Neurofeedback is catching on in the Rogue Valley! What is all the excitement about? Dr. Daniel Sternberg, a licensed psychologist, and his wife and business partner, Suzanne Mark, opened Ashland Neurofeedback and Therapy in March of 2016 to address many issues more quickly and efficiently with Micro Current Neurofeedback and other customized approaches. As an early adopter of power therapies such as EMDR in the treatment of PTSD, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, etc., Daniel has added neurofeedback to help clients heal faster and with less intervention time.
Suzanne and Daniel researched neurofeedback as a complement to therapy, which led them to a kind of neurofeedback that works quickly on many conditions. The reason for its success? Microcurrent. IASIS MCN (Micro Current Neurofeedback) is a ground-breaking, dynamic, non-invasive and highly-effective technology now being researched at University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Researchers there are studying the effects of IASIS treatment/training on Marines with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and mild to moderate Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI). The preliminary study has been very promising.
After a head injury in 2009, Suzanne suffered with symptoms that she was unable to fully overcome, mainly in the form of depression, short-term memory loss and an inability to do simple mental tasks. “Neurofeedback gave my function back, so I am devoted to helping others. Daniel and I are encouraged to help people by helping the brain change itself. The new studies in neuroplasticity are very heartening. Your brain has the capacity to heal itself with the right tools. We have had personal experiences of this, as have our clients. It is actually FUN.”
In today’s interview, we met with Suzanne and Dan to learn more about their business here in Ashland, Oregon.
Hi Suzanne and Dan, thanks so much for doing this interview with us today. To begin with, will you please share a little more about each of your extensive backgrounds and experience?
Thanks, LocalsGuide, for helping us get the word out. We are really excited to be in Ashland and to be part of LocalsGuide, because it delivers innovative and heart-centered solutions to people in the Rogue Valley.
Dr. Dan is a Licensed Psychologist and has had a very busy private practice for over 35 years that has given him vast experience in treating trauma, stress, depression, and many other conditions; Dan uses key skills in listening to identify and conceptualize the unique problems of each client. When the problem is clearly identified, he can see what is needed to solve the problem. He uses EMDR, a rapid release protocol for trauma, and emotional releasing. He works with psycho-emotional issues and helps people release them and develop key life skills. With thousands of clients treated, Dan is excellent at empathizing with people and enabling them to free themselves from limitation and be their best selves.
I (Suzanne) have a background in language teaching and consulting, and I have taught emotional release internationally for 17 years in English and Spanish. After many years of teaching rapid release modalities and doing one-on-one coaching with people from all over the world, I started to have a strong desire to diversify from emotional intelligence training and “soft skills” to neurological training that would work more effectively and in less time. I still teach Emotional Intelligence and will be teaching at OLLI again in the Spring. The course is “Release Limiting Thoughts, Feelings and Beliefs Now.” It centers on removing resistance by releasing and allowing what IS to access your highest and best good.
I am happy to. At Ashland Neurofeedback and Therapy, I am the one who oversees the neurofeedback and pain portion of the business in close collaboration with Daniel. We offer a cutting edge form of neurofeedback that uses microcurrent. We also use other tools that go well with neurofeedback that can enable you to let go of deep patterns quickly and easily. Clients are noticing deep, gentle shifts in habitual patterns and limitations. The neurofeedback goes great with therapy and can really speed results. There are other “power tools” that we are using to release emotional patterns and limiting core beliefs that are very complimentary. We are also working with pain.
Dan and Suzanne, what do you see as setting your work apart from the pack and helping achieve the results you are currently seeing?
The difference is in the technology and the methodology. We use a form of neurofeedback called IASIS (Sounds like “I Assist without the final “t”) MCN (Micro Current Neurofeedback.) In general, it tends to work faster than other types of neurofeedback, and continues to work on those who have already “plateaued” with other approaches. Our goal is getting you to what we call “enduring sustainability.” This means getting you to sustain your changes over time. You shouldn’t need to keep coming back. Micro Current Neurofeedback is an FDA-registered EEG amplifier and is extremely safe.
What type of neurofeedback do you use?
This technology is known as “passive neurofeedback.” Traditional neurofeedback (or active neurofeedback) uses a system of reward and the underlying principle of operant conditioning to retrain brainwave patterns towards a more optimal state. It is like making the rat run the maze a certain way to get the cheese. Passive neurofeedback, generally speaking, is aimed at eliciting a similar response to active neurofeedback, but without the individual’s active participation. Passive NF is like a massage for the brain. In the case of IASIS MCN, we use the tech to “show your brain what your brain is doing.” When your brain “sees” what it’s doing, it decides to change in a way that restores plasticity and increases function. Both types of neurofeedback can be very effective, and have a lot of evidence-based studies to back them up. Over 500 studies on neurofeedback have been published just in the last few years.
