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Neurofeedback, Hypnotherapy, and Guided Imagery

A number of proposed treatments for ADHD—including hypnotherapy, self-hypnosis, guided imagery, neurofeedback, and relaxation training—are aimed at helping a child begin to regulate his own behavior and psychological state. The fact that these techniques can be used quite successfully for children in other areas of self-regulation (headache management, teaching bowel control, etc) increases their appeal as a form of treatment.

Hypnotherapy has not been shown to significantly improve the core symptoms of ADHD, though it may improve such accompanying problems as sleep problems and tics when used as part of an integrated treatment approach. One difference between the use of hypnotherapy for headaches versus ADHD is that children learn to institute the self-hypnosis at the early signs of a headache. There is no comparable “trigger” with ADHD, and children cannot do self-hypnosis all day long.

Neurofeedback treatment involves placing electrodes on a child’s head to monitor brain activity. Children are asked, for example, to change the aspects of a video game (for example “making the sun set with your mind”), which happens when their brainwaves are of a desired frequency. The theory is that learning to do this increases their arousal levels, improves their attention, and results in reductions in hyperactive-impulsive behaviors. This is based on findings that many children with ADHD show low levels of arousal in frontal brain areas, with excess of theta (daydreamy) waves and deficit of beta waves (indicators of a highly focused mind), thereby reducing ADHD. The studies on the use of neurofeedback to date have been criticized for lacking the appropriate controls or the random assignment of test subjects to the treatment or sham treatment groups. It should also be pointed out that neurofeedback treatment is an expensive approach to treating ADHD.

Last Updated
ADHD: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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