Biofeedback & Clinical Psychophysiology

Your body talks, do you listen?

What “biofeedback” is and why this not-so-new therapy could offer new treatment possibilities for many conditions

Biofeedback/clinical psychophysiology will help you:

  • reduce stress both at work and in your personal life,
  • manage chronic pain (migraine, back pain, shoulder pain, repetitive motion injuries or injuries incurred at work etc.)
  • ease or eliminate persistent problems such as panic/anxiety and depression.


Fig 2 A computer generated feedback screen linked to one of the physiological systems a person is interested in learning to control.


This approach appeals to many types of people including those of us in an industrial environment. Everyone has used a thermometer at some time. You take your temperature; if it’s normal, you just get on with life, but if it’s too high you may go running to your GP or looking for a cold compress. This is a basic form of “biofeedback” – you’ve used a device to measure your physiology and then changed your behaviour in order to induce your body to behave itself.  Biofeedback therapy is as simple as that; it’s about using a device to observe your body and responding to what it tells you.

Another biofeedback device you are familiar with is a mirror. You see your image and change the way you do something (even if it’s as simple as brushing your hair or fixing your shirt/blouse).  You change something because of what you became aware of. That’s why there are mirrors in gyms (not just for posing).  You can see yourself doing the exercise and alter the way you do the exercise if you need to.

Clinical psychophysiologists/ biofeedback therapists use a computer to measure and feedback physiological changes to a client. The difference between a biofeedback instrument and a mirror is that the biofeedback instrument feeds back information about processes that are usually below your awareness such as heart rate, the way you breathe, blood pressure, temperature, pupil size, the way we handle sugar, actually almost everything we do to live.  If we were sensitive to what our body is doing all the time, we’d go nuts. There’s just too much happening.  So, most of the time, in order to stay sane, we filter most of it out. The important thing is that if we become aware of what we are doing we can learn to change it.


Fig 1 A monitoring screen from a biofeedback device showing your electrical brain activity (EEG), muscle activity from your shoulders, pulse and your respiration rate.

Added to that, every emotion and thought is both psychological and physiological.  If we feel fear or anxiety lots of things happen in our body. For example, our heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, pupils dilate, our mouth goes dry, digestion stops (butterflies in our tummy), breathing becomes more shallow, hands begin to sweat and go cold etc. It’s pretty much the same in lots of situations. When the boss shouts at us, we shout at people reporting to us, colleagues are annoyed at us or when a car comes barrelling down the road as we’re crossing we will react.  Sometimes it’s just a reaction we feel and keep to ourselves but it’s always there. These reactions can become an issue very quickly in both the workplace and in our personal lives.

If you want more information about biofeedback/clinical psychophysiology contact us here at DCP or call Daren Drysdale (our associate) at 086 872 7668.