In your business, you explicitly say that you do not treat symptoms and conditions. Please explain.
Yes, while it is not our purpose to intentionally treat symptoms, we recognize that you are probably coming to us because you need help with, well, symptoms.
The culture is running after removing symptoms. We want to retrain the brain. That is a more core solution. We are simply retraining the brain to do what it does best. IASIS MCN, as neurofeedback, is actually a DIS-entrainment of the brain from habitual, stuck patterns. Many “symptoms” can abate or cease entirely when the brain is functioning optimally. We are here for optimal brain function. The other thing to mention is that microcurrent moves differently through the body and goes to the deeper structures, whereas regular current stops in the shallower parts of the brain. (Please see our article next month on mTBI.) The voltage we use is pico voltage, or tiny traces of a volt (one trillionth of a volt to be exact). Think of it like “homeopathy for the brain.” It is so slight that you cannot even feel the current. For some reason that we do not fully understand, the brain can change even more easily with the lesser amount of intervention. It is much more sensitive than any other organ and can process masses of information.
What symptoms does it help dis-entrain? How does it work?
It can train away the neurological stuck spots that may correlate to the following circumstances or conditions:
ADD/ADHD, Anxiety, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Post-Brain Injury, Post-Cancer Treatment, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Dementia, Depression, Eating Disorders, Fibromyalgia, Headache, Insomnia, Lyme Disease, Memory Disorders, Migraine, Parkinson’s Disease, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Raynaud’s Disease, Stroke, Stress, Emotional Trauma, Traumatic Brain Injury, and others.
All the conditions mentioned above have a common denominator: the brain is “frozen” or “stuck” in a dysfunctional pattern. Therefore, medications often are unable to satisfactorily address the above conditions – increasing a chemical through supplements or medications, blocking a reaction or receptor, etc. does not help the brain achieve its natural state of flexibility, self-regulation, and focus. When the IASIS processor sends a very brief, very tiny impulse to the brain at a programmed rate, temporary fluctuation in the brainwaves occurs and prompts the brain to adjust itself. This temporary change allows the brain to reorganize itself, re-orient itself, and become more flexible as it is intended. It gets “unstuck” from its maladaptive state. The brain rapidly and seemingly automatically gets accustomed to a better level of function – its natural, ideal state that is free of anxiety, pain, confusion, etc. You can see that IASIS does not train the brain like traditional neurofeedback, but instead “dis-entrains” the brain by allowing it to reorganize itself and release itself from frozen, stuck patterns. This is analogous to re-booting a frozen or malfunctioning computer. You can see why we are making the subtle but important distinction of not treating symptoms.
You both have a commitment to excellence with the services you are providing. How are you going beyond to meet the needs of your clients? What is your process?
The approach that we are using is fully individualized; it is not one-size-fits-all. First, we assess your goals and needs, and then execute the technology based on those. In every session, we reassess and monitor your progress/challenges. We shift the protocol based on your direct feedback. Also, we are what you would call “information hounds.” We are often able to provide key insight and resources to help you take responsibility for your well-being and to strategize with you based on your goals. For example, from time to time, we might recommend that you research a specific nutritional supplement that will help your brain function better. The neurofeedback is a jumping off point, but as the overwhelm of your particular situation improves, you can more easily make certain changes in your life – such as diet, exercise and nutrition, or some key resource. Many clients with PTSD, for example, have reported being stuck for years, even decades, and start noticing that they can care for themselves better after training and get back into life.
This is a collaborative process wherein we monitor your results 24 hours after each session and at the beginning of the next session. It is essential that you take a very active role. We find that people who are unwilling to self-monitor progress are not as successful. Continued treatment depends on your active participation.
Our mutual goal is your success. When you get to a point where you are meeting the goals YOU set at the beginning of your treatment, we back you off the treatment. With an optimally functioning brain, you will be engaging in life in new ways – socially, emotionally, caring for self, and ENJOYMENT. There was one gentleman who had suffered with PTSD since the Vietnam War, and after about 10 sessions, he started doing key things. He got a dog, started walking the dog, began wearing brighter clothes and eating healthfully. We kept going for several sessions to get him to enduring sustainability, but he is living a different life now. This is so great to see! We love it when people have turnarounds that are dramatic AND sustainable. This happened over about 15 weeks.
