by Anne Barrie
Brainwave Entrainment “brainwave synchronization”, appears to be the ‘Buzz Word’ in Hypnotherapy circles.
The meaning of “entrainment”, as I understand it, is that two different rhythms will, in a short space of time, synchronise with each other. This was discovered as far back as the 1670’s by Christiaan Huygens when he noticed 2 pendulums, started at different times, would synchronize and swing in “perfectly opposite directions” causing brainwave frequency to fall into step with a periodic stimulus having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state (for example, to induce sleep).
So, how does entrainment work for Hypnotherapy or Meditation?
Well, let’s start with the brain. The brain produces electrical activity in the form of brainwaves. Dr. Hans Berger, an Austrian psychiatrist, discovered the existence of electrical waves in the brain in 1908. He called them Alpha brain waves because they were the first electrical waves discovered in the brain. Beta, Delta and Theta brainwaves were discovered shortly after this and were named in the order they were discovered.
Brainwaves are electrical signals with frequencies ranging from 0.5 to above 60 Hz that can be detected via electrodes attached to the scalp and recorded on an electroencephalograph (EEG) machine. The categories of brainwaves, measured in cycles per second, can be defined by the predominant state a person is in at any given time.
The four main categories are:
- Beta – the frequency of Beta waves range from 15 to 40 cycles per second. When in the Beta state, the person is wide awake and alert.
- Alpha – the frequency of Alpha waves range from 9 to 14 cycles per second. The Alpha state is the “at rest” state, maybe someone sitting down and closing their eyes for a few moments rest.
- Theta – the frequency of Theta waves range from 5 to 8 cycles a second and happens when someone is reflecting or daydreaming. This is the ideal state for hypnosis, just between resting and sleep.
- Delta – the frequency of Delta waves range from 1.4 to 4 cycles per second. This is sleep. Out for the count!
Although all categories of brainwaves are present at all times, one usually dominates, depending on the time of day, and all have important functions.
On awakening, the brain goes smoothly from sleep (Delta) through Theta to Alpha and then to Beta (fully awake). So using brainwave entrainment, it is best to start at Beta and smoothly take your subject down through Alpha to Theta and back again. Problems could arise if you missed out a particular phase. (I suppose like missing gears on a car.)
So, how do we go about using Brain Entrainment?
Well, it would appear that if you create waves or pulses at the frequencies used by the brain, and listen to them, your brain will take up the frequency of the recording.
In effect, if I wanted you to go to sleep, I could play you a tape recorded in the Delta frequency and after a while (about 6 minutes apparently), your brain waves would synchronise with the recorded frequency and you would go to sleep! (I wish I had known about this when my children were young!)
Before looking at the uses of brainwave entrainment though, let’s go back and look at its more recent history.
Dr Meg Patterson was born in Aberdeen in 1922 and qualified as a surgeon, aged 21. She went to India as a missionary for 10 years, and then she went to the Far East. During her time at the Tung Wah Hospital in Hong Kong, in 1972, she worked with Dr H.L. Wen, a Consultant in the Neuro-Surgical Unit and it was here that doctors used electro-acupuncture for pain control (amongst other things). In Hong Kong at this time, a lot of people were addicted to opiates, and Dr Meg discovered that this procedure was very effective for treating opiate withdrawal symptoms. The Chinese acupuncture experts knew that acupuncture alone was not successful in treating addictions, so Dr Meg was convinced it was purely the electrical factor that was the successful ingredient in the treatments.
She returned to Britain, aged 50, to further her investigations into the “therapeutic significance” of this procedure, and developed a black box – a “non acupuncture, non-pharmacological intervention for abstinence-treatment for substances of addiction” which she called “NeuroElectric Therapy” or NET.
NeuroElectric Therapy consists of passing minute electrical currents to electrodes positioned all over the head using certain brainwave frequencies, which stimulate and balance the production of all the chemicals and hormones to drastically detoxify and reduce withdrawal symptoms. She also discovered that the frequencies used should be slightly different for each addictive substance. E.g. heroin, 90Hz; Palfium, 125Hz; and methadone, 70Hz. 2
A short, very simplified, description of the effect of this treatment follows –
Your brain releases its chemicals and hormones etc. in perfect balance. When you become addicted to something, the part of the brain that releases a certain chemical thinks it doesn’t need to produce it any more, so it shuts down! When you try to quit your addiction, you do not have that chemical any more so your body craves it! This craving is commonly called “withdrawal symptoms”. Dr Megs’ system claims to have you free from your addiction within 4 to 10 days, depending on the substance you are addicted to.
She then went off to America, where she met Dr Robert Beck. Dr Beck at this time was developing a powerful electroencephalograph. He had read about Dr Meg’s success with British drug addict Peter Townshend from the January 1983 issue of Omni magazine. (For all you young ones out there, Peter Townshend was a member of the rock band The Who). This article mentioned the black box Dr Meg had developed for the addictions. Dr Beck then developed his own box called a “Brain Tuner”. This contained over 200 frequencies.
So, we now have two black boxes using brainwave frequencies to benefit people!
Although this treatment has been around since the 1980’s, it has not had much success getting past the medical fraternity! A few years ago Jack McConnell, First Minister in the Scottish Parliament, asked the Chief Medical Officer to look into NeuroElectric Therapy for the treatment of drug addicts. But the medical people stated it had been tried before and the success rate wasn’t particularly good. 4 So, to the best of my knowledge, it has not been raised again in the Scottish Parliament! The therapy is not currently used in the NHS for addictions but is still available elsewhere.
Well, that’s just a fraction of the history; now back to the present time!
How do we get the frequencies or pulses to the brain?
