Alpha-Theta Brainwave Neurofeedback Training: An Effective Treatment for Alcoholics with Depressive Symptoms
Alpha brainwaves are thought to be associated with feelings of well-being. Theta waves are connected to a day-dreaming or pre-sleep state. Beta brainwaves are associated with concentration, or anxiety and confusion. Delta waves indicate sleepiness or sleep. Alcoholics tend to show deficient alpha activity during an eyes-closed relaxed EEG. It is possible that this deficient alpha activity is characteristic of alcoholism and could therefore be used to identify individuals with this predisposition. Research has demonstrated that alpha-theta brainwave neurofeedback therapy is very effective in the treatment of alcoholism, and particularly in achieving abstinence from alcohol.
Saxby and Peniston’s (1995) study further investigated a previous neurofeedback protocol for alcoholism and evaluated personality changes in their neurofeedback participants. Peniston and Kulkosky’s (1989, 1990, 1991) previous protocol began with thermal biofeedback, with training in breathing and relaxation techniques, until participants were able to self-regulate their temperature. Participants then engaged in one session to develop images for visualization involving turning away from alcohol intake in personally relevant situations. This was followed by twenty 40-minute neurofeedback sessions. Saxby and Peniston (1995) also followed up monthly for 21 months. They found significantly decreased scores on the Beck Depression Inventory immediately after treatment compared to before. They also found reductions in a variety of dysfunctional symptoms, including avoidance, interpersonal difficulties, physical complaints, addictive tendencies, and thought problems. Follow-up results indicated that neurofeedback training led to the alcoholic participants preserving abstinence from alcohol at 21 months post-treatment.