you in the community, and just from my own personal experience, it feels like we continue to hear more and more about neurofeedback and the awareness that more neurofeedback providers are coming into the community, so it is wonderful that you're here today educating us about what it is and how it can help. and I just want to thank you once again.
OW- Yes, absolutely, and I just want to add one more thing really quickly: I know that you, Jennifer, have a passion for supporting first responders. And now we're living in the era of COVID, and there are a lot of medical as well as mental health providers who are pretty stressed out and burned out.
OW- In their shortage of resources, these providers often need support themselves. So, neurofeedback can be highly supportive and effective. But you don't. I want to kind of emphasize that you don't have to have a particular diagnosis to see the benefit of just even just two or three sessions will do the trick to kind of bring your whole central nervous system down and you feel you feel better. You will feel noticeably better within the first few sessions.
LHC- Yes, okay, that's a really good piece for all of our frontline medical professionals to hear. Even the idea of being able to come home from work, from a long shift or many shifts, and to have that equipment and your knowledge available to them to just bring that nervous system back down absolutely. This is incredible. Thank you so much for offering this to our whole community but also pointing that out to our very stressed-out medical professionals right now.
OW- Yes, absolutely. Thank you, Jennifer, for having me.
LHC- Yes, thank you, Olga. Have a wonderful day. Thank you again for listening to "let's make a health connection". Find us on the interwebs at localhealthconnect.com. You can also search for us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The links and show notes for this interview are available on our podcast page. I really enjoyed putting these interviews together and I hope you made a health connection. Next time we talk, [Music] Let's make a health connection, copyright 2021, all rights reserved, is the exclusive property of MBS Therapy, LLC, a Washington-based company. Local Health Connect is inclusive and does not endorse any political or religious group. Thank you again for listening, and we'll see you next time on localhealthconnect.com.
By Jennifer Barber, LICSW 10-12-2021