IN a corner of Fremantle, clinical psychologist Denis McCarthy is offering a drug-free treatment for ADHD patients called neurofeedback.
Mr McCarthy sits children down and places them in front of their favourite movie, cartoon or game.
As they concentrate, their brain must “tick” three boxes and get into the correct state. If it ticks all three simultaneously, their chosen form of entertainment plays.
With enough repetition the brain can be rewired to tick all the boxes with ease, says Mr McCarthy.
He says neurofeedback treatment–which monitors real-time brain activity to help people self-regulate their cognitive behaviour and emotions–can make ADHD far more bearable.
“It’s operative conditioning and parents use it all the time.
“If their kid’s bedroom is untidy and they tidy-up parents will praise them.
“It’s the same with brain waves–when the brain tidies itself up we reward it.”
The treatment is a tempting alternative for parents who are worried about the side-effects of giving their kids prescribed ADHD drugs like Ritalin.
Mr McCarthy says there are concerns that long-term usage of Ritalin can stunt a child’s growth.
“Medication isn’t a long term solution. If you’re gonna use it, you’re going to be on it for the rest of your life and that can be quite expensive.
“It’s a crutch. Who wants to be on crutches the rest of their life, when you can do 30-40 [neurofeedback] sessions and be off your crutches?”
Neurofeedback is yet to be accepted as treatment for ADHD in WA.
Psychiatrist Roger Paterson, chair of the state’s ADHD advisory body, says the treatment has potential.
“It’s an emerging treatment, but it does comes up in discussion a lot,” he says.
“I don’t tend to send my patients for treatment as it’s a bit experimental.
“You tend to get more predictable treatments from medications, behaviour therapy and parental counselling or coaching”
Mr McCarthy will be holding a neurofeedback talk for parents on May 7 at his Fremantle clinic.
For more details see facebook.com/ADHD.drugfree
by CHARLIE BRAY