Brainspotting is an advanced form of psychotherapy that can access parts of the brain that are often hidden from our awarenss.
Brainspotting provides a neurobiological tool for accessing, diagnosing, and treating a wide range of somatic and emotionally-based conditions.
What is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting is a relatively new form of treatment that taps into the body’s innate ability to heal in order to reduce and eliminate the impact of unresolved trauma, negative beliefs, and emotional distress. It accomplishes this by using a unique and powerful combination of specific eye positioning and bilateral auditory stimulation.
Many experts in the area of trauma treatment believe that when overwhelmed by something traumatic or deeply distressing, the emotional “charge” or memory from that event becomes stored or trapped in our body. We’re often unaware that this has even occurred, but our brain is altered as a result. It can cause problems on all levels – emotionally, mentally and physically.
Brainspotting is designed to discover, dislodge and ultimately release that trapped energy so that it no longer causes problems in our life.
We may have a degree of awareness as to what might be at the root of a feeling. In other words, we might think we know why we’re feeling a certain way. But there are often additional connections that are typically beyond the reach of our conscious mind.
They are actually in areas of the brain that aren’t accessible through talking. Brainspotting appears to take place at a reflexive or cellular level within the nervous system, which can cancel out these unwanted emotional and physiological responses.
Brainspotting treatment combines psychology with physiology, bridging the mind-body connection
What is a “Brainspot?”
“A “Brainspot” is the eye position which is related to the energetic/emotional activation of a traumatic/emotionally charged issue within the brain, most likely in the amygdala, the hippocampus, or the orbitofrontal cortex of the limbic system.
Located by eye position, paired with externally observed and internally experienced reflexive responses, a Brainspot is actually a physiological subsystem holding emotional experience in memory form.” David Grand, PhD
How do Therapists Identify Brainspots?
Brainspotting is usually done with both eyes but may also be done with one. A therapist identifies a Brainspot by waving a pen-shaped object in a specific pattern in front of the patient’s eyes, and when the pen-like object comes across a Brainspot, the deep brain will reflexively signal to the therapist that a Brainspot has been found.
This happens outside of the patient’s consciousness. These reflexive signals can include (all without the patient being aware of these happening) an eye twitch, facial tic, brow furrow, facial tic, pupil dilation/constriction, swallows, yawns, coughs, foot movement or body shifting. Among these signals, facial expressions are the strongest indicators of a Brainspot.
The identification of a reflexive response that indicates a Brainspot hints at the somatosensory experience of the trauma, emotional or somatic problem. By finding these Brainspots, the therapist is triggering these somatosensory experiences in the patient.
To access the Brainspot and the emotions that can follow, the therapist holds the patient’s eye position while the patient focuses on the experience of the symptom being accessed by the Brainspotting.
The therapist and patient work together to find the Brainspots.
The patient participates in this by letting the therapist know, during the Brainspotting scan, when he or she feels any heightened intensity, either physically or emotionally.
Graciela Bilis has received advanced-level training from David Grand, PhD., the developer of Branspotting
How Brainspotting Works
Brainspotting works by directly tapping into the brain’s autonomic and limbic systems, located within the central nervous system. Because of this, it can be considered aphysiological treatment, and provides physical benefits as well as psychological and emotional.
Brainspotting works as both a diagnostic tool and a treatment. It works by assessing what a person’s core neurophysiological sources of emotional/body pain, trauma, dissociation, are.
Brainspotting functions as a neurobiological tool as it identifies, processes, and loosens up the symptoms that are hidden away in the unconscious mind.
The brainspot is used to help you process the traumatic experience. Before this processing can occur, the brainspot must be located.
Sometimes a brainspot is located by you noticing an increase in your distress. It may also be located by the therapist observing a reflexive response in your eyes or body, such as a twitch, a sudden change in your breathing, a yawn, or a change in your expression. The reflexive response lets the therapist know that the brainspot has been found.
