Neurofeedback Therapy for Addiction:  Meaning, Benefits and Effectiveness

Neurofeedback therapy for addiction involves a non-invasive technique that aims to regulate brain activity by providing real-time feedback. This therapeutic approach utilizes electroencephalogram (EEG) neurofeedback to help individuals gain control over their brain functions. During neurofeedback sessions, individuals receive immediate information about their brainwave patterns, allowing them to learn and reinforce healthier neural pathways.

By addressing the neural mechanisms associated with addictive behaviors, this form of treatment aims to promote self-regulation and mitigate the impact of substance use disorders.

The core principle lies in empowering individuals to modulate their brain activity consciously, fostering a more adaptive response to addiction triggers. neurofeedback utilizes real-time monitoring of brain activity, typically through electroencephalography (EEG). This information is then fed back to the individual in the form of visual or auditory cues, allowing them to observe and modulate their brain patterns.

The adaptive nature of neurofeedback enables personalized interventions, tailoring the training to the specific needs and responses of each individual.

What Is Neurofeedback: A Subset of Biofeedback

Neurofeedback is a specialized form of biofeedback that hones in on the intricate world of brain activity. It teaches individuals how to exert self-control over their brain functions by employing measures such as EEG biofeedback, commonly known as neurofeedback. 

A neurofeedback specialist maps abnormal brain electrical activity and tailors a corrective training program. By consciously managing brain waves, neurofeedback aids addiction recovery through positive/negative feedback for desirable/undesirable activities. Treatment targets gamma, beta, theta, delta, and alpha waves, with alpha training showing efficacy in substance dependence disorders

One significant aspect of neurofeedback is its role as a subset of biofeedback, concentrating specifically on the measurement and regulation of brain activity. This tailored focus sets neurofeedback apart, making it a distinctive technique within the broader spectrum of biofeedback methods.

Neurofeedback for Alcoholism

This technique involves training individuals to regulate their brainwave patterns, which is particularly relevant for those struggling with alcohol dependency. By using neurofeedback, patients can learn to modify their brain activity, potentially leading to improved self-regulation and reduced reliance on alcohol.

How Is Neurofeedback Similar to Other Addiction Treatments?

While Neurofeedback Therapy for Addiction stands out with its unique brain-based approach, it shares some similarities with other addiction treatments, each offering different pieces of the recovery puzzle.

Similarities to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Both emphasize building self-awareness and coping skills. Neurofeedback provides real-time feedback on brain activity, mirroring CBT’s focus on identifying and modifying thought patterns.

Similarities to medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Both aim to reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. While MAT uses chemicals, Neurofeedback directly modulates brainwaves linked to craving, albeit with a slower onset.

Similarities to support groups: Both provide community and accountability. While the focus of traditional support groups is verbal sharing, Neurofeedback sessions create a shared experience through biofeedback technology, potentially fostering a different kind of connection.

Ultimately, Neurofeedback stands apart by directly targeting the neurobiology of addiction, while simultaneously offering some of the benefits of other therapy modalities. Its non-invasive and drug-free nature makes it a compelling option for those seeking a unique and potentially empowering approach to addiction recovery.

What Other Mental Health Disorders Does Neurofeedback Therapy Help With?

Neurofeedback can treat various mental health disorders, including ADHD, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, PTSD, and personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder. A 2014 systematic review found that electroencephalographic neurofeedback is frequently used, with a focus on anxiety disorders, constituting 68.3% of cases. 

A 2022 review argues that when contemporary methodological guidelines are followed, neurofeedback stands out as one of the few intervention methods in mental health treatment. The effectiveness of neurofeedback therapy has been demonstrated in conditions like PTSD, and studies have explored its potential in personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder, using quantitative EEG (qEEG) guided neurofeedback treatment.

Does Neurofeedback Work Permanently? 

Positive results from neurofeedback treatment can be experienced long term. The therapy is considered a lasting, safe, and effective option without the risk of side effects associated with prescription medication. 

However, it is essential to note that when treating a substance use disorder, no single program can lead to a cure. Neurofeedback training is best used in combination with other therapies due to the complex nature of addiction.

How Many Neurofeedback Sessions Does It Take to See Results?

The number of neurofeedback sessions required to see results varies depending on the individual and the specific protocol being used. Generally, most people notice subtle changes within the first 6-8 sessions.

What Happens in A Neurofeedback Session?

In a neurofeedback session, individuals consciously control their brain waves, and electroencephalography (EEG) records the brain’s activity during the treatment.

The session actively strengthens constructive brainwave patterns, fostering healthier, balanced thoughts and emotions.

Sessions typically last 30 to 60 minutes and here is what happens in them:


  • The therapist will discuss your goals and explain the process.
  • Sensors (electrodes) will be placed on your scalp to measure brainwave activity.


  • You’ll engage in a relaxing activity, such as watching a movie or listening to music.
  • The software will monitor your brainwaves and provide real-time feedback, often through visual or auditory cues.
  • When your brainwaves reach the desired patterns, you’ll receive positive feedback (e.g., the movie becomes clearer or the music gets louder).
  • This feedback helps your brain learn to self-regulate and produce more of those desired patterns.


