Brainspotting therapy is a relatively new technique in the world of mind body therapy for trauma. This type of advanced brain-body therapy is designed to assist you in overcoming trauma and the negative emotions associated with it, such as anxiety. This powerful therapy for emotional stress is designed to assist patients in calming your nervous system at a different level than talk therapy can reach.
What is Brainspotting?
Simply put, Brainspotting is an advanced mind body therapy that puts a focus on identifying past trauma(s), processing them, and releasing any mental imbalances and/or residual emotional stress associated with the trauma(s). This unique brain body technique reaches the subcortical region of the brain where unprocessed trauma can be stored and has the potential to assist in creativity and performance enhancement. Brainspotting in combination with traditional talk therapy can be a powerful, quick way to resolve mental health issues such as depression, emotional stress, and anxiety.
This advanced brain-body therapy was discovered in 2003 by psychotherapist David Grand, who believed that where you look has an effect on how you feel. Brainspotting is based on this premise by Dr. Grand and the idea that eye movement is correlated to the unconscious, emotional experiences we are holding onto. This type of advanced mind body therapy reaches parts of the brain that are generally not accessible through traditional talk therapy practices.
Is Brainspotting the same as EMDR?
Brainspotting, although based on EMDR, is not the same. EMDR, otherwise known as Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, is a type of psychotherapy that was originally designed to alleviate the negative emotions associated with a past trauma or traumas. The main difference between the two brain body techniques is that Brainspotting has the patient focus on one point during a session, while EMDR utilizes back-and-forth rapid eye movements.
Both Brainspotting and EMDR support the processing of any negative emotions, such as anxiety, associated with past trauma and help to retrain emotional reactions in the patient. Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is typically done as a mind body practice on its own, but Brainspotting can be used as a therapy on its own or in addition to other therapies, such as traditional talk therapy.
What happens in a Brainspotting session?
Every psychotherapist or psychologist will practice Brainspotting therapy slightly differently, but each session is focused on the “brainspot.” The brainspot is the specific position of the eye that is connected to the part of the brain holding the traumatic experience(s) and brings that experience into a patient’s conscious awareness where it can be reprocessed and healed. The continuous mindful attention to the brainspot allows the trauma to be released, therefore bringing both the mind and the body closer to equilibrium. As these unconscious memories associated with traumatic experiences are brought into our conscious awareness, these experiences can be dealt with in a healthy way and moved into a different part of the brain that allows for the patient to move forward with their life.
A typical Brainspotting therapy session usually begins with the therapist asking their patient questions relating to traumatic brain injuries, drug or alcohol abuse, and familial history. Next, the therapist will ask the patient to briefly explain the past traumatic experience and/or any related scenarios. The next step involves the therapist asking the patient to think about the experience(s) to the fullest extent, including any emotions associated with it, such as discomfort, pain, sadness, and/or anger.
The third step is to identify where in your body you are feeling anxiety, pain, anger, or any other emotions associated with the past traumatic experience(s). Some typical places people hold trauma are in the jaw, chest, stomach, and neck. The fourth step in a brainspotting session is to maintain these negative emotions and over analyze them. While you are consciously thinking about these negative emotions, the therapist will encourage you to say whatever thought comes to mind even if they don’t make sense. These negative thoughts are the ones being stored deep in your unconscious brain that the therapist is aiming to expel.
The fifth step in this advanced mind body therapy for trauma is listening to bilateral sounds or music through noise-cancelling headphones. The final step in this advanced brain-body therapy involves the therapist asking the patient to follow the end of a pointer with your eyes while consciously thinking/rethinking about the traumatic experience you are working toward healing.
Does Brainspotting really work?
This advanced brain-body therapy might seem too good to be true, but a lot of people with past trauma have found relief from this type of psychotherapy. It is already known that trauma lives in the personal experience of a traumatic event, but not in the actual event itself. When a traumatic event happens to a person, their bodily systems get overwhelmed and as a result they are not able to process it. When this happens, our primitive brain takes over and if we are not able to escape the situation, our body shuts down in order to survive. As a result, we hold traumatic experiences in our implicit memory, unable to be processed if we do not actively try to re-process and heal from these experiences. Considering that brainspotting activates both the brain and the body at the same time, it is a lot easier to re-process these traumatic events and eventually heal from them.
More resources on Brainspotting Therapy:
Journal for Psychotraumatology, Psychotherapy Science and Psychological Medicine. A preliminary study of the efficacy of Brainspotting – a new therapy for the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
About Innerlight Counseling LLC
Rachel Moore LPC is a licensed Brainspotting therapist offering counseling for trauma and anxiety and caregiver burnout in the Denver metro area. She has over 10 years of experience working with patients who have anxiety and depression as well as providing caregiver support and resources who work in a variety of different roles.