You both have been early adopters to many technologies that have changed. What do you pay attention to and look for when finding new and exciting opportunities?
(Laughter) Well, it is a combination of a driving desire to help people end their own suffering, trial and error – nope, this is a hassle to use or does not work fast enough – with some serendipity thrown in. We are our own test subjects. If it does not work for us, we would not want to share it with others. We also research evidence-based technologies that are founded on solid science and may be undergoing some sort of major improvement. When I (Dan) started using EMDR in the nineties, it was a new therapy for trauma that used eye movement to desensitize people to painful trauma. I liked the idea of it, and 25+ years later, it has become a gold standard for treating trauma. Nevertheless, I am always looking for things that are more efficient and effective, and that is why we have added IASIS MCN, which can on all kinds of trauma – also at the “brain” level, but faster, without arduous emotional work. We have several new additions to our practice coming down the road regarding adding powerful technologies to deal with physical pain. So, please keep in touch.
Suzanne, will you please talk more in-depth about the process you take your customers through when working at Ashland Neurofeedback?
In the first session, I become very familiar with your motivations and goals for the treatments so we can evaluate how you are doing as the sessions progress. Our “litmus test” for progress is always based on the initial assessment. We assess you to determine your level of CNS (Central Nervous System) sensitivity to set a protocol for you. Before each additional session, you will be asked to email a record your most prominent symptoms so we can track your progress.
After cleansing the skin, a small dab of electrode gel will be applied to allow sensors to attach behind each ear, the middle of the back of the neck, and in pairs of certain sites on the head. These sensors obtain brainwave recordings and receive the tiny short impulses described above. Although the brain detects the feedback impulses, you will not see or feel anything. During the session, you will be asked to sit quietly and to not think of any imagery or constructive thoughts. You will not be asked to think or learn anything, which has been found to slow treatment progress. The actual neurofeedback component lasts only about 20 seconds per site pair. The sensors will be moved to specific locations depending on your history, reactivity, and prior feedback. Once the session is completed, you will be asked to report any positive responses, discomforts or side effects experienced during your session. The initial session may take 45-60 minutes in total or shorter as needed. Follow up sessions may take 30-45 minutes.
Suzanne, you mention the term Emotional Intelligence. Please say more.
To me, Emotional Intelligence is the ability to harness emotions to achieve goals rather than being run by them unconsciously. A lot of people resist going into emotions because they are afraid that they will get stuck and be controlled by them. The opposite is true. Your toughest emotional content is a HUGE doorway to peace and happiness. If you hang onto it, or push it down, it controls you. As you feel it and release it, you become free. It is a skill that many do not take the time to develop. Dr. Dan and I have been practicing and teaching this skill since the eighties. He uses it in therapy. We met each other at a releasing workshop in which I let go of a chronic, crippling pain condition that I was disabled with for 2 ½ years. Letting go is a lifelong practice. It is not always easy, but it leads to ease, acceptance and peace. I am really enjoying teaching at OLLI because there are so many people in their later years that are both remembering and developing this skill. These people have scads of wisdom to apply to letting go of what does not serve. Let’s face it, considering the current world situation, letting go of resistance is a key survival skill. By the way, one of the unexpected effects of emotional releasing AND brain training can be more peace and a more meditative brain state.
Suzanne, you have had your own experiences of working with neurofeedback. Please share more about your own experience and the results you experienced.
We’ve been researching these technologies for over 10 years. We’ve done several of the more old-school approaches as well as some newer/evolving technologies. Dan and I were clients with other tech. These technologies can all be effective, but when we started looking to add a protocol to Dan’s practice, we wanted several things: low side effects (reactivity), rapidity of results (some technologies can require 50-100 sessions or more to get results), ease of use, and ability to customize to meet the client’s needs and goals. When we found IASIS MCN, we realized that it also works faster and more deeply due to the use of microcurrent. Honestly, it is not the easiest to use, because you must move the EEG leads all over the client’s head, but the results more than make up for this inconvenience.
Personally, I was on an antidepressant for about 10 years. It worked well for me, but I wanted to get off it. I have a holistic orientation but I have nothing against medication if it serves. Much to my surprise, 4-6 weeks into the neurofeedback treatment, I could titrate off that medication with my doctor’s help.
Since using IASIS MCN, I am no longer a depressed person. I can count on feeling happy every morning. I am less reactive in stressful situations and can flow with events with more resilience. Last August, my 83-year-old father was going through a health crisis and I went to Wyoming to help. He was almost dying and needed key interventions to turn it around. I found the whole process – which was very hard work – almost effortless. This was unusual for me. Yes, it was hard, but it was not stressful. I felt calm and focused. It was a very different experience for me and my dad.
