One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is how often and for how long one must do neurofeedback training to see results that stick. The answer, “it depends,” can be frustrating, so let me share the range possibilities, because I customize work for each client.
Consistency Over Time is the Key
The number and frequency of sessions can change depending upon individual goals and timeframes, but if you want to see results and have them last, it’s necessary to do regular training over time. I like to compare exercising the body to exercising the brain, in that you wouldn’t expect exercising once a week, then skipping a few weeks before going back, to result in greater fitness. It’s the same with neurofeedback. To see results, it’s important to come consistently, with no more than a week in between sessions.
The typical person who does brain training comes for sessions twice a week for about five months, then tapers off to once a week and then once every other week before stopping somewhere around the 40-session mark. That said, many want to see results quickly or get as much training in as possible over as short a time as possible. During spring and summer break from school, for example, many students will come in three or four times a week rather than the usual twice. They still need the same overall amount of sessions, but condensing the timeframe opens them up to move on and do other things.
It is okay, though, to train more frequently, even every day, if you want to get training over with quickly. For someone that determined, all it takes is commitment to come five days a week. I once had a client who was leaving the area and had a hard deadline for squeezing in as much training as possible. We did 90-minute sessions (rather than the usual 60 minutes) twice a day for a few weeks and got good results. It was quite tiring for the trainee, and this extreme commitment to training isn’t for everyone, but it helps show how neurofeedback can be adapted to meet one’s schedule and needs.
The opposite—a little training, spaced out broadly, is not recommended, but it can be done if the trainee is truly dedicated. About a dozen years ago, I studied under a clinical psychologist who had a client that lived several hours away, in an area with no neurofeedback practitioners. The parents brought the boy consistently, every other week for five years. Five years! It took that long to achieve results that lasted, but because the training was never missed, it eventually worked. This family was highly motivated in ways that most of us are not, so you will find that most practitioners highly frown on such a practice. I personally will not work with anyone less than once a week, and I only agree to do once a week training under special circumstances, simply because it stretches out the process too long.
The other variable in training is the overall number of sessions needed. Most people need about 40 sessions, but I’ve done as few as 20 for people whose brains are already in good shape. For others, especially those who are older and have more entrenched patterns, as many as 60-70 sessions might be in order. Then, there are those with really stuck brains, and they may need upward of 100 sessions. Knowing this can be upsetting, but the reality is that most people can achieve their goals in just a few months.
The bottom line is that neurofeedback training can be customized to meet your needs, as long as you are willing to make the commitment to do the work that will improve your quality of life.