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Counseling Center

Biofeedback

Is biofeedback available at the Counseling Center?

Yes. The Counseling Center has sophisticated biofeedback equipment that is managed by Dr. Eric Hayden, a psychologist who is board certified by the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance. He has more than 10 years experience in this field.

What is biofeedback?

Person doing biofeedback

Biofeedback is a set of procedures that involves monitoring subtle physiological signals associated with the stress and relaxation responses through the use of highly sensitive (usually electronic) sensors placed non-invasively on the surface of the skin.

Most commonly, these sensors are placed over fingers. In other cases, the sensors may be placed on your forearms or forehead while you sit in a comfortable recliner in a quiet and softly lit room.

The subtle and often unconscious physiological signals picked up by the sensors are amplified and displayed (fed back) to the user through a computer screen by way of video games, simple computer animations, meaningful graphs and audio signals, such as the rise and fall of a tone.

The goal of biofeedback is for the user to use this information or feedback to raise self-awareness and ultimately control or self-regulate one's physiology to function optimally. In this way, biofeedback training is like using the observations made by a coach to replace bad habits with good ones.

Eventually, irregular changes in your body can be consciously detected and regulated without the use of biofeedback equipment at all.

What do biofeedback instruments measure?

Common physiological signals that are measured and fed back to users are those related to the stress response, such as muscle tension, breathing patterns, hand temperature, sweat gland activity and heart function.

Relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, muscle relaxation, imagery and thought modification are taught prior to and practiced during the biofeedback sessions.

You and your psychologist or counselor will be able to identify quickly which techniques are most effective for helping you relax and/or improve your mental focus.

What stress and health conditions are helped through biofeedback?

Some of the common successful applications of biofeedback training include:

  • Tension and migraine headaches 
  • Sleep problems 
  • General anxiety 
  • Test anxiety 
  • Muscle tension

In addition, athletes and performing artists use biofeedback training to help achieve peak performance.

How long does it take to develop self-regulation skills through biofeedback?

The time to learn any skill varies from person to person, and this applies to self-regulation skills. Five to six weeks is usually the minimum. It may take several months for some people depending on the person's problem and motivation.

Self-regulation skills become useful only if practiced daily! Although general relaxation training can be just as effective as biofeedback-assisted relaxation training, biofeedback training provides you with an incentive (instant rewards) for executing good habits, and thereby speeds up the learning process.

Learning new habits and gaining new skills takes diligence, time and practice. However, practice takes only a few minutes each day, and because the exercises feel pleasant, you may develop a tendency to use the skills several times each day.

How do I get started with biofeedback?

1. You must be a currently registered student at the University of Akron in order to be eligible for services. Biofeedback training and counseling services are free.

2. Schedule an initial intake appointment with a clinician at the Counseling Center by calling 330-972-7082. Or visit our offices at 306 Simmons Hall.

3. Attend the initial 40-minute session with a psychologist or counselor, who will gather information and help determine whether he or she can help you learn stress management techniques or refer you to a biofeedback specialist on staff.

4. You will be encouraged to continue with weekly sessions until you have mastered some of the self-regulation skills and are using them on a daily basis. The number of sessions needed varies per person and issue. Typically, students notice improvements after seven or eight sessions.

Are there any side effects?

While biofeedback training and the skills taught along side it have few side effects or low risk for harm, you should check with your health care specilists if you have:

• Headaches
• Hypertension
• Diabetes
• Cardiac problems
• A significant psychological disorder (e.g., schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, severe major depression, paranoia, severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder)
• Severe memory, attention or neurological conditions (e.g., seizures)

The most common side effects of biofeedback training are drowsiness, mild light headedness and tingling of the hands and feet.

What online learning resources are available?

The University of Akron

Akron, OH 44325
Phone: 330-972-7111
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