Dan, please talk more about clients who are best suited for working with you and Suzanne.
First, I think it is important to work with people who are self-responsible, self-aware and motivated to let go of old patterns and move into a new way of experiencing life. The “Fix Me” approach does not work! Oftentimes, there is something specific that people want to work on through the brain training, like a pattern of struggling with depression, anger or stress. They come to us ready to do something different that is not situational or motivational, but neurological. This is not an inexpensive endeavor, so it really requires a great commitment.
Suzanne, what do you see as some key factors which help individuals achieve success?
As I mentioned earlier, self-responsibility is key. I had a client come in and he was depressed and stressed, finishing his undergraduate degree and also grieving a personal loss. His wife complained that he was irritable and unhappy. We applied the Micro Current Neurofeedback and he started to laugh and sing again. I could see that he would do even better if he got his biochemistry more balanced. I recommended he consider a good colloidal iron supplement, folic acid, and to keep his blood sugar more balanced to help his adrenals. He actually took my advice, not everyone does (laughter), and the color came back into his face. He started doing even better! Some people get really depleted while working on a life goal or in a stressful job. They need tips to strengthen their resilience.
Also, Dan and I know that not everyone is inclined to let someone hook electrodes to their head. Doing neurofeedback requires a willingness to try an unusual approach. To boldly go where you have never gone before. Inner Space.
Some clients have experienced neurofeedback and felt that they plateaued with their progress. Please say more.
“Plateauing” probably happens because most technologies only treat the more surface areas of the brain. Microcurrent moves more deeply into the brain. It’s able to work on deeper tissues that current functional MRIs can’t even show. Clients report that they could dramatically improve their lives after using it. The IASIS MCN research conducted at UCSD in San Diego on veterans with PTSD and mTBI used a new scanning technology called magnetoencephalography that showed deeper injuries on the pre-scan. Then, twenty IASIS MCN sessions were administered. The post scans of the veterans were, frankly, stunning. The treatment resulted in complete, or near complete, cessation of symptoms in most test subjects. I think this is because IASIS MCN treats beyond conventional neurofeedback approaches. The fun thing is that unravelling glitches in one’s neurology into a certain state opens doors that allows one to take the next steps. More than that, it can apply to almost anyone that wants to improve or increase focus, resilience, productivity, freedom from addictive behaviors, calmness, clarity, well-being, and happiness.
When this unravelling begins to occur, you both work together in partnership to support everyone in their process. Please say more.
Yes, we help people with their emotional well-being and health. We also teach people skills that they can use to be happier ongoingly. When I give the neurofeedback, I often do emotional releasing with people. Dan has a big bag of therapeutic tools. People need skills that they can use to get back on track as life happens.
Suzanne, your specialty is in working with people who feel “life failure.” Please say more.
Many times, people have ‘symptoms’ of something deeper that they can’t quite put their finger on. As one client described it, “I feel like I am failing at my life, but I have no idea how to turn it around! It is so frustrating. I have spent so many years stuck in neutral.” I have been there. Feeling that there is something I need to achieve but cannot. I work with talented and brilliant Individuals who have felt they have tried everything, but are not making progress. I take it to a brain level and address the underlying neurology. I also use “super tools” that work extremely well with the MCN. I humorously call them “the mop-up crew.” I find this deeply gratifying.
What do you see as some key factors which help individuals achieve success?
Most important is consistency with the treatment protocol. We also make suggestions such as getting enough sleep and rest, avoiding alcohol and nonprescription drugs (marijuana is not contra-indicated), getting enough high-quality protein and extra healthy fats, staying well-hydrated, eating regular, well-balanced meals and listening to your body when it tells you to rest. Also important are regular exercise, knowing your limits and being kind to yourself. We suggest getting your “brain substrate” tuned up with supplements and diet.
Can you please share some recent testimonials with us?
Gladly! It has been a very rewarding and touching process to receive testimonials from our clients and to know that they are doing well in their lives long after we no longer see them.
