Elinor Bazar has a B.A. In Psychology and Religious Studies from Georgetown University, an M.A. In Counselling Psychology from the University of Victoria. Before opening NeurAlive Neurofeedback Centre, Elinor worked in private practice specializing in play and expressive arts therapy with children of all ages and was a school teacher early in her career.
Three years ago Elinor was on the lookout for more tools to help my family and my counselling clients. When she found Neurofeedback, I was intrigued. Something that we could simply and painlessly connect our brains into for training self-regulation was showing powerful results for a range of mental, emotional and behavioural issues in people of all ages. She researched the technology for two months and decided that I’d like to try it for herself. She chose NeurOptimal® Dynamical Neurofeedback®, for its ease of use,safe and holistic approach. Many people were reporting excellent results from using this system, relieving symptoms associated with a variety of issues, like ADHD, PTSD, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, brain injuries, neurological and developmental disorders and more.
Over the course of 3 years, she used the technology with my clients, primarily children, and my family. She saw fairly consistent results ranging from mild improvement to almost miraculous improvement for a variety of conditions.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback involves using an EEG device with sensors on the brain to track electrical activity in the brain. Displaying this information on a monitor allows the brain to self-regulate. Elinor uses the NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback system which allows the brain and the nervous system to self-correct by giving it information about itself.
How would you define self-regulation?
The nervous system is constantly processing information and detecting a change in the environment. A self-regulating system is flexible, resilient, and can adapt to change easily. It can bounce back from negative events. A lot of people are suffering from an overburden nervous system, and that can show up as anxiety, depression, fatigue, headaches, poor sleep patterns, and poor digestion. Having better self-regulation in the nervous system can help ease all of those symptoms.
When we go through a trauma or a stressful event, does that interrupt the body’s ability to regulate itself?
Trauma can impact the nervous system, and we can get stuck in a flight or fight state. It always feels on guard; it doesn’t feel safe and can be on high alert.
I first discovered Neurofeedback in 2013. I reached out to a therapist because I was struggling with ADD/ADHD, and she suggested Neurofeedback. It was pretty incredible. I only did it for a couple of months, but I felt calmer and more organized. I could definitely see the difference. It was pretty incredible. I had the sensors on my head, and there was quiet music which dropped in and out due to activity in the brainwaves. I have also done a version where I was playing a game by doing something with my brain. I love that it can provide an alternative to medication and can be a tremendous holistic tool for anxiety, ADHD and depression. And not a lot of people know about it.
It is non-invasive and natural. The NeurOptimal® approach it is to meet the brain where it is in that moment and feedback the to the nervous system. This allows the inherent healing capacity of the nervous system to self-regulate.
Why do you think not a lot of people know about it?
Elinor had heard of Neurofeedback but didn’t know what it meant until one day she looked it up. She discovered all the research showing how effective it is. It is only now becoming more accessible to the public due to the cost of equipment becoming more affordable. NeurOptimal® was created by Dr Sue and Val Brown, two clinical psychologists in the biofeedback field. They developed NeurOptimal® when they realized, through their clinical research, that it’s not necessary to push the brain because it will self-correct. Just giving the brain the information is enough. It’s so easy to use that it is possible to rent or own a unit. A big part of Elinor’s practice is renting systems for home use.
How did you get into Neurofeedback?
Elinor was a therapist specializing in working with children through play and nature therapy. At the time, she had just gone through a separation, and life was stressful. She was having all the symptoms of an overburdened nervous system. The word Neurofeedback popped into her brain, so she looked it up and spent hours researching the topic.
So what did you discover? You had these symptoms and used Neurofeedback. What happened?
Elinor bought a NeurOptimal® system and started using it on herself and her daughter. Once she got to 10 sessions she realised that she was no longer experiencing her previous levels of anxiety, she had more energy and was much happier. For two years she had experienced heart palpitations every single day. They went away completely. She used to find that drinking coffee aggravated her nervous system too much, but now she was able to start drinking it again. She used the system with her daughter who experienced stress at school, which was manifesting as ticks in the body. She would repeatedly stretch her neck. After three sessions, the ticks were completely gone.
Elinor has found that Neurofeedback can be incredibly impactful for children. She had a child who was dealing with severe separation anxiety when going to school and after 4 session was able to go to school.
Kids brains can be so receptive and malleable. Adult brains are less so, but they are still malleable. Can you speak a bit about the adult brain and how it is still receptive to this type of intervention?
Due to neuroplasticity, it is possible to change how our brains are wired. Sometimes change happens quickly, and sometimes things happen more slowly. Adults need to take a holistic approach with the Neurofeedback. We still need good sleep and good nutrition. It can give you more motivation to put other things into practice like exercise and meditation.
There are different brainwaves like alpha and beta. Can you explain a bit about brainwaves?
Types of brainwaves is a way of categorizing ranges of brainwave frequencies. In conventional Neurofeedback they look at those categories of brainwaves to see what needs to be altered whereas NeurOptimal® trains all the frequencies simultaneously.
When someone does a neurofeedback session is there a length of time the session should last for?
With NeurOptimal® a session lasts for 33minutes long. It depends on the person for how many sessions will be suitable for them.
How does that 33min session work? Do they have to do anything else?
With the NeurOptimal® system, there isn’t anything you have to do. It works at an unconscious level. Adults will lie back and close their eyes. It can be deeply relaxing. Children can play with lego or color while they have the sensors on and the earbuds in.
What about Muse? Are you familiar with that?
Elinor hasn’t tried it but is aware of it and think it seems great. But it is intended to produce a meditative state. It’s cool to get the real-time feedback. One of the other technologies Elinor likes to use, particularly for meditation is, Heartmath, which is heart rate variability training.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t give up.
What would you recommend to somebody who is listening to this podcast and this is the first time they have heard about Neurofeedback?
Google it and find the research. There are so many different approaches and systems. Do your research and follow your gut instinct about what is right for you.
Do you think that Neurofeedback is going to be something everybody knows about in 10-15 years?
Elinor thinks that we are already reaching the tipping point where it becomes mainstream.
What do you think about prescription drugs? And how do you see that playing out with the ability to also have Neurofeedback?
There is a time and a place for prescription drugs. You can use Neurofeedback while you on prescription medication, but it is worth keeping doctors informed. Sometimes people find they need to reduce their medication as their bodies become more receptive.
If people have questions and want to know more, can they reach out to you?
Elinor can be contacted at NeurAlive: