We all know that opening your own business or practice can be challenging.
But when your business involves neurofeedback, are there particular risks or challenges associated with choosing your neurofeedback system?
The answer is a resounding YES! Let’s discuss some very important issues that need to be considered. These sections are also worth reading if you are purchasing a system for home use.
Click on the topic on the left and the related text will appear on the right.
You will be working with peoples’ brains. Above everything else, you need to consider safety. It has to be safe for your client and safe for you to work with them. It is pointless to be worrying about the risk of doing something wrong when you want to help people.
When it comes to neurofeedback systems, risk comes from three major sources:
i) Does the person operating the system have to make decisions about what kind of training (such as what frequency bandwidths) to use that day? Are there protocols to follow? Do you need to have a diagnosis for the client? Is part of your time spent evaluating the client, such as how they have been since the last session, or what issues they have currently? If you are having to make decisions about what to do, you can be at risk for making the wrong decision. And what happens if the client has more than one problem and each requires a different and opposite protocol? What do you do then? Furthermore, the client is having to pay for the time spent on your evaluation, which in itself does not get them any direct benefit. And if that weren’t enough, if you are choosing to do one thing, you are NOT doing something else. A whole lot is getting left out! The client is not getting everything.
NeurOptimal® requires no client evaluation. There are no decisions about what to do. Nothing. And the client receives training across the broadest range of frequencies in the industry, so they are getting everything from the first nano-second of training to the last.
ii) Does the system work with thresholds? Do you have to set goals (amplitude, percentages etc) for the brain to reach? If so, that system is telling the brain what to do. It’s pushing the brain towards a goal set by an outside “expert”– which is you. And is your ultimate goal to have this person’s brain to look more like the brain of the “average person” by being compared to a “norm”? What if looking like an average person is not the best thing for this particular brain?
When you work in this manner, you are at high risk for inducing side effects. Pure and simple. These side effects are not the result of a brain learning to work differently, but rather a direct effect of the training itself. An example would be feeling tense or maybe triggering a headache from up-training beta. You also risk over-training as you have no way of knowing when this brain has had enough.
NeurOptimal® does not need any outside help to know what to do. Instead it provides the brain information about its own activity and the brain does its own re-organizing. It is like holding up a mirror to the brain and it uses the information from that mirror to do its own re-organizing. That’s it. So it really is completely natural. And because NeurOptimal® is adaptive, adjusting microsecond by microsecond to work with where the brain is at any point in time, when the brain gets tired it naturally adjusts to work with it there too. So there is never any forcing to achieve more when the brain has had enough.
If there are decisions to be made in the training, if there is some form of goal to be met, the training is NOT natural. It is NOT like holding up a mirror, no matter what someone tells you.
iii) Does the system introduce anything into the brain apart from information? If it introduces any kind of signal into the brain, there is a risk of destabilization from that intervention. And that is true even if you are a real expert!
NeurOptimal® introduces NOTHING into the brain. It provides only information, which is what the brain is designed to deal with, after all.
What frequency bandwidths is the system using? How many bandwidths can you work with AT THE SAME TIME? What is the highest frequency it goes up to? The lowest?
NeurOptimal® works from .01 to 64 Hz currently, using twenty different “targets” or bandwidths at the same time. Anything less than this is a limited toolbox. Limited toolbox, limited possibilities, limited results.
Learning refers to the skill you have to bring to the system, such as years of education and qualification in a health-related field. Do you need special qualifications or training to use the system? Are you qualified to make diagnoses? Do you have the appropriate licenses to do so?
You do not need any special qualifications to use NeurOptimal® because NeurOptimal® is a training, not a medical treatment.
Learning also refers to the amount of learning required to actually operate the system. Having to learn means expense and downtime in your business as you learn, then more downtime educating new staff you take on. This limits your ability to expand or replicate your business. Does the system you are looking at require you to take a course before you are “allowed” to operate it? Does learning require travel to a location? How long and expensive is the course?
While NeurOptimal® offers on-going education and events, you can operate NeurOptimal® straight out of the box. You do NOT need to attend any course to operate it. It comes with a colorful and clearly illustrated manual and there are videos online. Hook up the equipment, hook up your client and start your session!
This means both how easy is it on you to run your clients, and how easy is it on them to have the sessions?
Easy on You. Do you have to prepare the site where you will place the sensors? Do you need to abrade those sites beforehand? Once the sensors are connected, do you need to check the impedance on an impedance meter to know if you have a good hookup?
How does the system deal with electrical noise? Can you run the session if you have a lot of noise in the signal? Does the system automatically eliminate electrical noise from the signal or do you have to do it by re-applying the sensors until you get it right? How does movement affect the signal? (You need to know this because not all clients, especially young ones, can sit still!).
