The Counseling Center has computer software for self-guided relaxation and meditation training that anyone can sign up to use, free of charge. It relies on biofeedback sensors to teach you to monitor and control your physical stress reactions. The program will teach you skills for relaxation and stress management while giving you instant feedback on your physiological stress level which can help you learn these skills more effectively.
This program can be used either in conjunction with counseling services or for self-study in relaxation and meditation. If you are experiencing a more serious mental health issue, this program may not be sufficient to address your concerns. We would strongly urge you to make an appointment to speak to a counselor if you have serious symptoms, or if your concerns get worse or this program does not alleviate them.
What is biofeedback?
“Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance”( Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 2009). Essentially, this program teaches you skills for reducing your stress level and guides you through interactive practice exercises in which you learn to alter your stress level. The biofeedback indicators give you direct feedback on how well you are performing these skills through monitoring your body’s physical stress level, which can help you be more successful in achieving your stress management goals.
The program uses finger sensors, which sit on the tips of 3 fingers, to measure physiological indicators of stress.
- Skin conductance Level (SCL) measures sweat gland activity in your fingers
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measures the variable time between heart beats
According to the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, “Biofeedback has enjoyed great success in treating numerous conditions including those related to muscle tension, anxiety, hypertension, epilepsy, some chronic pain conditions, certain breathing disorders, some types of cardiac arrhythmias, and substance abuse.”
The software the Counseling Center uses for this program is called Healing Rhythms. You can learn more about it and view a demo on their website. To use the program, which is housed in the Counseling Center and is free of charge, see below.
What should I expect if I try this program?
When you try the program, you will sit in a quiet room in the Counseling Center in front of a computer. You can use the program with or without attaching the sensors to your fingers.
The program can lead you through 15 different stress management and meditation skills or you can pick and choose different skills to learn. In each skill program, you will hear a short description of the skill you are learning and what its useful for. Then you can listen to step-by-step directions for the skill (breathing exercises, mindfulness, etc), accompanied by soothing scenes on the computer monitor. Finally, you can practice using the skill through interactive activities and monitor your success via the biofeedback sensors.
How do I sign up?
If you would like to try the program you should reserve a time by calling 436-3368. For your first meeting, you should reserve an hour to include time to be trained on the program. Thereafter, you can sign up for 30-minute blocks of time.
We would recommend you bring your own headphones or earbuds. The computer has speakers but your experience may be enhanced by more sensitive listening devices that can block out extraneous noise. Standard listening devices are compatible with the hardware.