The goal of Brainspotting therapy is to assist individuals in gaining new perspectives on longstanding issues. This can result in a release from the grip of past traumas and allow for a fresh approach to creative, personal and professional difficulties. The immediate aftermath of a session can differ from person to person, with some feeling drained or emotionally vulnerable, while others may feel a sense of relief or even elation. Ultimately, Brainspotting aims to help individuals let go of traumatic experiences and limitations, leading to a feeling of freedom and ease in all areas of life.
How does Brainspotting work?
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BSP uses the brain’s natural ability for self-scanning and self-healing. BSP finds points in the client’s visual field to reach subcortical parts of the brain that store trauma, to release the emotional charge around past experiences, negative patterns, and beliefs. It uses eye position, body awareness, focused mindfulness, and the therapist’s relational and neurobiological attunement to the client’s process.
BSP often involves the use of bilateral sounds, such as music or nature sounds that alternate between the right and left ears. This helps balance activation of the brain's hemispheres and activates the parasympathetic, or calming, part of the nervous system.
BSP helps individuals process and resolve trauma by connecting with both distressed and calm areas in the body. The therapy often involves minimal talking and can lead to both rapid relief of distress and significant insights. It focuses on the subcortical brain, which can allow for more efficient processing of the trauma in a contained and supportive environment.
Neurobiology of trauma and Brainspotting
Trauma majorly affects the following subcortical structures of the brain: amygdala (fear center), insula (interoception center), hippocampus (memory center), and cingulate cortex (self-regulation center). Additionally, it negatively impacts the prefrontal cortex, or thinking center of the brain, which makes concentration, decision-making, self-awareness, and social connections challenging.
Considering that subcortical areas are outside of conscious awareness and conscious control, regular talk therapies can have a limited effect since they address the prefrontal cortex (talking and thinking). BSP aims to bypass the prefrontal cortex to the subcortex to access remnants of unprocessed trauma. Based on Dr. Grand’s idea that “Where you look affects how you feel”, BSP accesses the subcortical brain through the use of a "spot" in the client’s field of vision. It is this “brainspot” that offers a window into the deep brain structures.
How was Brainspotting developed?
Brainspotting was developed in 2003 by Dr. David Grand, an eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), psychodynamic, and relational therapist. The approach comes from an observation Dr. Grand made when working with one of his clients, an ice skater named Karen. Karen was struggling with performing a triple loop due to her extensive psychological trauma history and performance anxiety. During one of their EMDR sessions, Dr. Grand was moving his fingers back and forth across Karen’s visual field. He noticed a series of eye wobbles when his fingers crossed the midline of Karen’s nose. He followed his intuition to stay at that spot rather than continue movements. In the next 10 minutes, while focusing on that spot, Karen processed her painful memories in a different way than before in their work together. The next morning, Karen called him from her practice to inform him she was able to perform the triple loop with no problem.
Dr. Grand then experimented with his findings and shared them with his colleagues that were fascinated with his results. Throughout the years, Dr. Grand has been researching and developing Brainspotting as an approach that can rapidly help clients resolve their traumas for lasting and effective relief.
There are currently over 13000 therapists trained in BSP with about 50 trainers worldwide.
Brainspotting can help with:
- Trauma, such as sexual or physical abuse, witnessing or experiencing an accident, natural disasters, military combat, or sudden serious medical diagnosis
- Relational trauma and attachment difficulties
- Self-esteem and confidence issues
- Stress and overwhelm
- Shame and guilt
- Anxiety, fears, and phobias
- Difficulty controlling certain behaviours, such as over-eating or shopping, binge-watching or scrolling, irritability, or procrastination
- Painful memories and life experiences
- Difficulty in relationships, such as over-extending oneself, loneliness, frequent arguing, or feeling misunderstood
- Creative blocks, such as audition anxiety or writer's block
- Preparation for and recovery from birth or surgery
What are the benefits of Brainspotting?
Brainspotting ™ (BSP) is a brain-based treatment that taps into the brain’s natural healing and neuroplasticity processes. BSP allows the person to process and release negative beliefs, stress, creative blocks, and emotional pain.
Trauma effects on the brain