Brain Change: Practitioner uses unique therapy to bring healing
The human brain has been widely regarded as the most complex object in the known universe – the control center for our very being housed in its folds and fissures.
Helping to unravel its mysteries with a unique therapy is Michael Monsma, therapist, LICSW, from New Horizons Counseling Center in Shepherdstown.
Monsma uses neurofeedback to treat clients and has seen exciting results.
According to Monsma, the brain is a 100 percent reward-driven organ. Traditional neurofeedback provides a reward process for the brain through audio and visual brainwave stimulation that retrains the brain through positive reinforcement. The Low-Energy Neurofeedback System (LENS) that Monsma uses is unique and differs from traditional neurofeedback in that sensors are applied directly to the scalp to listen to and determine patterns of brainwave activity. Through those sensors, the tiny brainwave information is brought back to the client’s brain, which the brain then recognizes as its own waves.
“We get inundated with microwaves, radio waves, computer waves, all these different things,” Monsma said. “But when it’s something that is intelligent to the brain, the brain says, ‘Hey, this is my own brainwave.’ The brains then has two similar waves that it recognizes. That causes it to reboot – to regenerate itself and improve on itself. I like to use the analogy of rebooting a computer.”
This non-invasive treatment can be used on people of all ages – even infants, is a short process and takes less time to see results than traditional neurofeedback.
“When people go through life, there’s acquired injury of life. It can even happen at birth with a traumatic birth experience,” Monsma said. “But let’s say a 2-year-old falls on the sidewalk, someone gets hit in the head with a baseball, that kind of thing can cause the brain to suppress. It can also be emotional things (which cause the brain to suppress). The brain is almost primitive in the way it protects itself. Like denial would be a primitive emotion defense mechanism. High fever, a bad reaction to medication, illness, different things in life can cause the brain to say, ‘Danger! Danger! I’m going to shut down.’ The problem is that it doesn’t always reboot on its own. Pretty much everyone I’ve done treatment with is showing many suppressed sites. The brain is still pretty awesome and able to take care of itself, just maybe not as well as it should.”
Monsma said that these injuries or incidents tend to stack up if not treated. For example, people who have experienced a trauma recently may take longer to heal due to a previous unresolved trauma.
Monsma applies the sensors to 21 sites on the brain, doing two at a time. The sensors are left in place for three to six seconds.
“When I get all 21 sites, I can do a map,” Monsma said. “The map is not so much designed to analyze the brain, but I can tell a few things such as if someone has had a head injury. The brain is so complex that many different parts of the brain are operating for any one function. Instead of focusing on just one area – which tends to be what traditional neurofeedback does – it really looks at all the different sites. What they’ve found is that that’s the fastest way to get the best improvement of functioning. The maps are to help me to know the order to best do it in.”
Clients have reported that their headaches go away, some sleep better or sometimes colors can become more vivid for clients. Monsma has seen clients improve in their conditions like addiction, attention deficit disorder or even situations like improvement in motivation. Changes can often be seen after one visit, although sometimes subsequent visits are necessary depending on the severity of the issue.
Monsma said that more than 90 percent of his patients use the LENS program, although it’s just one of his tools. He also does traditional talk therapy and utilizes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to help alleviate distress.
The LENS system works well with symptoms of Central Nervous Symptom dysfunction. These include symptoms of ADD, ADHD, seizures, severely disruptive behavior disorders such as Conduct Disorder, Reactive Attachment, Bipolar Disorder, people on the Autism spectrum, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Additionally, the treatment addresses items like cognition, mood, motor skills, anxiety, chronic pain, addictions and fatigue.
“It’s not uncommon for people, while they’re doing their treatment, to need a reduction of their medications. The medications are not given based on weight, but according to sensitivity levels. What we’re sometimes finding is that patient’s medications make them feel worse because they don’t need as much (after brain improvement),” Monsma said.
To schedule an appointment, call 304-620-6365. For more information about the LENS neurofeedback, visit www.site.ochslabs.com.
“It’s exciting for me,” Monsma said. “I enjoy doing the neurofeedback, the LENS specifically, because I get all these cool stories of how it’s helping people.”