Heart-rate based biofeedback therapy is used in some 1:1 sessions to provide a tangible / visible indicator of change over time. The technique is also very effective when demonstrating that patients do have a substantial level of control over feelings eg when they use the relaxation / control techniques that are taught as a matter of routine.
Biofeedback training can be used “blind” without immediate visual feedback (eg when taking a baseline / progress reading) or in feedback mode. There are a variety of feedback modes whereby the patient is put in control of what happens on the screen – eg “the more you relax the higher a hot air balloon rises into the sky and travels across a virtual landscape”.
The example below shows the profile of a patient with a long standing anxiety based condition prior to the commencement of biofeedback training therapy. The heart rate range is wide and the average resting heart rate is higher than expected given age / level of fitness etc.
The next example is taken at the end of the second therapy session with the same patient following a combination of hypnotherapy / timeline therapy and EMDR. The heart rate range has stabilised and the level of variation over time has normalised, the average resting heart rate has also normalised.
On request biofeedback can be used as a primary treatment intervention for some stress / anxiety based conditions as well as some cardiac / blood pressure conditions.
Please note that there are a few less than scientific bio / neuro feedback techniques out there. Consider any claims very carefully. Do you really believe that it is possible to determine liver / kidney function by measuring skin resistivity? If it was possible why are such devices not used in hospitals as a diagnostic tool?
Heart rate / heart rate variability based biofeedback therapy training is however scientific and a very good indicator of levels of relaxation. It is certainly more practical than measuring saliva cortisol levels every 15 minutes which is the most reliable approach. (See research note below).
Research: Autonomic changes during hypnosis: a heart rate variability power spectrum analysis
DeBenedittis, G., Cigada, M., Bianchi, A., Signorini, M. G. and Cerutti, S. Autonomic changes during hypnosis: a heart rate variability power spectrum analysis as a marker of sympatho-vagal balance. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2(2). 140-152.
Preliminary results indicated that hypnosis affects heart rate variability, shifting the balance of the sympatho-vagal interaction toward an enhanced parasympathetic activity, concomitant with a reduction of the sympathetic tone. A positive correlation between hypnotic susceptibility and autonomic responsiveness during hypnosis was also found.