Here are some testimonials from people who have benefitted from IASIS MCN and supportive tools:
“A bit more than a year ago, I had radiation treatment for cancer, and it left me in a foggy, dizzy, low energy place. I felt hopeless and was not motivated to do things. I really felt defeated, and had an inability to move forward. I was crying at the drop of a hat. I knew this was not “me,” but I was stuck. Suzanne kept encouraging me to try the microcurrent neurofeedback, and I finally went for it. I am so glad I did. One of the first things I noticed was that my sense of humor came back. I started laughing, singing, and making jokes! As the treatments progressed, (15 in all) I felt gradually more consistent in my energy. I could participate without feeling like I was moving through thick mud. Some old patterns such as not being able to speak up for myself are copacetic now. I no longer apologize for my failings and can be honest about who I am. My foggy days are fewer and I can get things done because my follow-through is so improved. I must say that I am much less reactive in my relationship and can deal with conflict. This has been BIG for me. Learning more about myself has given me room to pause and look at some life issues instead of jumping to respond in negative ways. I am BACK IN LIFE and my creativity is on the upswing. I would highly recommend this treatment.”
Elaine F., Ashland
“I am a big believer in dealing with things at the source level. I have done quite a bit of other types of neurofeedback, and have found them very helpful. Since beginning Micro Current Neurofeedback, I have been amazed to discover that the very persistent “stuck spots” in my life started to fade rapidly once we applied this unique type of brain training. There are things that I battled to do only weeks ago, and now I am doing them with ease, without even thinking about it. I am also noticing a new clarity and presence. Simply BEING HERE NOW has allowed me to be powerfully present and more dynamically effective in my life. Thank you.”
Jerry S., Ashland, Oregon
“Suzanne Mark has a deeply compassionate presence and through my experience of doing neurofeedback with her I was able to achieve a level of emotional relaxation I have never experienced. I recommend her to anyone who is looking for a stress management treatment that works quickly with lasting results.”
“When our 9-year-old son started seeing Suzanne Mark for neurofeedback, he was having trouble focusing in school, was having a lot of temper tantrums, and was struggling with anxiety. We were committed to finding solutions that did not involve pharmaceutical drugs. When we were referred to Suzanne, we didn’t know much about neurofeedback, but we were enthusiastic about trying anything that would support our son’s health without the side effects of medical interventions. It was hard to believe that such a simple and painless process could foster the changes that we wanted to see, but we gave it a shot. In just six sessions we have seen a dramatic difference in our child. His teachers report that his attention and focus have improved dramatically at school over the past month, and we notice at home that he is much more calm and able to talk to us about his feelings instead of exploding. We could not be happier with the work that Suzanne and Dan are doing and we are so grateful to have more peace in our family as a result. We highly recommend this process for any parent who has a child struggling with ADD, ODD, OCD or anxiety. This process has been very effective for us!”
Marla C., Ashland
“After sustaining several head injuries as a child, I struggled with lack of focus, anxiety and depression as I grew up. I didn’t know anything was wrong with my brain – I just thought that life was hard and that it was normal to struggle with everything. After I entered college, I started to notice that the simple tasks that seemed easy to others, were extremely difficult for me, and this just made me feel even more depressed and stressed. I was referred to Dr. Daniel Sternberg by my insurance provider and I began seeing him for EMDR therapy, which I have found very effective. Some months later I added neurofeedback with Suzanne Mark to my treatment protocol. Working with EMDR and neurofeedback together has proven to be the most effective treatment for my brain injuries. I have more energy, I can focus on my work, and most importantly I am able to have a positive outlook about my life again. I feel happy for the first time in a long time. Dr. Dan Sternberg and Suzanne Mark are both extremely capable therapists and are also very compassionate people who truly care about their clients’ wellbeing.”
John M., Ashland
“Working with Suzanne is like taking your Ford Escort into the mechanic for a tune-up and coming out with a Maserati. I would say that I have gained more clarity and understanding of what it means to be at peace than attending 10,000 churches. This has helped me feel more on top of my game and to attract opportunity more easily.”
James Anthony, Ashland
(Yes, this is a real testimonial.)
What are the long-term goals you hold for your clients?
Happiness. To be fully embodied in their lives. To be able to focus on what they care about. To know that they are meeting their goals and dealing with challenges as they arise with resilience and strength. To walk through life in a more meditative, accepting state. We have seen our patients sing again, laugh again, and enjoy their lives. That is what it’s all about. There is no other moment but now.
Please tell us about the next steps our readers can take in wanting to learn more, or to work with you.
If you, or someone you know, would like to work with us, give Suzanne Mark a call at (541) 631-8757. We will set an appointment to assess and get you started. We will discuss your unique challenges and suggest a treatment plan that will help you reach your goals. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the process as you watch the lights come back on and get your life back on track.
Ashland Neurofeedback & Therapy
Suzanne Mark & Daniel Sternberg, Ph.D., IASIS Providers
420 Williamson Way, Ashland, Oregon 97520