The therapist will use a pointer aimed at a specific point in space associated with your brainspot. The therapist will have you focus on that point while simultaneously focusing on something that is causing emotional distress. During this process you’ll also be listening to bilateral sounds.
Sometimes the therapist will use a “resource brainspot”. Unlike the regular brainspot that correlates with painful emotions, the resource brainspot correlates with a sense of support or a feeling of groundedness, which can ease the intensity of processing if needed.
In Brainspotting, part of the therapist’s job is to “attune” to you once the brainspot has been located. Together, you observe and process the trauma that has been trapped within you for so long. As the trauma is released, healing immediately starts to occur deep within your unconscious. This will gradually lead to a deep sense of relief as the processing continues.
The beauty of Brainspotting is that it enables you to process painful traumatic memories without feeling highly aroused. In fact, many therapy clients feel very calm and even peaceful during Brainspotting sessions.
This, combined with the fact that Brainspotting doesn’t require a detailed account of the trauma in order to work, is part of what makes it such an appealing intervention to trauma survivors.
Bilateral Stimulation in Brainspotting
The most common sounds used in Brainspotting are music, nature sounds, or tones. The sounds help facilitate treatment by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. They also help you feel more relaxed by calming the sympathetic nervous system (the latter enables you to respond quickly to immediate danger by getting your adrenaline flowing).
Dr. Grand has actually created a series of 6 “Biolateral CDs” (note the difference in spelling) that clinicians can use in their Brainspotting sessions.
Goals of Brainspotting
There are three primary goals or areas of focus in Brainspotting.
1- desensitization – in other words, to help you no longer react (emotionally or physically) to triggers.
2- to identify the underlying cause of those over-reactions. In many cases the underlying issue is a traumatic event in your past. You may not even remember that traumatic experience because you’ve repressed it. Or, you do remember it but had never made the connection between it and your reactions and current symptoms. For many individuals, the connection is missed because they never thought of the event as “traumatic”, even though it left a deep wound in their psyche that has never healed.
Often, the impact of unresolved trauma manifests at least in part in the form of negative or limiting beliefs about oneself, which also need to be identified. For example, if you were physically or sexually abused, or experienced some form of abandonment early in your life, you may have come to believe that you’re worthless – undeserving of positive things such as love, respect, or success. As you might imagine, that deeply ingrained negative self-belief would inevitably cause one or more important areas of your life – your relationships, academic performance, career, etc. – to suffer.
3- to essentially “re-process” or rewire our brain with regards to the past and release the distressing or traumatic memory that’s been stuck for so long. This release is what finally allows troubling symptoms to abate and enables you to move forward with your life, no longer hindered by the past.
A Brief History of Brainspotting
Brainspotting is a relatively new type of therapy. Dr. David Grand, a licensed clinical social worker, essentially stumbled upon the technique in 2003 during a therapy session with a figure skater. His discovery of the relationship between “brainspots” and unresolved trauma occurred when the skater was talking about the trouble she was having with a particular jump. He noticed that her eyes seemed to react to a particular spot in her field of vision as she talked about this issue, so he instructed her to focus on that spot as she talked. Doing this enabled the skater to finally process trauma that had been keeping her stuck. As a result, the particular jump was never a problem for her again.
Since that time, Dr. Grand came to more fully understand the connection between where therapy clients focus their eyes while talking about an issue and the underlying neurological processes. This led to the development of Brainspotting as an effective, short-term treatment for unresolved trauma and other problems for which many individuals seek therapy. It is also now being used in non-clinical areas, including improving performance in sports and enhancing creativity in those involved in the creative arts.
In addition to his work has a therapist, Dr. Grand is also a performance coach, humanitarian, lecturer, and writer. Some of his clients include professional athletes, well-known actors, and leaders in business. He has also helped trauma survivors from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and many veterans who have found themselves battling PTSD upon returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. His expertise and skills as a trauma therapist continues to be sought by many.
Advantages of Brainspotting
Benefits of Brainspotting
Disorders, problems, and conditions that may benefit from Brainspotting include:
Non Clinical Areas