Emotional Brain Training

Stress overload is the underlying cause of anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes, and up to 90 percent of other health problems. These conditions have been difficult to remedy, because the underlying physiological stress that causes them has not been treated effectively.

Emotional brain training (EBT) enables individuals to take charge of the emotional brain (the "stress brain"). It provides tools and support to train the brain for optimal resilience. In our high-stress world, EBT is the stress solution we all need. Advances in neuroscience have led to a growing awareness that the root cause of stress problems is the circuitry in the emotional brain. What we need is a form of self-therapy, a way for ordinary people to have a therapist "in their pocket," a scalable, brain-based way to process their intense negative emotions, switch off strong emotional drives for common excesses, and recover from stress overload whenever it occurs.

Stress and Emotions

Most people find processing emotions to be relatively easy in low-stress states. These emotions are "homeostatic," and change rapidly, giving us an accurate way to identify what we need. These emotions, such as feeling sad, angry, afraid, hungry, tired, or tense, are signs of the activation of a homeostatic or self-correcting circuit.

It is in the high-stress emotional states, which are “allostatic” and become stuck "on," that we need a self-help way to switch off extreme emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. These emotions, such as hostility, depression, panic, and numbness, do not guide us to identify and meet our needs. They are faulty messengers that activate strong drives for common excesses and maladaptive states. They create a self-reinforcing, positive feedback loop, so that we are not able to self-correct, but instead activate a body-brain loop of stress that causes stress levels (and emotions, behaviors, and thoughts) to careen out of control. The brain reflexively repeats old ineffective responses of maladaptive behavior, which contributes to a broad range of health problems and promote needless personal suffering. By processing our allostatic emotions into homeostatic emotions, we switch off the circuits that cause stress reactivity and activate the circuits that cause stress resilience. Once we return to a homeostatic state, our emotions naturally direct us to meet our needs in healthier, more adaptive ways. Rather than fighting the stress response, we process our emotions and tame it.

EBT's 5-Point System

Dr. Laurel Mellin, a health psychologist, developed a structured system for processing allostatic emotions into homeostatic emotions, using simple tools to change our physiology and responses in daily life. This method is emotional brain training (EBT). She conceptualized the brain's emotional states in terms of five stress levels, mirroring the parallel discoveries of psychiatrist Bruce Perry. Instead of monitoring emotions ("How do I feel?"), individuals identified their "number," or physiologic stress state, on a scale of one to five ("What number am I?"). As emotional processing techniques vary with stress level, there is one emotional technique for each of the five levels of stress. This EBT 5-Point System of Emotional and Behavioral Regulation provides a unifying system for processing emotional stress and promoting optimal physiologic responses to daily life.

The fundamental conceptual basis of Brain Based Health is that, as individuals, we have the power to access tools to switch off and reprogram the emotional circuitry that can trigger stress reactivity and promote the onset and exacerbation of a broad range of health problems. By using a simple, structured system of emotional resiliency, more people can privately and quickly take charge of their stress, and with it, their unwanted emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They can take on more of the role of being their own "therapist," moving from stress reactivity to stress resiliency.

The use of in-depth one-on-one psychotherapy plus self-directed resiliency training may be the most effective option for people who are suffering from emotional health problems. Medications can decrease the stress caused by disease and heal the brain enough from trauma that the prefrontal cortex can effectively use resiliency tools, but they come with serious side effects. If there is ever a solution, it will be training the brain for resilience. That simple switch from states of high stress and negative emotions to low stress and positive emotions uses our endogenous chemicals effectively. It causes the activation of a broad range of healing brain chemicals and the deactivation of harmful chemicals, something that the use of medication alone cannot do.