After a traumatic lower leg injury at work on a ranch, longtime Clark resident Chase Fix turned to biofeedback through counselor Jane Berryhill to help work through the trauma and flashbacks.

“Biofeedback is a great tool, and you learn to breathe again,” Fix said. “I’m trying to go through my everyday life consciously centering myself with breathing, consciously taking efforts to breathe and relax more. It helps me move through really traumatic injuries.”

Berryhill — who earned two master’s degrees in clinical counseling and behavioral physiology and now practices at Minds in Motion in Steamboat Springs — utilizes physiological monitoring via a biosensor to conduct a stress test and show heart rate variability, breathing and hand temperature. She uses biofeedback techniques with about 98% of her clients at Minds in Motion, where she has worked for the past year.

Berryhill has used biofeedback therapy since the 1980s, but she said the process is much simpler for a counselor to use today or a trained patient to use at home. A small sensor on a finger pressed against the body can show real-time measurements on a computer program on a laptop. Original biofeedback is more complicated because it uses electrical pads connected to the body to help gather bodily information.

“When I measure these levels, it is reflected back to the client on a computer screen in numbers and graphs,” Berryhill explained. “We aren’t guessing if you are stuck in a pattern of survival; we can actually see it.”

According to Mayo Clinic, biofeedback therapy is a type of mind-body technique people can use to control some bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing patterns and muscle responses.

Mayo Clinic: “You may not realize it, but when you have pain or are under stress, your body changes. Your heart rate may increase, you may breathe faster and your muscles tighten. Biofeedback helps you make slight changes in your body, such as relaxing muscles, to help relieve pain or reduce tension.”

As part of her focus on biofeedback therapy, Counselor Jane Berryhill wrote the workbook called “Forging the Flow” intended to help guide patients through the “release of resistance to flow.”
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Fix said Berryhill has been a “great coach” through the past year to help him “incorporate moving on, breathing and good meditation” to learn to live with the repercussions of his serious injury.

“You take yourself out of pressure moments by breathing and releasing, is what I love about it,” Fix said.

The counselor said she has used biofeedback with youth with asthma to help control breathing, patients with anxiety and panic attacks, people suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, cardiac patients and people going through difficult disruptions in life.

“Jane is a great addition because people who don’t want to directly address psychological issues or who are wanting to focus more on physical symptoms of anxiety or trauma, this is a different and more concrete way to address anxiety,” said Angela Melzer, a licensed clinical social worker and owner of Minds of Motion. “Oftentimes if people can start to see they can control their body sensations or feel empowered in what they can do, they are more willing to address underlying causes of anxiety or do deeper work.”

Berryhill was introduced to biofeedback decades ago through two psychiatrist colleagues in Seattle. She said her curiosity about the training turned into a mission to help others. Biofeedback provides a tool that helps people move forward from old patterns of creating disease through stress and trauma.

She graduated with a master’s degree in clinical counseling with a minor in biofeedback in 1990 from California State University, East Bay. She opened a biofeedback treatment unit in a hospital in northern California that treated addictions, pain management and employee assistance program clients. She worked with domestic violence victims and in group homes for teens.

“Each time you have a thought, you have a physiological response,” Berryhill said. “It could be thoughts about something currently happening, or maybe an internal or external event from something that has occurred in the past. We think these emotional responses modify over time, then all of the sudden, we are triggered by a thought or event from our past trauma, which we have numbed over time but not released.”

Those bodily responses could manifest as a rush of adrenaline or energy, muscles that tense and sometimes spasm, increases in pain levels, hands that become cold or sweaty, insomnia, stuttering, headaches, elevated heart rate, dizziness or nausea, or an increase in stress induced asthma attacks.

“When there are stressful or negative thoughts, we can see how physiology responds,” Berryhill explained. “I teach different coping skills to improve or shift a physiological response. It takes a lot of work to not react to emotional triggers. When you can learn to become more of an observer and responder instead, you can create a more peaceful and healthier state of being.”

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