Neurofeedback Therapy For PTSD: How Does It Work?

Neurofeedback therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a non-drug, non-invasive treatment protocol that’s shown to be effective and safe.

For the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has been successfully using neurofeedback training to treat not only PTSD but also generalized anxiety, panic disorder, depression, ADHD, autism, and more.

How does it work?

In short, neurofeedback training helps patients leverage the mind-body connection to reach a deeper state of calm and relaxation. With the help of neurofeedback therapy, patients can recognize the signs of stress and anxiety and “shift” their brainwave functioning to a healthier state to achieve symptom reduction. Neurofeedback therapy can even reduce or eliminate the frequency and severity of potential panic attacks.

If you’d like to learn more about how neurofeedback could help you or someone you know with PTSD, please fill out our contact form or give us a call at 800-700-4233.

Here’s how neurofeedback for PTSD treatment works at the Drake Institute.


What Is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is a specific type of biofeedback, and it’s often referred to as EEG-Biofeedback.

While biofeedback is used to measure and control bodily functions, such as hand temperature, muscle tension, and heart rate variability, neurofeedback focuses on directly training activity in the brain.

A custom protocol based on these findings is then developed for the patient to address their specific needs.

How Does Neurofeedback Work?

During neurofeedback therapy, sensors are placed on the patient’s scalp that monitor the patient’s brainwave activity.

This activity can generally be categorized as either “slow” or “fast” brainwaves.

Below is a full breakdown:

  • Beta waves have the highest (i.e., fastest) frequency and occur in an active and cognitively engaged brain. Anything that requires full concentration, like schoolwork, an exam, or an interview, will increase the number of beta waves present in the brain.
  • Alpha waves occur at the next highest frequency. An alpha state is often described as “alert relaxation.”
  • Theta waves are common when the brain is much more relaxed. If you’ve ever been caught daydreaming or letting your thoughts wander, you’ve likely been in a theta state. It also happens when you are beginning to fall asleep.
  • Delta waves occur at the slowest frequency. Delta waves generally only become dominant when in a deep, dreamless sleep.

Once we have a clear picture of the activity levels in the patient’s brain, we then compare these findings to what is considered “normal” activity found in same-age individuals. This process allows us to identify the regions of the brain that may be experiencing abnormal activity.

In patients with PTSD or other stress disorders, these difficulties could occur secondary to either excessive slow or fast brainwaves, leading to several symptoms that we’ll discuss later.

Neurofeedback therapy for PTSD works to help patients improve their brainwave patterns to allow for higher rates of either alpha or beta waves. While the alpha waves are essential for achieving relaxation, the beta waves are essential for follow-through, organization, basic learning functions, and focus, so making sure they’re happening frequently enough is crucial to overall wellbeing.

What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? 

PTSD is a psychiatric condition that results from a past traumatic event. This condition can cause an individual to have unpleasant symptoms that can be disruptive to daily life. These symptoms can be even more severe when the afflicted individual is faced with triggers that activate memories of the original trauma.

Symptoms of PTSD can last for months and even years. If left untreated, they may even worsen over time and become far more difficult to address and treat.

What Are the Symptoms Of PTSD?

Though PTSD is classified as a stress disorder, there can be several physical and psychological symptoms. While some of these symptoms may be well known, many of them go unrecognized and are left untreated.

Here’s what to look out for if you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering from PTSD.

  • Intense flashbacks
  • Recurring nightmares
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • “Jumpiness”
  • Paranoia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Constantly feeling “on edge”
  • Hypervigilance
  • Insomnia

Treating PTSD At The Drake Institute

PTSD is a challenging disorder, and it can be difficult to find the right treatment.

For the last forty years, the Drake Institute has been treating PTSD and other disorders with non-invasive and non-drug biofeedback and neurofeedback therapy. We work with the latest technological developments to provide accurate brain mapping and effective neurofeedback training to help PTSD patients take control of their lives. Here’s how we do it:

Brain Mapping

Brain mapping is the first step to neurofeedback for PTSD treatment. To do this, several sensors are placed on specific areas of the patient’s scalp.

These sensors allow our clinical professionals to measure and record the patient’s brainwaves and activity in different areas. The brain map is then compared to “typical” brain activity so abnormalities can be diagnosed and addressed with a custom neurofeedback PTSD protocol.

Biofeedback & Neurofeedback

The Drake Institute offers both biofeedback and neurofeedback treatments. They are tailored to the patient’s individual needs and can address a number of stress or anxiety disorders, including PTSD.

We use the most advanced technology to accurately measure everything from hand temperature, muscle tension, heart rate variability, and even specific brainwaves.


Neuromodulation is a non-invasive treatment that uses advanced neurostimulation technology to provide electromagnetic and direct current stimulation to a dysregulated brain. By introducing stimulation at different frequencies, the neurons of the brain will begin to replicate this pattern, subsequently training the brain to function in more adaptive ways. In other words, brainwave patterns are guided to replicate the activity of a better functioning brain.

Much like learning a new skill, by repeating this process multiple times, this pattern becomes wired into the brain. A good analogy would be learning how to play golf. When learning how to swing a golf club, an instructor may hold your arms at the right angle and place your legs at a proper distance apart. They will guide you through this movement over and over again, and eventually the movement will begin to feel more natural. With time and repetition, this movement will become wired into your nervous system and “muscle memory” will allow you to naturally produce this motion on your own.

How Does Neurofeedback Therapy Compare To Drug-Based Treatments?

In many cases, PTSD and other stress-related disorders are treated with prescription medications. And while medications may be effective for some individuals, the results may be short-lived if the medications are discontinued. What’s more, there’s the potential for patients to experience adverse side effects, which can sometimes be worse than the condition itself.

However, because neurofeedback therapy for PTSD is non-invasive and non-drug-based, there is minimal risk of adverse reactions or side effects.

Not only is neurofeedback therapy for PTSD much safer than invasive and drug-based treatments, it’s also more effective in the long-term. Even after completing the neurofeedback PTSD protocol in a medical setting, the patient can continue to practice techniques they’ve learned during treatment for the rest of their life and can experience long-term symptom improvement without the need for additional treatment or boosters.

Is Neurofeedback Safe?

Neurofeedback is an incredibly safe treatment for various stress and anxiety disorders. It is non-invasive and doesn’t rely on pharmaceuticals to achieve results.

Instead, treatment is a learning process that gives patients the skills that will help them manage and overcome their symptoms without having to rely on medications or procedures.

An extensive study has shown that neurofeedback therapy is safe for a number of identified diseases and disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

At the Drake Institute, we believe in biofeedback and neurofeedback as an effective and safe treatment. With customized treatment protocols for every patient, long-term improvement is within reach.

If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, depression, or anxiety disorders, give us a call today at 800-700-4233 for a free consultation.

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To get the help you or a loved one needs, call now to schedule your no-cost screening consultation.

dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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