By Sarah Martin, LCPC, NCC
EMDRIA Approved Consultant
Alpha-Stim is a powerful tool to help people with emotion regulation and widening their window of tolerance. According to the website https://alpha-stim.com/, “The Alpha-Stim cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) device delivers a natural level of microcurrent, via small clips worn on your earlobes, through the brain to stimulate and modulate specific groups of nerve cells.” The microcurrent the device produces helps stimulate alpha-wave production in the brain and it is cleared by the FDA to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain.
There are two types of Alpha-Stim devices: the AID and the M. The AID device is for anxiety, depression, and insomnia utilizing ear clips to deliver the microcurrent. Licensed mental health providers are authorized to prescribe the AID. The M device is specific for treating localized pain and comes with probes for delivering the microcurrent directly to the area of pain. The M device can only be prescribed by a provider who treats physical pain.
Alpha waves in our brain promote a feeling of relaxation and calm and represent a non-aroused state. That calm feeling that you get after mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing is the result of increased alpha-wave production in your brain. Many people, specifically those who have experienced repeated traumas, struggle with being able to access a calm state. A brain that is so used to being on the alert for potential danger can really struggle with getting out of a heightened arousal state.
If you're an EMDR therapist and you're wondering how Alpha-Stim can support your work, I’ve got you! It can be a great resource for clients in EMDR Phase 2: Preparation. One of the foundational steps in this phase is your client’s ability to access a calm state. So many of the clients I have worked with that have complex trauma struggle with even accessing a feeling of calm in their bodies. Alpha-Stim helps decrease overall activation in the brain resulting in increased stabilization and improved emotion regulation. In my experience, I have seen it help several clients feel more relaxed and enhance their ability to tolerate distress. I’ve even used DAS to tap into the calm feeling a client has after a treatment session. One thing I would not advise would be utilizing it during desensitization. This is because the reprocessing that occurs during desensitization in EMDR requires clients to emotionally access the activating event. The heightened emotional response a client experiences in connection to the event we are reprocessing helps us directly target that memory. Dr. Sandra Paulsen, an EMDR Advanced Instructor, explained this in her talk, “Using Alpha-Stim Adjunctively with EMDR and Complex Trauma Cases”. She suggested that Alpha-Stim could even be used at the end of a reprocessing session if a client needs more stabilization.
If you want to learn more about Alpha-Stim, check out https://alpha-stim.com/. The website has a specific tab for Healthcare Professionals where you can take a practitioner’s training course on and you can sign up for a free 60 day loan form to get a device sent to you to try.