Mountain Wellness Counseling

Light/Sound Therapy


Tim has utilized light and sound as an additional tool in his psychotherapy practice for over 15 years to help with beneficial changes in mental and emotional activity.  It  involves the use of light and sound frequencies to effect changes in Brainwave patterns.  Brainwaves are the oscillations  (frequencies) in the brain that are measured by an electroencephalograph (EEG) and fall into four groups: beta, alpha, theta and delta.  These categories are associated with the rapidity of oscillation (frequency or Hz) of brainwaves.  As it turns out, certain patterns of brainwave activity are also associated with specific mental states (states of consciousness)!


BETA is associated with normal, waking consciousness; attention directed towards the external environment.  You are most likely in the "beta state" as you read this.  Beta waves oscillate between 14 and 30 times per second (Hz).

ALPHA is relaxed, tranquil state of awareness with sometimes a pleasurable feeling of "floating".  Often dominant in certain kinds of meditation or relaxation, alpha waves are associated with calm, lucid, more introspective mental states (the "alpha state").  Alpha waves oscillate between 9 and 13 Hz.

THETA  Found in states of deep relaxation and advanced meditators, theta activity is also called the twilight state (between sleep and being awake).  This state allows access to the unconscious and is associated with recall, fantasy, imagery, creativity, inspiration, dreaming and optimal learning.   Theta waves oscillate between 4 and 8 Hz.

DELTA  This slowest of brainwave activity is found during deep dreamless sleep and sometimes in very advanced meditators.  They oscillate between 1 and 3 Hz.

Your brainwave activity is constantly shifting and changing during the day and night.  Virtually
every form of mental and physical activity will cause changes in this activity.  Abrupt, unexpected noises or other situational events will quickly alter your brainwave patterns.  Even watching TV, the computer or playing video games can dramatically alter brainwave activity in an undirected manner.

Over the years many techniques have been developed to allow you to enter these states, particularly the more relaxed ones, at will.  Most methods, such as meditation, require years of regular practice to master.  Alpha and theta wave biofeedback, quite popular in the 70's, requires the awkward, not very user friendly placement of electrodes, as well as considerable practice.  Now with the use of light/sound frequencies we can enter these states and explore the "consciousness continuum".

The frequency-following effect

It has been discovered that brainwave activity tends to mirror flickering light, particularly in the alpha and theta frequencies.  This effect has become known as the "frequency-following effect" where brainwaves entrain on the introduced frequencies and then change,. resulting in corresponding changes in our mental state.  A familiar example is the tendency to slip into a relaxed, mesmerized state while gazing into a fire; the flicker rate of which happens to average in the alpha/theta range!

Sound has been shown to produce similar results, particularly pulsed sound and binaural beats.  This last effect, binaural, results when one ear hears a pure tone of a slightly differing pitch than the other ear.  The brain then actually synthesizes the difference between the two.  The portions of the brain associated with hearing tend to fall into step with this pleasant, gently pulsing rhythm.  The combination of pulsed light and binaural beat frequencies can be a particularly effective tool for relaxation and experiencing more positive and healing states of mind.

Research conducted at the Monroe Institute and elsewhere suggests that both binaural beats and flickering light stimulation can synchronize the activity of the left and right hemispheres of your brain.  It is believed that this synchronization can increase the flow of information between the two hemispheres, thereby accelerating learning, increasing creativity and feelings of well-being.

Altering your mood

Another benefit of light/sound technology lies in its ability to interrupt negative emotional response loops.  Examples of such "loops" include moderate levels of anger, worry, sadness, irritability and depression.  This offers the opportunity to view whatever it is in a new, improved "light".


             * deep relaxation while feeling more energized
           * visual images, colors and patterns
           * the sense of feeling "grounded" and calm                      

           * increased mental clarity for resolving problems
* enhanced interpersonal relationships

How and why do these sensations occur? 
Several changes take place during and following a light/sound session:

          The first aspect of light/sound entrainment during a session involves dissociation.  Dissociating is the first step towards effective clearing of the mind and meditation.  This clearing of thoughts and loss of body awareness is similar to what a Zen meditator would experience.                                                                
          Secondly, cerebral blood flow increases.  Most cognitive and emotional disorders involve areas of the brain that are low in blood flow.  Studies have shown that a light/sound session increases cerebral blood flow up to 28%.
          Thirdly, EEG activity changes.  The concept of entrainment is about altering brainwave activity.  Quantitative EEG studies have confirmed the normalization of brain activity following a light/sound session.  Aberrant brainwave activity in various conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADD, seasonal affective disorder, chronic fatigue, etc., may be restructured int
o healthier patterns.
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