Behav Med Foundation – Heart-Rate Variability Home Study Course

Behav Med Foundation – Heart-Rate Variability Home Study Course

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There are both live and email interactions with the instructor in the at home learning format. You can work with the instructor for up to one year after the course ends if you start after three months. BCIA requires a certificate in heart rate variability. The methods for evaluation and modification of autonomic quieting are emphasized. Heart rate variability psychophysiology, instrument, measurement, and applications are some of the topics covered.

You will learn by watching audiovisual lectures provided on the course web, reading assignments both from materials provided on the course site, watching a movie, and interacting extensively with the instructor via e-mail and phone. Instead of taking exams, you will answer short essay questions. This course requires between 20 and 35 hours of work by previous students. The material in this course is easier to understand and relate to the rest of the body’s functions if youTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkia is aTrademarkiaTrademarkia is aTrademarkiaTrademarkia is aTrademarkiaTrademarkia is aTrademarkia is aTrademarkiaTrademarkia is aTrademarkia is aTrademarkiaTrademarkiaTrademarkia is aTrademarkiaTrademarkia

  1. Have knowledge of each topic (listed below) required to earn the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance’s (BCIA’s) certificate in Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback.
  2. Understand how basic cardiac anatomy and physiology (A&P) relate to HRV.
  3. Be able to determine your own resonance frequency and calculate it for others.
  4. Have sufficient knowledge of respiratory A&P to relate it to HEV.
  5. Understand how the autonomic nervous system’s A&P cause changes in organ system functioning.
  6. Be able to use standard biofeedback instruments to measure, assess, and feedback HRV.
  7. Be able to train people to change their HRV through biofeedback.


Required Equipment

Computer and Computer Knowledge Requirements:


Topic Outline:


Delivery Method

Specific Course Objectives: As a result of taking this course, you should be able to:

Home study supported by e-mail chats after each unit is completed. The course is divided into a series of units based on organ systems. You will progress through each unit by watching an introductory audiovisual lecture on the course web site about an organ system followed by reading one or more chapters in the required book, text files on the course web site and, if you are using one or more of them, possibly in one of the optional books. After watching the lecture and reading the assigned material, you will answer a brief series of questions located in the review question file on the course web site. The answered questions are then e-mailed to the instructor. You and the instructor will discuss each unit via e-mail or phone after your answers are assessed. You do not have to wait for the discussion to proceed to the succeeding lecture & chapters. You are more than welcome to spend extra time with the instructor discussing topics related to the course and biofeedback in general. The cost of the texts is not included in the course fee.

Accessibility: Hearing impaired people can view the slides only as virtually all of the material presented in the lectures is typed onto the slides. Visually impaired people can concentrate on the verbal lectures as the slide material is repeated in the lecture accompanying each slide.

To take this course you must have access to a biofeedback system capable of measuring respiration and HR simultaneously, with an on-line spectral analysis display of some sort. Acceptable systems include J&J, Thought Technology, Nexus, and Biocomp. If you have a different system, contact the instructor prior to purchasing the course. The HeartMath and Stress Eraser devices are not sufficient, nor are various smart phone applications, although all of these can be used clinically.

Anybody with a modern computer and a bit of basic understanding of computer operation (at the level of being able to send e-mails) can play this course with minimal problems. You must have a computer (a) capable of connecting to the internet and running a typical internet program, (b) containing/running a modern word processor such as Microsoft word or Word Perfect, (c) the capability to play sounds such as music (has speakers and appropriate software which normally come with any modern computer), and (d) a slide viewing program such as Power Point (you can probably get a slide viewing program free off the internet if you don’t have one). Any modern (e.g., built within the last ten years), IBM style computer running Windows 98 and more recent platforms (e.g., XP or Windows 8) should be able to do this. Speed, hard disk size, and RAM are not factors for computers in the above category.

Hundreds of students have used recent Apple products (MACs etc.) for the Foundation’s courses. However they frequently have more difficulty playing the course materials than PC users do. If you are using a MAC type of computer, you must have a current version of “quicktime” . If you do not have it, you can download it for free from the web.

The course is given by Dr. Paul M. Lehrer, Ph.D. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the UMDNJ?Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Lehrer has published hundreds of studies many of which established the basics of HRV and its biofeedback based interventions. He has been president of the field’s professional organization – The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) – and currently chairs its sister research support organization. Full CV available upon request and on the course web site.

I. Cardiac Anatomy & Physiology (1 hour)

A. How the ECG is generated

B. Sympathetic and parasympathetic influences

C. Heart-brain interaction.

II. Respiratory Anatomy & Physiology (1 hour)

A. The functions of breathing

B. The respiratory cycle

C. Muscle involvement in breathing

D. The Bohr effect

E. Functional and dysfunctional breathing behaviors

III. Autonomic Nervous System Anatomy & Physiology (.5 hour)

A. Three autonomic branches

B. The vagus nerve

IV. Heart Rate Variability (2 hours)

A. The meaning of HRV

B. The sources of HRV

C. Factors that influence HRV

D. Correlates of low and normal HRV

E. The benefits of increased HRV

V. HRV Instrumentation (3 hours)

A. Blood volume pulse (BVP)

(1. Source, 2. PPG sensor, 3. Signal, 4. Placements, 5. Tracking test, & 6. Artifacts)

B. The electrocardiogram (ECG)

(1. Source, 2. ECG sensor, 3. Signal, 4. Placements , 5. Tracking test, & 6. Artifacts)

C. Pneumograph

(1. Source, 2. sensor, 3. Signal, 4. Placements, 5. Tracking test, & 6. Artifacts)

VI. HRV Measurements (2 hours)

A. Time domain measurements and their meaning, properties, and correlates

B. Frequency domain measurements and their meaning, properties, and correlates

C. Brief versus 24-hour Holter monitoring

D. How to interpret HRV measurements

VII. HRV Biofeedback Strategies (4 hours)

A. How to explain HRV biofeedback to a client

B. How to assess breathing

C. How to measure the resonance frequency

D. How to teach resonance frequency breathing

E. How to structure an HRV biofeedback training session

F. How to augment training with emotional regulation strategies

G. HRV biofeedback side effects and contraindications

H. Practice assignments to promote generalization

VIII. HRV Biofeedback Applications (1.5 hours)

A. Clinical applications

B. Optimal performance applications

IX You aren’t quite done yet.

Fill out (1) the Foundation’s course evaluation form and (2) the BCIA evaluation form (MS Word file named “A&P BCIA evaluation form”) and send it to BCIA (

When all requirements have been successfully completed, your course completion certificate will be e-mailed to you and BCIA will be informed that you completed the course.

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