From Alpha-Theta Neurofeedback in the 21st Century: “Alpha theta needs to be seen more in the positive frame of facilitating the journey toward wholeness, toward acceptance, toward integration of the fragmented self, toward personal integrity, and toward enlarging one’s [emotional] depth and scope. It speaks to the yearning for transcendence. Alpha-theta opens the door to an encounter with self that is likely to be welcomed by most people. It should be offered to all adolescents when issues of personal identity first arise for them. It should be available to all elderly as they approach the end of life’s journey” (p 343).
So, what’s going on with alpha/theta training? In the alpha/theta state your brain is alternating between making a lot of alpha waves and theta waves. The brain alternates between the alpha state of calm relaxation and the theta state of hypnogogic, unconscious imagery, memories, and emotions. It allows access to the repository our unresolved “stuff,” our “unfinished business,” learned fears, and habits. It is this hidden but not silent information that causes all the trouble in our conscious lives. This information is very hard to access in an awake, fully conscious state. It is what drives addictions, self-harm, and self-destructive, self-limiting beliefs.
Standard talk therapy can take years to uncover and work through all this highly defended material. In the alpha/theta state, the conscious mind is gently set off to the side. This is highly desirable because it is the conscious mind that creates all the defenses, blocks, and resistances to accessing this problem-causing material.
Thus, using alpha/theta, a person can safely access this material and allow the brain itself to do all the work of resolution. This is a very powerful way to work with: trauma — especially complex PTSD and developmental trauma — addictions, and other learned behaviors and habits that inhibit growth, creativity, performance, and spontaneity.
The alpha/theta state is paradoxical. You sink very deep into the mind, but you do not go to sleep. You remain on the edge of sleep in a state of hypnagogia. This is an altered state of consciousness between consciousness and sleep which opens a pipeline to the unconscious. In this state the non-dominant right hemisphere of the brain, with its more intuitive and emotional process, takes over, pushing aside the critical judgements of the left hemisphere. The alpha/theta state involves exploration, discovery, and resolution. For most people it is a very powerful and positive experience.
Alpha/theta training is a very valuable clinical tool because it allows people to access and reprocess unconscious emotional memories. Within this state a person can spontaneously experience flashbacks of earlier forgotten memories or traumatic events. From this detached observer stance, the intensity of the emotional component is greatly lessened.
The wonderful thing about reprocessing information in this way is that it is never forced. The mind brings up what it feels it can handle. It chooses what to work on, and it chooses what it knows it can both handle and resolve.
Alpha/theta almost always requires some preparation with ILF neurofeedback first, as well as synchrony training. The ILF helps with regulation, while the synchrony helps with grounding. With good preparation, alpha/theta can be very successful.
Suggested uses for Alpha-Theta:
- Chemical dependency
- Optimum mental fitness — sports performance, creativity, business
- dysfunctional learned fears and habits
- adaptation to adversity
- major illness
- loss of function associated with disease and normal aging
- family changes: divorce, death of loved one, birth, marriage
- preparation for death
- psychological integration
- unresolved emotional issues
- deepening religious experience
- promotes transcendent and transpersonal experiences
- non-responders to other psychotheray treatments