NeurOptimal® requires only two tiny sensors to attach to the scalp. Then there are three ear clips. Then NeurOptimal® works to remove any signal that is not human. So you can have the flexibility of working with signals that other system simply could not handle. For traditional systems “garbage in garbage out” is the rule. Not for NeurOptimal!®
Easy on the Client. How much effort is required for the client? Does successful training require their co-operation? Do they have to work at it? This is important because, apart from being hard work for the client, some clients do not want to be there and you cannot rely on their co-operation. Are they allowed to do other things while training, such as read or play on an iPad? Can they relax and zone out? Can they listen to music they choose? Can they watch a movie of their choice? With NeurOptimal® they can!
NeurOptimal® is effort-free on the part of the client. Absolutely nothing to do because NeurOptimal’s® training bypasses the conscious mind. As long as the client has some hearing, training will move ahead effortlessly. They can listen to the Zengar music and watch fractal patterns, read, play a quiet game, close their eyes (yes, it’s even ok to fall asleep!) or watch a movie. Your (their) choice!
Cost. How much does it cost up front, and how much does it cost ongoingly? Are the ongoing costs optional? What do you get for that money?
NeurOptimal® offers a full featured OPTIONAL PASS membership, which covers all technical support and maintenance, upgrades — including major ones, educational resources, access to our loaner and Ambassador programs and fourteen (at time of writing) expert-moderated forums for $995 per year. On the other hand, joining PASS is totally optional, in which case you pay nothing. And you get a free trial anyway, so no up-front decision to make.
Financing. Do they offer reasonable financing to support you in your decision, should that be necessary? While there are international challenges to offering financing abroad, is it available in North America? Is it through an external bank or service that you have to apply for separately?
NeurOptimal® offers in-house financing in the US and Canada. We will work with you to find a financing option that will suit your needs.
Flexibility in product packaging. Do they offer flexible products and packages so you can tailor what you buy to your needs? If you are in a business, do their products offer flexibility to grow with you as your business grows? NeurOptimal® has the option to pay a lower amount up front and purchase only as the demand for your services grows.
Can you sell your license? Is the company willing to re-license their product to a new user should your circumstances change and you decide to sell? Will they allow that transfer? How complicated a process is it and what does it cost?
NeurOptimal® licenses can be transferred once for a small transfer fee. (It is always good to check ahead though with Zengar, as to whether the version being sold is current or out of date and so forth, as this will strongly affect your negotiation).
Integrity affects us on so many levels, but never more so than when you are placing your trust in a company for the well-being of your brain. It is crucial that the company you deal with demonstrates integrity. Not only in the product it offers, but also in how it represents itself online as well as in its business practices with you as a user. To this end, we have some areas we think are worth checking into:
Mission. Do you know the history of the product and the company? Who is the expert behind its development? Does the developer have an expressed “mission”? Does the company have a mission statement? Is the company willing to share that mission statement with you? Are you in accord with that mission? Is the developer an expert? And does that expert have the credentials to develop such a product? Has the developer contributed significantly to the field of neurofeedback as a whole?
You can read Zengar’s mission statement here and NeurOptimal’s® history here.
Truth in Presentation. How accurately does the company reflect its products and its business practices? If you were to question them on their claims, can they reasonably support what they say? A website can look very slick on the surface, while the content, if you dig more deeply, is not substantiated. Do not be afraid to ask them why they say their product works “naturally”, or how it works “non-linearly”. They should be able to clearly tell you, or refer you to someone who can. These words can sound good and they may be used by the company. But if their software requires you to evaluate a client, decide on a protocol, or set thresholds and goals, then neither of these words apply. When they say they are “world-wide”, can they tell you approximately how many systems are out there, or how many countries they are in? Can they tell you how many user hours they base their statements on? Have they made any in-depth attempt to evaluate the results their users are getting? How does a company respond to you when you ask them how and why they make the claims they do?
Zengar will always answer your questions. The better educated you are, the better able you will be to appreciate the benefits of NeurOptimal!®
Business Practices. Does the company show integrity in how it deals with you as a customer? Do you have to sign a binding contract with them? How can you get out of this contract? Is the contract you are asked to sign the same contract you were given to read earlier? Are there obligatory on-going costs?
NeurOptimal® does not require you to sign a contract. There are no obligatory on-going costs.
History. Are their users happy? Is it easy to find and speak with individuals who are users? Is there evidence of users migrating to other systems? If so, where are they going and why?
Suffice it to say we’ll let you research this topic yourself!
