AAPB Chapter Student Scholarships

AAPB, a co-sponsor of the Mid-Atlantic Society for Biofeedback and Behavioral Medicine’s (MASBBM) Fall 2014 Conference, recently inaugurated a scholarship program as a way for AABP chapters to engage more students and allow them access to the conference. The MASBBM Fall 2014 Conference was held October 25th at the Loyola Graduate Center in Columbia, MD. MASBBM was delighted to award the scholarships to two students from Loyola University Maryland and two interns from the Virginia Center for Neurofeedback, Attachment and Trauma in Charlottesville, VA. In exchange for the chance to attend the conference, each recipient has submitted a brief essay on their experience, showcasing what they learned and the value they received from attending. We think you will enjoy reading their essays, which clearly demonstrate the importance of dynamic, on-target presentations, face-to-face meetings and the chance to interact with other students and professionals. MASBBM thanks AAPB for their scholarship program and thanks to the scholarship recipients for their insightful essays!

Mary McGregor, MSW (Intern Scholarship Recipient)

The fall Mid-Atlantic Society for Biofeedback and Behavioral Medicine conference presented interesting issues in the field of behavioral health that I could quickly apply to my clinical work. The conference also introduced me, a young professional, to the history of behavioral health. I found the nutrition presentation by Dana Laake, RDH, MS, LDN and opportunities to meet professionals who had been in the field since the beginning most interesting. Dana Laake is a licensed dietitian nutritionist in the Washington DC area. She provided a brief history of epigenetics, reinforcing the importance of environment, diet, and lifestyle change for optimal health. In other words, an individual is not doomed to obesity based on the premise it being genetic. Similarly, my clients who struggle with anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD or OCD behaviors that have a history of these symptoms in their family can influence and change the future of these symptoms in the family. I have traditionally looked for generational pathologies, cognitive distortions, and maladaptive behaviors in my client’s family system; however, often neglect nutrition. Dana Laake continued the presentation giving an in-depth analysis of the United States food production, consumption, and federal policies that influence our client’s ability to access nutrition and limit exposure to toxins. Since the presentation, I have created my own assessment for clients based on their nutrition. I also learned what insurance plans cover a visit to a nutritionist and encourage my clients to see one. I inform my clients that nutritional supplements have very little risk and can sometimes replace medications. Also, there are cookbooks designed to aid in symptoms associated with Autism and ADHD that can help guide parent’s cooking. The presentation also allowed for my own self-reflection of my nutritional intake. The mental health field can be emotionally and physically depleting. Selfcare is really important to avoid burn out and compassion fatigue. Dana Laake highlighted common deficiencies and their symptoms: magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, omega3, probiotics, biotin, and other multiple vitamin minerals. I had some symptoms associated with a magnesium deficiency. After the presentation, I bought nutritional supplements and have since noticed an increase in energy. The other really interesting component of the conference was hearing stories of the history of biofeedback. As a woman, I admired how hard women in the 1960s and 70s had to work in order to participate in the field. I learned many female scientists did not get due credit because of their gender. I am thankful for their hard work and persistence in the field that paved the way for women today. Their encouragement and support at the conference gave me greater confidence and strength to continue my training and develop my passions in the field. Overall, the conference was a positive experience in which I learned valuable skills to enhance my current clinical work and form a clinical community for my neurofeedback training initiatives.

Sarah McDonald, LCSW (Intern Scholarship Recipient)

On October 25, 2014, I attended the Mid Atlantic Society for Biofeedback and Behavioral Medicine’s Fall Conference. Presentations covered a wide variety of topics including nutrition and its relation to brain health and behavior, a demonstration of “The Balance Within” program, and four channel zscore neurofeedback protocols. The keynote speaker, Dana Laake, RDH, MS, LDN, was engaging, competent, and the highlight of the conference. To understand the relevance of the conference to me, I should begin by stating that I am a social worker with experience in the child welfare system as a foster care worker. I attended the conference to supplement my learning, as I am pursuing a more clinically based career that will incorporate neurofeedback. Complex concepts were presented in an easily understood manner, which made the material in the conference accessible to me. Dana Laake’s presentation, The Relevance of Nutrients, Foods, Additives and Environmental Toxins to: Brain Health, Cognitions, Moods, Self-Regulation, and Behavior provided me with valuable information that I will seek to incorporate into my practice and assessment process with clients. As a foster care social worker, I work closely with families and children with extensive histories of trauma, abuse, and neglect. The children who enter foster care often exhibit “negative” behaviors that result in children frequently being labeled with mental health diagnoses including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Conduct Disorder to name a few. After listening to Ms. Laake’s presentation, I recognized that I was missing a key area of assessment when working with children and families—nutrition. As a result, I will be sure to gather information about the eating habits and the nutritional life style of children and families, as part of my assessment and treatment planning process. Her presentation also reinforced the importance of gathering information pertaining to prenatal care and exposure to environmental toxins that impact child development. The field of social work often requires focus on solving crisis, immediate fixes to issues, and day-to-day management of cases. However, I found the conference to be a refreshing reminder to also think globally about our clients and the plethora of factors that impact their development, behavior, health, and progress. Dana Laake also touched on epigenetics in her presentation. As her discussion progressed, I realized I had outdated knowledge about human genes and the environmental impact on those genes. It was particularly notable that “there are some heritable disorders that now appear to be epigenetic, rather than genetic: Schizoaffective disorder, OCD, Bipolar, Autism, Cancer, and others”. This was meaningful information that is relevant to my work with families and children within the child welfare system. Overall, I appreciated the variety of topics discussed at the MASBBM Fall Conference. It was a pleasure to participate in an active and engaging learning environment with other students and professionals. As a result of attending the conference, I have been inspired to continue to further my learning and professional development in neurofeedback and holistic clinical practice. I look forward to attending future MASBBM conferences.