There are four different types of tones you can use, Binaural, Monaural, Isochronic and Harmonic Box x. These are types of beats, pulses or tones that you record at the frequency that corresponds to the brainwave frequency you want to achieve. (There are a number of programmes on the market that will do this for you).
So, back to the different types and methods:
- Binaural – stereo headphones are essential for Binaural Beats as one frequency is played in one ear and a different frequency is played in the other ear. The brain will only hear the new frequency created which is the difference between the two frequencies. These tones can be masked and not consciously heard by the listener.
- Monaural – headphones are not needed for Monaural tones as they don’t need to be heard in stereo, In fact, the tones do not need to be consciously heard at all.
- Isochronic – headphones are not required for this one either. However, the tones need to be audible. This can be annoying to begin with, but you tend not to be aware of them in the Theta state.
Monaural and Isochronic tones have spaces between the individual beats whereas, Binaural is more a continuous wave pattern. It is these spaces which, apparently, make Monaural and Isochronic tones more effective than Binaural beats although Binaural beats have always been more popular for recording Hypnosis CD’s.
The newest type of tone to appear is Harmonic Box X. This is where Monaural and Binaural tones are played at the same time. Head-phones are required for this because of the way the Binaural tones are played. 5
All the people “in the know” (that’s my training materials, websites I’ve visited and books I’ve read) say the brain learns and retains more when the person is in the Theta state. To get your subject to the Theta state, you take them from Beta and gradually go down through Alpha to Theta, hold it there for the main body of the session, and bring them back up to Beta through each stage at the end of the session.
In conventional hypnosis, this is done with an introduction, an induction and a deepener. These stages give the therapist control over the depth of the trance the subject is in. If the Hyppnotherapist is not alert enough to notice the changes and see when their subject is ready for the therapy, their subject could be snoring away merrily!
With brainwave entrainment however, you choose and play the correct frequency, and after “entrainment” to the desired state, the subject will stay at that frequency and depth till they are brought back to Beta. So, you would start at the frequency for Beta, take it down through the Alpha frequency to the Theta frequency. There, you can choose the most beneficial frequency within the Theta range for the problem you are dealing with. Then, you bring your client back up through Theta, Alpha and back to Beta. The tones can be pre recorded and played in the background throughout the session.
(Michael Triggs, has researched this topic extremely thoroughly, and has listed a frequency for just about every ailment or problem on the planet. This extensive list can be found on his website.
Theta is the conventional and preferred state for hypnosis. So can we use ‘brainwave entrainment’ in other frequencies?
Brainwave entrainment is perfect for getting to and staying in the Alpha state for a time. This is where a person is relaxing, going for a walk in the garden, daydreaming etc. This state is, apparently, the most beneficial state for overall good health if achieved naturally and not by the use of drugs or alcohol! Also, a person can so easily be distracted by outside influences when meditating, so by using brainwave entrainment at the Alpha level, they can more easily remain in the meditative state. The Alpha state is also thought to be the most conducive to learning whilst in a classroom setting.
Another use for the Alpha state is, of course, Past Life Regression. It is sometimes difficult to get your subject to speak out loud during a regression, as, in the low or mid Theta state, they feel it is “too much trouble”. They are lovely and comfortable and even their vocal chords are relaxed. But, of course, this is a crucial stage of Past Life Regression sessions and Past Life Therapy sessions!
I have found that by taking my subject down to mid or low Theta for the start of the Regression, then bringing them up a bit to about a frequency of 8, which is just at the top end of Theta, (therefore the lower end of Alpha,) the subject isn’t as drowsy and has no problem relating their experiences to me.
This can all be done using a background recording starting at Beta, going down through Alpha to Theta during the induction and deepener. Then, bringing them back up to the top of Theta during the journey to the past life and keeping them there till the Therapy part is complete. Top Theta, Lower Alpha is much more conducive for speech to take place, and does not alter the realism of their experience in any way. If they do get caught up in an uncomfortable scenario in their past life, they are much quicker to take themselves to their “safe place” whilst in this state. It is also and ideal state to alter if, for any reason, you need to take them lower into Theta, or bring them back up to Beta.
All in all, a fantastic aid for the Past Life Therapist!
My personal thoughts on the use of brainwave entrainment follow now!
I tend to listen to recordings before going to sleep at bedtime. With conventional induction and deepener, I am long gone before the therapy starts. With brainwave entrainment however, I am distantly aware all the way through. So I can vouch for the entrainment keeping me at the same depth throughout. (For my own personal recordings, I take the entrainment to Delta at the end so I fall into a good sleep!)
My husband, my friend and my sister all find the conventional Hypnotherapy induction and deepener boring after a few days and feel they want to fast forward to the therapy, but this wouldn’t be as effective as they would not be at the best frequency (Theta) for the therapy! They found the brainwave entrainment method suited them better as it got them to the hypnotic state without having to listen to the induction and deepener.
As I still work full time, I concentrate on Hypnotherapy Recordings rather than personal sessions, and I have a website from which I sell MP3 downloads using both conventional Hypnotherapy and Brainwave Entrainment Therapy. I use the Isochronic brainwave entrainment method as my husband is deaf in one ear, and, given the world wide customer base, he can’t be the only person with hearing difficulties! Also, with the Isochronic tones, stereo headphones are not required. In fact, you do not need any headphones at all!
My other consideration is, in a global market, regional accents are very noticeable. I am from the West of Scotland and need to speak with care so people in other parts of the world can understand me. This is awkward when you are doing induction, deepening and therapy while trying to sound completely natural, but, by using brainwave entrainment, I have overcome this problem.
I like it!
Anne Barrie – Dumbartonshire, Scotland
4 Harmonic Box X is a tone-based brainwave entrainment method described by James Mann in his book, Awakening Mind 1.