By Rollin McCraty MD, and Lee Lipsenthal, MD.
Cardiac coherence therapy involves the use of biofeedback to control heart rate variability (HRV) - the moment-to-moment change in heart rate. With the help of the clinician, a person can learn to make the heart rate fluctuation more rhythmic or coherent. The skills learned with the use of the biofeedback can be practiced at home for relaxation and can be used as a stress management tool during daily activities. However, the program is much more than a simple relaxation technique - you will learn to appreciate yourself, to substitute stressful responses with more positive emotions, and to more freely engage your caring side.
We have long known that stress stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response) and relaxation or positive emotions involve the parasympathetic system. Research has shown a direct connection between sympathetic vs. parasympathetic activity and physical and mental health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, depression, and anxiety. Also, there appears to be a two-way communication system between the brain and the nerves surrounding the heart which affects the body's stress hormones and immune system. Research has shown that CCT helps the individual better manage stress and anxiety and improve work satisfaction and performance. Additionally, for athletes, sports performance can also be improved. HRV pattern associated with a stress response may be a risk factor for complications in cardiac patients and further research is being conducted into the role of CCT for these patients.
Cardiac coherence therapy has been used most commonly for:
There are no specific contra-indications to CCT, but individuals who are actively suicidal or psychotic may require a more intensive level of psychiatric care. Additionally, there may be technical difficulties with the use of this form of biofeedback for individuals with cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).
More info: The science behind cardiac coherence therapy The Heart-Brain Connection
Authors Rollin McCraty, and Lee Lipsenthal are board certified doctors. For more information visit HeartMath.org.
Heart Health Topics