  • The therapist may adjust the feedback or training protocol based on your progress.


  • Sessions are repeated regularly (usually 2-3 times per week) to reinforce the training.

Who Should Not Do Neurofeedback Therapy?

If you have pre-existing neurological conditions such as epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, narcolepsy, or migraines, it’s important to be cautious about undergoing neurofeedback therapy.

Neurofeedback is generally considered safe and effective for treating various disorders and their accompanying physiological and neurological symptoms.

Benefits of Neurofeedback Therapy

What Are the Benefits of Neurofeedback Therapy?

Neurofeedback therapy holds numerous benefits, making it a versatile and effective intervention in various domains.

  1. Anxiety Reduction:
    • Neurofeedback significantly reduces symptoms of anxiety, offering relief from chronic worrying, fearfulness, and restlessness.
    • The therapy aids in calming the brain, making coping strategies more accessible and improving daily functioning.
  2. Depressive Episode Reduction:
    • Neurofeedback proves beneficial in reducing depressive episodes, providing a non-invasive approach to improve executive function and mental health.
    • It is particularly valuable for individuals who may not respond adequately to antidepressant medication or traditional psychotherapy.
  3. Attention and Focus Improvement:
    • Neurofeedback enhances attention and focus, making it valuable for conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
    • The treatment optimizes brain activity, addressing issues such as distraction, forgetfulness, and procrastination.
  4. Emotional Stability:
    • Neurofeedback fosters emotional stability by helping the brain regulate itself in a healthier way.
    • It reduces the impact of uncontrollable emotions on professional and personal life, contributing to improved mood regulation.
  5. PTSD Symptom Treatment:
    • Neurofeedback is effective in treating symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), addressing issues like hyper-alertness and difficulty feeling safe.
    • It offers advantages such as improved sleep patterns, decreased stress, and better coping mechanisms in day-to-day situations.

What Are the Risks and Drawbacks of Neurofeedback Therapy? 

Neurofeedback therapy, despite being a safe and non-invasive procedure, has its own set of drawbacks and considerations. Let’s delve into the key aspects:

  1. Limited Understanding and Research: Neurofeedback is a relatively new field, and there’s still much to learn about its long-term effects and efficacy. The lack of comprehensive, large-scale studies means that its effectiveness and safety profile are not as well-established as more traditional therapies.
  2. Cost and Accessibility: Neurofeedback sessions can be expensive and may not be covered by insurance. Additionally, finding qualified practitioners and accessing the necessary equipment can be challenging, limiting its availability to a broader population.
  3. Time-Consuming Process: Neurofeedback therapy typically requires multiple sessions over an extended period, which can be time-consuming and may not be feasible for everyone, especially those with busy schedules or limited resources.
  4. Potential for Unwanted Changes: While neurofeedback aims to train the brain towards healthier patterns, there’s a risk of unintended changes in brain activity. These changes could potentially lead to negative side effects, although such occurrences are relatively rare.
  5. Overreliance or Unrealistic Expectations: Some individuals might overly rely on neurofeedback as a cure-all solution, neglecting other important aspects of treatment like psychotherapy, medication, or lifestyle changes. Unrealistic expectations about the outcomes of neurofeedback can also lead to disappointment or disengagement from other beneficial treatments.
  6. Physical Discomfort or Side Effects: Some people might experience physical discomfort during the sessions, such as headaches, fatigue, or dizziness. These side effects are usually mild and temporary but can be bothersome for some individuals.
  7. Emotional Responses: Engaging in neurofeedback can sometimes bring up emotional responses or memories, particularly in individuals with a history of trauma or psychological issues. This aspect requires careful handling by a skilled practitioner.
  8. Not Suitable for Everyone: Neurofeedback may not be effective or suitable for all individuals. Factors like the specific condition being treated, individual brain patterns, and personal responsiveness to the therapy can vary greatly.

Reach out to Grove for help with addiction

At The Grove Estate, while we stay abreast of emerging therapies like neurofeedback, our focus is on providing a holistic and personalized treatment experience that may or may not include such methods. Our dedicated team specializes in a range of proven therapies tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual. We encourage you to reach out to us to explore the comprehensive treatment options available at The Grove Estate, all designed to support you in achieving lasting recovery and well-being.

The Grove Editorial Team is a dynamic group of professionals at The Grove, a leading addiction treatment center in Indianapolis, Indiana. Comprising experienced therapists, medical experts, and dedicated support staff, this team brings a wealth of knowledge and compassionate insight into the complexities of addiction and recovery. Their collective expertise shines through in each article, offering readers valuable guidance, the latest in addiction science, and inspiring stories of healing and transformation. The Grove Editorial Team is committed to educating, supporting, and empowering individuals and families on their journey toward a healthier, substance-free life.

Share This Post

Contact Us

If you or a loved one is grappling with addiction, don’t face it alone. The Grove Estate is here to guide you on the path to recovery. With a compassionate team and a proven approach, we’re dedicated to helping you reclaim your life. Reach out to Bright Path today and take the first step towards a brighter, addiction-free future. Your journey to healing begins with a single call. Please reach out to us today at 765-327-4111 to book your appointment! And start your healing journey at our convenient facility.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.