Don’t Try This at Home

Professional vs. Amateur

Brain training is experiential. You don’t learn it by reading about it or taking courses or attending lectures. You learn it by doing it. Since there is a bit of a learning curve, as with any new technology, it makes sense that a professional would have a lot more experience and thus get better results. And if demonstrated competence were a requirement to sell your training services, that might be true.

I’ve worked with hundreds of trainers over my years—teaching them, supervising them and consulting with them. I guess I could name a few more than 10 I consider great trainers—people to whom I’d send a close friend or family member. When I was running Attention Development Programs in Atlanta through the 90’s we had 3-4 offices most of the decade. I did all the training in one and hired trainers to handle the others with my training plans and under supervision. Some went back to school, or moved with husbands to a new city, or got tired of training, so I was always on the look-out for candidates. It was important to me to figure out what made the great trainers great. I studied it and still do today.

What Makes a Great Trainer

They train their own brains FIRST. Just as you wouldn’t hire a baseball coach who had never played baseball, a trainer who has not worked toward his own goals by training his brain would automatically be off my list. Either he believes his brain is already perfect or he doesn’t believe there’s much value to the training.

They are, first and foremost, coaches. They are skilled with the technology, but they aren’t technicians. They don’t categorize or judge—even if their professional training has pushed them in that direction. They take clients as they came, help them set goals and work toward them, motivate them (sometimes with a pat on the back; sometimes a kick in the tail), help them see their progress and give them the credit for the results achieved.

Counselors and therapists can be great coaches.—so can teachers, coaches, parents and friends. Brain training is not psychotherapy, though for some kinds of problems that skill is a very helpful element of the training.

Home trainers

The two things I tell people interested in home-based training are:

1. You need someone in the household who is organized and motivated enough to make sure the training happens. We call this person IT—the Identified Trainer. Without an IT, the expensive equipment will end up on that shelf in the closet with all the other cool stuff you bought…and then never used.

2. The IT cannot be actively at war with the person for whom the training is intended. If Mom wants to be the trainer of her 16-year-old rebellious daughter, chances are that training will just become another front in the war.

I tell lay and pro trainers (after years of painful experience): If you can’t get comfortable with a computer and with Windows, DON’T START. If you are scared or confused by computers, if they never seem to work right for you, learning brain training will be like trying to learn algebra in a foreign language. It’s truly not rocket science. Learn it or get someone to handle the tech stuff beyond the simple opening and running of a session.

Be aware that it’s a hundred times easier to train someone else than to train yourself. Trying to be the client and the trainer at the same time never really lets you be the client. If you want to train your child, ask her to be YOUR trainer. That changes the whole dynamic of training. It’s not, “you have to do this because you’re sick.” Now it’s, “I want to try this to help me control my temper better (or whatever). Would you learn it with me, so you can be my trainer?”

Can you train yourself? I did and do. Many of our clients do.

Home or Professional

Logistics are a critical issue. Are you more likely to make it to a scheduled session with a professional, or more likely to train if you can fit it in when you have an hour without having to travel, schedule, etc.? Can you afford two sessions a week?

Another consideration relates to family systems. The more people who train in a system at the same time, the easier the changes. Financing and scheduling may be easier in a professional’s office—or built into your family’s routine.

Are you willing to make the commitment to buy a system, learn to use it, keep on track with the training? Or do you want to pay a pro to guide you on the journey and provide what you need?

Just be aware, that if you are motivated and open to learning, you can get great results training your own brain. If not, find someone you like to train you.

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4 thoughts on “Don’t Try This at Home

  1. In today’s blog, you said, “Be aware that it’s a hundred times easier to train someone else than to train yourself. Trying to be the client and the trainer at the same time never really lets you be the client.”

    Can you please explain this further ? Is it due to hookup problems or any psychological aspects ?

    1. Devidas, Certainly it can be more complicated to put electrodes on your own head than on someone else’s, though an electrocap reduces that problem quite a bit. The second issue is the requirement that the trainer keep an eye on thresholds and perhaps the timer. Not impossible, and hopefully not necessary with many of the brain-trainer protocols, but a distraction. And that, I guess, is where the real problem comes in. Training involves focus on feedback, but when you are the trainer AND the trainee, it’s easy to start focusing on how to change the feedback. How could the music be different, how about switching games, the amount of shadowing on the film is too great, etc. The client keeps wanting to become the trainer. Many of the brain-trainer designs are set so there is no intervention by the trainer required, but to stay purely focused on the feedback as a mirror of your brain’s activity is a challenge even when there is someone sitting in the trainer’s chair. If that somebody is also you, it’s a lot easier to get less than you should from the experience of training.

      1. Thanks Pete. Yes. I know first hand how difficult it is to apply electrodes without cap. And I do use all the designs without any threshold changes in between. Is that ok ? Rather I would love to have all designs capable of it totally. Thanks so much. Devidas

        1. Most of the brain-trainer designs automatically set the threshold baselines using the brain where it is at the beginning of the session, so you don’t need to mess with the thresholds.

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