Brainspotting is a powerful, focused treatment method that works by identifying, processing and releasing core neuro-physiological sources of emotional/body pain, trauma, dissociation and a variety of challenging symptoms. An offshoot of the acclaimed EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) therapy process, Brainspotting was developed by Dr. David Grand in 2002 and identifies activated eye positions which correspond with the issue of disturbance.
Hypothetically a “brainspot” is activity in the brain in response to focus and eye position. It is based on the understanding that where we look affects how we feel. During a Brainspotting session the relevant eye position (Brainspot) is located by asking a client to think of a disturbing issue and activate himself or herself around it. Once activated (which translates into feeling disturbed), a measurement is taken to determine the rate of disturbance. 0 is neutral and 10 is highly activated.
The client is then asked where they feel the disturbance in their body and an eye position is located that corresponds with that location/feeling. Next a ‘body resource’ is located in order to give the client access to a place where they feel grounded, calm and connected. During process from the activated eye position the client can then shift their attention to this ‘body resource’ at any time during their session in order to allow for more contained and gentle work.
As a therapeutic model Brainspotting encourages no assumptions and no judgments, and works on the belief that each person is unique, with the innate capacity to heal themselves. The therapist is trained to track what emerges during a Brainspotting session on all levels: that is, mind, body, spirit. Ultimately, however, it is the client’s inner wisdom that guides the process. Brainspotting is an approach that utilizes focused mindfulness. It can be extremely effective in treating chronic physical conditions, as well as emotional issues including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
For example, one of my clients came to me with a lot of sexual identity confusion. Their trauma originated with the abuse they suffered at the hands of an authority during adolescence. My client had tried various other therapies prior to our appointment, including EMDR and cognitive psychotherapy. Nothing seemed to relieve the sexual confusion and resulting anxiety. After setting up the session and allowing them to follow whatever feelings and thoughts emerged, various memories not previously recalled were recollected. These were processed and a shift in awareness began: very little intervention was done. Within a couple of sessions the client’s gender identity seemed to become clear.
The hypothesis behind this kind of result is that Brainspotting is a physiological approach with psychological results. As a therapeutic model it lends itself to getting at material we often cannot reach through words, precisely because it appears to work deep within the limbic system of the brain.
Clients can process bodily responses to an incident, with or without words. Another client, who was working on anxiety as a PTSD symptom, described the “fog coming and going” until it cleared. In a very short time the anxiety they had lived with for years cleared and the recurring scene in his/her mind stopped repeating. They reported that relationships with family and friends began to shift in a more positive direction.
Another client, who suffered from PTSD, described the process as very much like watching a movie of past events. According to this client, when the events cleared with the help of Brainspotting,his/ her body felt less tense. Within a short period of time they reported being less reactive to people.
Each person’s experience will be different. What happens can be very unexpected.
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