How to Prepare for a Biofeedback Session

Learn more about what a typical biofeedback session looks like and how to prepare for your first session.

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Biofeedback can be helpful for treating many conditions. If you’re looking into biofeedback or have set an appointment for a biofeedback session, you may wonder how to prepare for your first session. This article will cover what you need to know about biofeedback and some tips to prepare for your session.

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Understanding Biofeedback

When you walk, move your hand to grab something, or turn your head to look out the window, these are all normal functions that you have control over. The body does other things that occur without any conscious thought. Common involuntary functions are your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Involuntary functions are affected by mental health, behavioral disorders, and other health problems. Biofeedback treats the automatic response to triggers that affect these conditions.

What to Expect From a Biofeedback Session

During biofeedback, therapists attach sensors to the skin or fingers to measure:
  • Brain waves
  • Heart rate
  • Breathing rate
  • Body temperature
  • Muscle activity
  • Sweating
Measuring the body’s functions helps determine triggers and the best form of treatment. When therapists find triggers, they can teach relaxation techniques that help you cope with common stressors in daily life.1

Does Biofeedback Therapy Really Work?

Studies show high levels of success for biofeedback treatment for various mental health conditions.2

Studies on biofeedback for anxiety have shown it has a high effectiveness rate. After biofeedback therapy, patients show significant decreases in State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) symptoms. These decreases in anxiety symptoms also had a lasting effect when measured again six weeks after treatment.3

Studies on biofeedback and substance abuse have shown promising results in treating negative behavioral patterns and brain activity caused by addiction.4

What Can Biofeedback Treat?

Studies have indicated many conditions can be treated with biofeedback. Common treatable conditions include:
  • Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Attention-deficit disorders
  • Breathing problems, such as asthma
  • Digestive issues, such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Insomnia
  • Pain, including headaches, fibromyalgia, and joint and muscle pain
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • High blood pressure
  • Substance use disorders, such as alcoholism and drug addiction

Biofeedback is an approved treatment for many conditions like substance abuse and mental illness. Combining a biofeedback session with a well-rounded treatment program is likely to get great results.

What to Expect During a Biofeedback Therapy Session

Sensors attached to the skin measure functions like brain waves, breathing, and heart rate. Your biofeedback therapist will then ask you a few questions, discuss different topics, expose you to various stimuli, or work through different treatment exercises with you.
When involuntary functions show abnormal levels due to triggers or stimuli, the therapist can help you learn coping mechanisms, mindfulness methods, and other forms of mental training to help manage your body’s response to the stressor. Common treatments that are used in biofeedback are relaxation and mindfulness-based since they significantly impact the body’s response to stimuli.

How Long Do Sessions Last?

A biofeedback session typically lasts between thirty to sixty minutes. The frequency, number of sessions, and length of treatment will largely depend on your condition and how well you respond to treatment over time.

How to Prepare for a Biofeedback Session

If you’re considering biofeedback treatment, being prepared before starting treatment will make you the most comfortable, so you get the best results.

Before Your First Biofeedback Session

Before your first biofeedback session, an excellent way to prepare is to speak with a medical professional, treatment center, or biofeedback therapist to see if it’s the best treatment for your needs. Talking to a medical professional about your condition will give insights into your struggles. They will recommend the best steps to take or recommend biofeedback therapists that can help.

Many treatment centers that provide biofeedback will provide a consultation before signing up for a treatment program. A consultation helps treatment professionals learn about you and will ease your mind before starting.

Typical Biofeedback Session Steps You May Experience

A biofeedback session will typically follow a set of steps that will help treat your condition. Typical steps you will go through include:
  • Set goals for treatment
  • Measure brain waves and body activity
  • Train the brain with positive feedback
  • Repeat training
Ultimately, treatment professionals want to do everything they can to help you reach your goals. Following this treatment process and being committed to your therapist’s directives will help immensely during recovery.

Who Performs Biofeedback?

The title of someone who performs a biofeedback session is a biofeedback therapist. Biofeedback therapists are licensed medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, physical therapists, psychiatrists, or psychologists. A licensed medical professional will be highly trained to get you the best results during biofeedback treatment.

What Happens During Biofeedback?

Several techniques may be used during biofeedback therapy, including:
  • Changing how you sit, stand, or move: Your posture and how you hold your body can affect thought patterns and your body’s response to stimuli. Many exercises during biofeedback will help improve how you sit, stand, or move to improve your well-being. 
  • Altering your breathing: Breathing techniques are taught during a biofeedback session to calm the mind and body. Breathing exercises act as coping mechanisms to manage stress and behavior-related conditions.
  • Releasing muscles: Exercises during biofeedback may help release muscle tension that is common during anxiety, stress, or triggers. 
  • Using mindfulness and focus: Mindfulness or exercises that improve focus are also used during a biofeedback session to refocus the mind during stressful situations.
  • Taking a test: Tests may be administered to gauge your response to stimuli or get an idea of how much progress is made from treatment.
Each of these techniques can be highly beneficial for managing the body and mind’s response to stressful aspects of daily life. The treatment methods will usually depend on what you are struggling with and the type of biofeedback used.

Types of Biofeedback

There are several types of biofeedback treatment that can be effective for different conditions.

Heart Rate Variability

Heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback focuses on how the heart rate changes due to outside stimuli. Often, our heart rates will increase during anxiety or stress. Increases in heart rate can lead to negative feedback loops within the mind and body. Techniques learned during HRV biofeedback help manage these symptoms effectively.5


Neurofeedback is a biofeedback therapy that monitors brainwave activity. Learning how the brain responds to a stimulus can help understand where someone is struggling. This allows therapists to use techniques that provide positive mental reinforcement.

Electromyography (EMG)

Electromyography is a form of biofeedback that assesses the health and response of muscles and nerve cells. EMG can treat chronic pain or stress-related disorders that can cause the muscles to tense up.6

Blood Pressure Biofeedback

Blood pressure biofeedback measures blood pressure levels. Blood pressure levels can show when someone is under stress or feeling uneasy. This helps therapists understand what areas of someone’s life are causing issues.

Galvanic Skin Response

Galvanic skin response biofeedback measures sweat gland activity during treatment sessions. How our sweat glands respond can give insights into our mental and emotional state. This can provide helpful insights to therapists during the treatment process.

Respiratory Response

Respiratory response biofeedback tracks the breath during sessions. During times of anxiety or stress, our breathing patterns are likely to change. Respiratory response sessions teach breathing practices to manage the breath to calm the mind and body.

Thermal Biofeedback

Thermal biofeedback measures skin temperature, which can rise and fall due to changes in our physical or mental state. Measuring skin temperature can give insights into triggers and emotional responses during therapy.
Biofeedback Therapy Session

How Long Does Biofeedback Take to Work?

Many people will notice a difference within the first eight to ten biofeedback sessions. It may take some people up to twenty sessions depending on their condition and how they respond to treatment.

How Much Does a Biofeedback Session Cost?

The cost for a biofeedback session will range from $100 to $300. The cost can vary depending on the treatment center and if your insurance covers the treatment cost. Before beginning biofeedback, you should check with the treatment center and your insurance provider to determine how much it will cost.
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