Brainspotting is a new treatment approach which works by identifying, processing, and releasing stored negative or traumatic experiences from the brain to help affected individuals heal from within. It also promotes healing for individuals suffering from physical pain.
Brainspotting: What is it?
Brainspotting is a new model of psychotherapy created to help people overcome negative and traumatic emotions, physical trauma, as well as psychologically-induced physical pain. Brainspotting was created by David Grand, PhD. in 2003 as a result of his work with people who had experienced traumatic events such as Hurricane Katrina, the attacks on the World Trade Center, as well as war veterans. Many mental health professionals have found brainspotting to be an effective form of treatment for several mental health problems and physical illnesses.
Brainspotting theory suggests that the brain can heal itself from inside. It aims to stimulate the brain’s healing ability by evoking and releasing the negative emotions and experiences that have been stored in it. It does this by identifying an eye position that triggers and releases these emotions.
This procedure is based on a concept that an individual’s direction of gaze can affect how they feel. It lends to the theory that the eyes have an intense relationship with the brain. Furthermore, brainspotting is based on the fact that trauma is stored in the body and can be activated or triggered at a certain eye position.
The brainspotting therapist uses a pointer to direct the gaze of people in therapy across their field of vision until an eye position is reached that activates a certain traumatic memory or emotion. This helps the therapists to assess an individual’s emotions on a much deeper level and evaluate the psychological effects of a traumatic experience on an individual.
How Does Brainspotting Suggest the Mind Works?
Brainspotting suggests that when an individual experiences a traumatic event, such as a sexual abuse, the negative experiences around the event are stored as memories in the brain.
The individual may attempt to suppress those memories to be able to cope and lead a normal life. The traumatized individual, not having the means to properly deal with the trauma, stores it within and struggles with it on a daily basis. The longer these memories are held on to in the brain, the more they create distortions in the individual’s mental processes, leading to a mental health disorder.
Brainspotting helps the individual assess, process, and release these stored emotions to begin their journey to recovery.
This therapy suggests that by determining an individual’s brainspot, the brain can be stimulated to heal itself.
Dr. Grand defines a “brainspot” as the eye position related to the energetic and 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, these are the parts of the brain which regulate emotion, motivation, impulse control, and memory. He further notes that a brainspot is the physiological subsystem holding emotional experience in memory form.
How Does Brainspotting Cause Change?
Brainspotting aims to release the negative emotions and experiences that have been stored in the brain. For example, a war veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder undergoes brainspotting. During the procedure, the therapist will help him or her to focus on the brainspot which evokes the negative experiences during the traumatic event, such as the moment when a bomb exploded in their camp killing a number of his colleagues. Once the veteran recalls the event, the therapist helps them to process the negative emotions associated with it and, ultimately, release them. This creates a mental environment for quick healing.
Brainspotting works by tapping directly into the parts of the brain regulating emotions, memories, as well as the neurohormonal network of the brain. This, therefore, means that brainspotting promotes both mental and physical healing by regulating the brain’s control of the body.
What Happens in a Brainspotting Session?
Brainspotting may be done with one or both eyes. It is performed by a trained brainspotting therapist who, waving a pointer in front of the patient’s eyes, slowly guides the gaze of the person in therapy across the length of their visual field, to identify the brainspot. When the pointer comes across the brainspot, the deep brain will reflexively send signals to the therapist that a brainspot has been detected. These reflexive signals occur without the patient’s knowledge and may include an eye twitch facial tic, pupillary dilation or constriction, yawns, swallows, foot movement, or coughs. However, changes in facial expressions are the strongest signals of a brainspot.
By finding the brainspot, the therapist triggers the somatosensory experiences in the patient. The therapist then tells the patient to hold that eye position while focusing on the experiences and emotions invoked. The therapist and the patient work closely to determine the brainspot. The patient lets the therapist know when he or she feels a heightened intensity during the brain scan, which corresponds to the brainspot. Over time, accessing these experiences in a safe environment in a therapy session helps the brain release the traumatic emotions and memories, and initiate a self-healing process.
