To get started with biofeedback services, your first visit will be an initial consultation to receive an assessment from a mental health counselor.
Biofeedback is a technique that can help you improve how your mind and body respond to stress or anxiety. With biofeedback, you are connected to electrical sensors that measure various bodily processes such as heart rate, skin temperature, or muscle tension. The information from the sensors is displayed on a computer screen giving you information (feedback) about your body (bio).
A biofeedback counselor helps you understand the feedback and coaches you in how to make small changes in your body, such as relaxing a particular muscle or warming your hands, to help you reduce stress, manage anxiety, or improve performance. The counselor also works with you to develop a plan for practicing these skills on your own. Over time, these changes can be maintained without needing to use biofeedback equipment.
Scheduling a biofeedback appointment
Biofeedback services are available to WSU students who have completed an initial assessment at CAPS. In your initial assessment, the counselor may recommend biofeedback based on some of your presenting concerns and can help schedule you for a one-on-one appointment with one of our biofeedback counselors. You can also speak with a CAPS receptionist in person or over the phone to schedule a biofeedback appointment.
What happens in a biofeedback appointment
A biofeedback appointment is a 40-50 minute, individual meeting with a biofeedback counselor. At the beginning of the appointment, your counselor will briefly talk with you about the symptoms you want to work on. The counselor may also provide some basic information on how the human body responds to stress and anxiety. Then, the counselor will recommend one or more types of biofeedback and relaxation skills.
Before attaching any sensors, the counselor will explain how the sensor works and give instructions for how to sanitize your skin and place the sensor. Once the sensors are attached, you will be able to see data presented on a computer screen. As your counselor teaches you a relaxation skill and coaches you in how to practice it, the sensors will detect changes in your body, which will help you increase your awareness of how your body responds to the skill.
For example, if you get headaches when you are stressed, it may be the result of tensing your forehead or clenching your jaw; with biofeedback, you would be able to become more aware of how to relax your facial muscles and possibly reduce the frequency or intensity of your headaches.
Near the end of the appointment, the counselor will instruct you on how to remove the sensors. Then your counselor will work with you to develop a plan for additional practice and schedule a follow-up appointment, if needed.
How biofeedback works
Biofeedback sensors detect physiological activity. The placement of the sensors vary depending on the symptoms you are working on and the type(s) of biofeedback used. Here are some of the bodily process that can be measured and modified through biofeedback and a brief explanation of the sensors involved.
- Heart rate: a sensor is either clipped to your earlobe or attached to a finger with a Velcro band to detect your pulse and measure heart rate and heart rate variability.
- Temperature: a thin wire with a thermometer at the end is gently taped to one of your fingers to detect changes in hand temperature.
- Muscle contraction: pre-gelled, disposable sensors are placed on the skin over muscles in your forehead, jaw, neck, or arms to monitor tension.
- Sweat gland activity: a sensor is attached to a finger with a Velcro band to measure the amount of perspiration your skin.
Biofeedback is generally safe, but might not be appropriate for everyone. If you have questions or concerns about biofeedback as a treatment option for you, be sure to discuss it with your doctor first.