The Skillful Brain Coach: Five Keys to Successful Brain Training

Cognitive training is most effective when it involves collaboration between the client and an enthusiastic, dynamic “Brain Coach.” Like a top-notch athletic coach, the Skillful Brain Coach has a deep understanding of and respect for the people he is coaching, a grasp of how to utilize technology to expedite the process and foster generalization, and a sense of how to provide motivation when the going gets tough.

The following brain training rules from Dr. Joseph Sandford, author of BrainTrain’s cognitive training software programs, can help clinicians better understand how cognitive training works and the role they play in the process.

The Five Rules of Brain Training or “The Skillful Brain Coach”

Rule #1: The Rule of TIME

Clients must work for a minimum of 30 minutes each day for at least 10 weeks. Most will need to complete at least 20 hours of training, and some may need 30-40 hours of training. Since some days will be missed, it is best to plan for a three-month training program.

Rule #2: The Rule of COMMITMENT

Learning from one’s mistakes and understanding how to improve one’s performance require persistence. When the going gets tough, the Skillful Brain Coach provides the encouragement, enthusiasm and positive feedback needed to help the client persevere.

Rule #3: The Rule of CHALLENGE

In the beginning, the training is easy. But brain training must increase in difficulty to be effective. Simply put, “No Strain, No Gain.” The Skillful Brain Coach prepares her client for the inevitable 8-hour “brick wall” by requiring perfect performance when the exercises are easy. She can help the client envision that when the training is difficult, that’s when it is really helping the brain develop new connections.

Rule #4: The Rule of MOTIVATION

The Skillful Brain Coach sets specific concrete goals and discusses them with the client in the beginning. Rewards – prizes, special privileges, praise – are essential all along the way. When reviewing progress, the Skillful Brain Coach recognizes the importance of the client’s persistence and provides reinforcement that the goals are being achieved.

Rule #5: The Rule of INTERACTION

Joint, cooperative, problem solving makes training more fun and helps generalize its benefits. The Skillful Brain Coach might even try doing difficult exercises and asking the client to help him, enabling the client to think actively with no performance pressure. Or in some cases, the Coach may provide the client with the opportunity to compete against him and win, improving the client’s confidence and self-esteem. Brainstorming with the client can help develop learning strategies and new ways of thinking. The goal is to foster generalization in academic, work and social environments.

Do you have ideas to share on being a Skillful Brain Coach? We’d love to hear about them. Email them to us, and we’ll publish selected ones on our website.

In-depth training with the author on how to use the Captain’s Log MindPower Builder system is available. For more information, click here.