When you buy a system you want it to stay in tip-top condition. Especially if you have a business and you have a full day of clients scheduled, you need to know you can function. And in the event something does happen, you need as little down time as possible.
Warranty. What warranties does the company offer on the hardware? If a piece of equipment goes down, do they have a loaner system in place to cover you while the part is being repaired? Do they assist you in interacting with outside manufacturers if the hardware goes down during its warranty period?
With NeurOptimal®, your amplifer (we call it the zAmp) is guaranteed for seven years. As a PASS member, we can arrange a loaner for you if it goes down during this time. If the computer or tablet that operates NeurOptimal® goes down during the manufacturer’s one year warranty, we can assist you in requesting service from the manufacturer and, under the PASS program, can send you a loaner so you can continue seeing your clients.
Technical Support. How does the company support its users? How do they offer their technical support? How complicated is it to get the technical help you need? Do you need to schedule an appointment? What hours do they offer support? Do you need to have technical knowledge to implement their support? What happens in the unlikely event your system goes down? What warranty do they offer on their hardware? Do they offer a loaner service so you are covered while your system is in for repair?
We feel NeurOptimal®’s technical support is unrivaled in the industry. We can do ALL your routine technical maintenance and updating for you, directly on your system! This is done through our famous online MouseCalls service. As long as you are online, you click on a button and everything will be done for you by a Zengar technical support technician. MouseCalls are currently offered week days 7am-7pm EST. As a PASS member you can log on at your own convenience, no appointment required. If you are not a PASS member, you can access technical support by request.
Education. Does the company offer education to support its products? Do you HAVE to take their courses to operate their product? Do they offer certification in the use of their product? Is this optional? Are courses available on-line? Are there ongoing presentations and events available separate from the certification courses? Do they offer conferences?
Although you DO NOT NEED TO DO ANY COURSE BEFORE SAFELY RUNNING NEUROPTIMAL®, Zengar offers a plethora of educational opportunity. There are numerous resources, videos and regular webinars offered through PASS. We offer our Basic and Advanced Certification courses both on-line and in person in many countries and languages. And last but not least, our exciting Research and Innovations conference is held every two years. A key event for the NeurOptimal® community, the whole Zengar team attends! You will have plenty of opportunity to meet your “extended family”.
Community. How well does the company foster community among their users? Do they have a platform where users can interact, get answers to questions, and meet each other? Is there an opportunity to become more deeply involved with the company by directly representing and promoting their product? How do they support you in that? Is there a staff member whose sole job is to assist you and others like you, in this process? Do they offer a system of mentoring to support you as you gain experience and build up your sales? How connected and strong is the community?
As a result of the incredible passion many of our users bring to their own work with NeurOptimal®, we have an extraordinary community of users across many continents. Some are bringing NeurOptimal® to their family and a few friends, some offer NeurOptimal® to many clients through their business or practice, some bring NeurOptimal® to organizations, and some have chosen to represent Zengar in their own communities and countries. Whatever your level of desired involvement, the whole Zengar team looks forward to welcoming you and supporting you in that journey.
Their Business Health. Is there evidence that the company is making sound business decisions and investing their (and your) future? Is the company in it for the long haul? Do you see evidence of resource being put into R&D, the availability of loaner systems to encourage research, or even staff dedicated to supporting high quality research? Or do they look like they are developing the business to sell? Or might they be caught short as technology evolves? The field of neurofeedback has had a troubling history, with several manufacturers going bankrupt. Which serves no one well– neither you, nor your clients, or the field in the long term.
Zengar Institute has been around (initially as a dba) since 1995. It is a family run business and is a leader in the neurofeedback field. Its co-founder, Dr. Val Brown, was prominent in the neurofeedback field for years prior to that. Today, Zengar ongoingly invests in R&D. We are always looking to improve how NeurOptimal® is delivered and will continue to do so. Zengar also makes clear in whose hands the future of the company lies. Zengar has an on-going program of lending systems for quality research, and is proud to support the position of Director of Research to assist others in the pursuit of quality research in the field.
Your Business health. As a user, does the company have policies that will allow your business to thrive? Would you have the opportunity to develop multiple streams of income from that business? Is the system easy enough to use that you could run multiple clients by yourself? What if your client wants to to rent a system from you? And if you are providing sessions to a client, what happens if that client wants to buy their own system? Do you have the flexibility of meeting these needs and being compensated for it, or do you just lose a client?
NeurOptimal® offers a variety of different ways for you to set up your business so you can take leverage your time and take advantage of different income streams. From the Ambassador Program to integrating rental units into your practice, to our Representative and Affiliate programs, there is bound to be something that will fit in with your own personal philosophy around how you’d like to spend your time at work.