Elizabeth Rodrigues (Student Scholarship Recipient)

Dana Laake’s presentation on nutrition and its influence on brain health, behavior, moods, and cognition was fascinating. I have been familiar with integrative medicine from personal experience and from friendships with practitioners. Hearing from Ms. Laake about the uniqueness of each individual and their experience of toxins in the environment, reactions to food, and absorption of nutrients clarified and greatly expanded on what I had learned about this previously. Providing the brain with the nutrients to support its function and removing anything that inhibits its function is a noble starting place. I cannot help but think of people who are in intensive talk therapy for whom a nutritional deficiency is a major contributing factor to their diagnosis—for instance, a client who is being treated for depression who has a severe but easily treatable vitamin D deficiency. I wonder how to incorporate the nutritional element within the current mental health paradigm. Recognizing that in addition to and even possibly prior to the use of prescriptions drugs to treat various mental health issues, treatment for nutritional deficiencies and food allergies could be beneficial. Her presentation was particularly interesting because I felt that her approach of providing nutritional support for the treatment of mental health issues could be empowering for patients to address their challenges from an entirely different perspective. For me Ms. Laake’s presentation emphasized the need to be aware of as many contributing factors as possible when working with clients. If it appears that a client would benefit from nutritional counseling, particularly if their chief complaint could be I would like to know of nutritionist versed in functional medicine to whom to refer them. In my current studies, we have only touched on nutritional deficiencies in Psychopathology when learning to rule out other possible diagnoses. I would be interested in getting involved with research that included psychologists, counselors, and nutritionists. Seeking to become a licensed clinical counselor, I would like to learn further about the potential role of a counselor in encouraging clients to seek nutritional support, particularly what the ethical limitations might be. Some clients would be financially able to afford the services of a nutritionist while others may not. How much as a counselor without a nutritional background would one be allowed to say? After I finish my Master’s in counseling psychology, I would be interested in studying functional nutrition further.

Brenton Roman (Student Scholarship Recipient)

I would like to thank Bea Haskins and everyone involved in MASBBM for providing me the opportunity to further my education in biofeedback and behavioral medicine. I recognize that attending this conference is a privilege, and my time spent at the conference only strengthened my belief that I am entering an exciting and rewarding field. Attending the fall conference for the Mid-Atlantic Society for Biofeedback and Behavioral Medicine (MASBBM) reminded me how powerful psychology can be when applied appropriately. I had a supervisor who would often say, “Psychology is alive and well!” The various speakers at the MASBBM conference certainly reminded me of this phrase. I was particularly struck by Dr. Lilian Rosenbaum’s lecture on the historical background for biofeedback; she reminded conference attendees that the foundation for biofeedback was based upon the fact that humans have the capacity to regulate their biological functioning. This statement was so profound for me because it appealed to the physiological basis of biofeedback and its place in behavioral medicine. Additionally, Dr. Elsie Ferguson’s demonstration of EEG biofeedback allowed me to see a live account of the way biofeedback can be used with clients, and further impressed upon me the advantage of such behavioral techniques. Among all of the conference sessions, Dr. Rosenbaum’s opening address reached me in thinking of my own practice to see that I can use my training to help relieve suffering and discomfort in all individuals, not just those with psychological or psychiatric difficulties. As a psychology student in training, I often refer back to the foundational goals of my training, those are, to assess behavior, to measure behavior, and to change behavior. I appreciated listening to Anna van Mourik-Maddox discuss her use of mindfulness based training and progressive muscle relaxation, as I was then introduced to a new type of behavior to assess: autonomic functioning. I have used mindfulness training with clients who have psychiatric disorders, but I have not always prefaced the training with explanation of the physiological bases behind such interventions. As Ms. van Mourik-Maddox described how she provides psychoeducation about nervous system responses, and how her diaphragmatic breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation exercises, and mindfulness based meditation exercises alter these processes, I realized how important it is to inform our clients about the science behind their interventions. I believe that providing clients with the rationale for treatment can increase clients’ confidence initiating such exercises in session, and then carry out the exercises outside of session as well. Since this conference, I have taken more time to explain the processes behind the mindfulness exercises that I use when working with clients. I hope to extend my practice to progressive muscle relaxation with my clients that suffer from chronic pain, and I know that it will be essential to explain why such interventions are helpful when I introduce these interventions to them. Throughout the conference, I was also reminded that interdisciplinary work is a key component of behavioral medicine. Ms. Dana Laake provided intriguing information on the role that diet plays in the expression of various behaviors, and Dr. Michael Sitar provided a case presentation about his work with a young man with chronic headaches who had limited response to pharmacological treatment. I believe that it will be very important for me to continue to learn about different branches of healthcare (e.g., medicine, nursing, speech language pathology, etc.) in order to best integrate my strengths into the client’s care. In summary, the MASBBM conference taught me there are invaluable ways to engage clients through teaching biofeedback and other behavioral techniques. While I have yet to have the opportunity to use advanced biofeedback technology in my training, I envision myself taking the time to learn how to apply the objective measures that allow clients to successfully reduce tension and relieve pain, while instilling confidence that they can better control and manage their symptoms. I have always appreciated the ways that cognition and behavior affects physical health, and vice versa, and this conference demonstrated to me that there are many ways that I can impact both the mental and physical health for my clients in profound ways. It was an encouraging venue to be invited to so warmly and a wonderful opportunity to have senior treatment providers willingly extend their knowledge, while simultaneously pursuing their own professional development. I now know that while I may have a lot to learn in terms of behavior medicine and biofeedback, I have a basis of understanding that will allow me to pursue training in this exciting field.

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