Some comments on Personal Experience as a major part in biofeedback training

Hands on Personal Experience


The objective of the Experience is to enable the trainee to experience two roles: that of the patient and that of the therapist.

Experience as patient: we believe that a person can treat in the psycho-physiological field only after having himself experienced the feeling of “being a patient”. This is true of a large percentage of the treating professions, but is even more true regarding biofeedback, in which you must teach another person control over the autonomic nervous system – an activity that is difficult to explain cognitively and is principally based on experience and learning. It is important that the future therapist experience the feeling of being connected to the apparatus and the feelings involved in the process. Special attention should be paid to the feelings of “being transparent” to another person “who sees what is happening in the patient’s ‘guts'”. In order to fully experience the process as patient, the trainee must be allowed the feeling of satisfaction at attaining control, as well as the frustration connected with the process of learning to adjust the physiological variables. We shall emphasize the Experience of losing control, necessary for the process of learning control. A large part of the Experience will enable the trainee to use biofeedback as an inner mirror: to learn the psychological processes which cause different physiological reactions.

Experience as therapist: work with biofeedback is not a simple challenge to a therapist. On the one hand, he has to deal with technical paraphernalia such as electrodes, a computer and physiological records; on the other hand he must listen to the emotional processes taking place during the course of the treatment. Therefore, the future therapist must practice a combination of these activities. At the technical level, the trainees will have to become familiar with work with physiological parameters, learning to place the sensors on the patient and to ensure correct recording of the data. The therapist will teach the patient various methods of relaxation and will learn to use the feedback obtained from the apparatus in order to adapt, adjust and tailor the therapeutic intervention. The principal craft we will be dealing with in the workshop will be the construction of an integrative therapeutic focus: how to help the patient cope with his or her symptoms, while at the same time paying attention to the cognitive and emotional processes which encourage or prevent the occurrence of the symptom.


The work will take be conducted in two principal ways: (A) practice – in small groups; and (B) Sharing the Experience, including discussion and training – in the plenary.


The workshop will simulate the therapeutic process from start to finish. Each participant will be asked to select a problem on which he/she wishes to work in therapy. The first meetings will deal with psycho-physiological intake, the definition of the therapy, and its presentation to the patient. At this stage, we shall deal with the “curative fantasy” with which the patient comes to biofeedback and with how it is possible to reframe this fantasy as part of the therapeutic process. The following series of meetings will deal with the practice of the autonomous adjustment processes, combined with relaxation methods and guided imaging. We will provide time for questions regarding the therapist’s place in the process as well as for special transference processes: not only towards the therapist but also towards the computer and the method. The last stage of the workshop will deal with questions of inclusion: how the ability to control autonomous processes can be implemented outside of the clinic, how to “wean” the patient from the machine. How the therapeutic experience can be broadened from the technical element to the emotional component and how to make the treatment a more complete process.

The participants will work in small groups, with three roles in each group: therapist, patient and audience. These roles will be changed routinely. At the plenary, the audience will report on the treatments they witnessed, the patient will relate his feelings and the therapist will share with the plenary both his work methods and the internal conflicts and doubts he experienced during the process. The instructors will use this process of group training to teach the nuances which characterize biofeedback therapy.

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