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The Benefits of Biofeedback Training for University Students. Barbara Morrell, Ph.D. Michael L. Maughan, Ed.D . Shannon Coetzee, B.S. Grant Gardner Karstin Slade, B.S. Brigham Young University Provo, Utah Presented at American Association of Physiology and Biofeedback Annual Conference

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The Benefits of Biofeedback Training for University Students

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The Benefits of Biofeedback Training for University Students

Barbara Morrell, Ph.D.

Michael L. Maughan, Ed.D.

Shannon Coetzee, B.S.

Grant Gardner

Karstin Slade, B.S.

Brigham Young University

Provo, Utah

Presented at American Association of

Physiology and Biofeedback Annual Conference

Monterrey, CA

February 16, 2007


Brigham Young University Stress Management and Biofeedback Lab

  • In operation since 1976

  • Integral part of the Counseling and Career Center

  • Utilize EMG, Thermal, GSR, HRV & Respiration modalities

  • 350 students seen in 900 sessions per year


Purpose of Lab

  • To Provide Stress Management/Biofeedback training to help students:

    • Better manage school and other stressors

    • Develop Skills to reduce unwanted tension

    • Lessen interference of stress/anxiety with school performance & overall wellbeing

  • To Provide an Adjunct to Psychotherapy


Lab Personnel

  • 1 Psychologist Lab Supervisor/Admin

  • 1 Psychologist doing tx (4 hours/week)

  • 1 Graduate Assistant Coordinator

  • 2-3 Undergraduate lab assistants


Relaxation Skills Training

  • Body Scan

  • Autogenics

  • Diaphragmatic Breathing

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  • Meditation

  • Visualization

  • Self-Hypnosis

  • Performance Rehearsal


Outreach Presentations

  • Housing—On and Off campus

  • Campus classes

  • Workshops offered in Counseling Center

  • Stress Management Group in Counseling Center

  • Health Fairs


Purpose of Research

  • To better understand the experience of stress of students referred to the lab

  • To determine the effectiveness of biofeedback/relaxation training

  • To increase effectiveness of biofeedback/relaxation training


Research Questions

  • What subjective level of stress do students report on the average?

  • What are the major stress symptoms reported by students?

  • What are students major stresses?

  • What are the major ways students cope with stress?


Research Questions

  • How effective is biofeedback/stress management training?

    • Pre-/Post- changes in EMG Readings?

    • Pre-/Post- change in Temp Readings?

  • How do student self-reports of level of stress change pre- and post- session?

  • Does practice between sessions improve effectiveness of training?


Subjective Measures

  • Student rating of stress for past week

  • Student beginning and ending BF session rating of stress level

  • Anonymous Student report of how useful, relaxing and effective the session was

  • Student report of between-session practice

    • Skill(s) practiced

    • Frequency

    • Effectiveness


Objective Measures

  • EMG and Temperature BF Readings

    • Pre- and Post-treatment readings by session

    • Change in Post-treatment readings over several sessions


Preliminary Data

  • Data Collected from 09/2006 & 01/2007

  • Participants: N =158

  • BF Sessions: N = 282

  • Range: 1-13 sessions

  • Modal session #: 1 session

  • Anonymous Satisfaction surveys: N = 177


Referral Sources to Lab


Percent of Lab Participants by Class and Gender


Top Stress Symptoms Endorsed by Students Referred to Lab


Top Stressors Endorsed by Students Referred to Lab


Top Coping Strategies Endorsed


Intake Form


Intake Form


Recording Form


Tracking Form


Preliminary Results

Students anonymously reported on average that their BF sessions were:

Not Informative Very Informative

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Not Relaxing Very Relaxing

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Not Useful Very Useful

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


Average Usefulness rating of those who practiced was 6.64 out of 10

(10 point scale: O = Least useful; 10 = useful)

49% of students reported they practiced relaxation techniques during the previous week

Results of Home Practice


Self-Report Rating of Stress Pre-and Post-Treatment

Avg Change = 3.555 (10 point scale: 0 = not stressed; 10 = most stressed)


Pre- and Post- Frontal EMG Recordings

Ave Change = 2.285


Pre- and Post- Hand Temperature Recordings

Ave Change = -.573


Preliminary Conclusions

  • BF sessions are effective in reducing stress level in the short run based on subjective data and EMG/Temp readings

  • Students overwhelmingly report BF sessions to be helpful

  • Only half of BF trainees are engaging in home practice of relaxation techniques

  • Those who practice relaxation techniques report it to be useful


Future Investigation

  • Do Pre-Post EMG/Temp BF readings improve significantly over multiple sessions?

  • Do weekly and pre-session subjective ratings decrease significantly over multiple sessions?

  • Do Students who practice show significantly greater improvement compared to those who don’t?

  • How do therapy clients compare to non-clients?


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