Techniques Used in Brainspotting
Some of the techniques used outside and inside window, bioLateral sound, one eye and rolling, Z axis, integrative model, dual attunement, and neurophysiology. BioLateral sound is a technique of brainspotting which follows the same pattern as eye movement with a pointer. BioLateral sound uses sound waves which moves back and forth across the patient’s audio field at a steady state until it reaches a point where the patient’s negative experiences are triggered.
Does Brainspotting Work?
Brainspotting has been found to be an effective therapy to help people that have experienced traumatic events recover. It is a model of therapy which is well known for its fast results and positive outcome. Therapists have been increasingly incorporating brainspotting to treat psychological and mental concerns. It is also used as an adjunctive therapy in the management of physical pain and injuries. Therapists also use brainspotting to treat certain symptoms, such as low motivation, poor concentration, stress, and certain emotional disturbances.
What Kinds of Concerns is Brainspotting Best for?
Brainspotting is suitable as a treatment for all forms of trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder and physical trauma, anxiety disorders, anger issues, substance use disorder, chronic fatigue and chronic pain syndromes, impulse control disorders, all types of phobias, and sports performance anxiety issues.
How are Brainspotting Therapists Trained?
Individuals who wish to acquire a certification in brainspotting should ideally have a primary degree or certification in clinical psychology, psychology, medicine, psychiatry, or other allied mental health professions. The requirements to become a certified brainspotting specialist include:
- Completion of brainspotting phase 1 and 2 trainings
- Completion of a minimum of five hours of consultation from a brainspotting practitioner, with the last hour including a formal review of the applicant’s knowledge and skills in brainspotting.
- At least fifty hours of practice with brainspotting, with each session documented in a consulting form.
- Certification awarded by Brainspotting Trainings, Inc.
Concerns/Limitations of Brainspotting
Although still a novel field, some studies have reported positive results in patients who have undergone brainspotting therapy. However, a small size of studies done on brainspotting is the limitation to demonstrate the demerits of the model vis-à-vis other methods of therapy available. With more studies on the efficacy of brainspotting underway, these issues will be addressed.
Important Practitioners in Brainspotting
Dr. Grand developed brainspotting and organizes trainings for therapists who want to be specialists in brainspotting. Dr. Grand is a licensed clinical social worker with a Ph.D. and he developed the brainspotting and BioLateral sound therapy approaches to promote recovery in patients who have experienced traumatic events. He is the author of Brainspotting: The Revolutionary New Therapy for Rapid and Effective Change and Emotional Healing at Warp Speed. His clients include survivors of natural disasters and terrorist attacks, professional athletes, and business leaders who seek to achieve emotional and professional breakthroughs. Other certified brainspotting practitioners include Dr. Roby Abeles, a clinical psychologist in Australia, and Roainne Ahn, based in the United States.
How to Find a Therapist
There are many ways to find a good brainspotting practitioner, however, one of the best ways is by speaking with former clients of a practitioner. You can also check through the directory of brainspotting practitioners for those available near you.
What Should I be looking for in an LMHP?
The essential factors you need to consider before choosing a brainspotting therapist include:
- Certification – Your chosen brainspotting therapist should be certified in the techniques of brainspotting.
- Empathy – You need to find someone with whom you are comfortable discussing your concerns with and who is compassionate and patient during the process of recovery.
- Knowledgeable – Your prospective therapist must be knowledgeable and show enough understanding of your concern.
- Communication – Your prospective therapist should be able to clearly explain the brainspotting procedure, its benefits, limitations, and possible outcomes.
Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist
These are essential questions to ask a potential therapist before proceeding with a brainspotting therapy:
- What may be responsible for my symptoms?
- Can I overcome these negative experiences and emotions?
- How will brainspotting help my condition?
- How long will a session of brainspotting therapy last?
- How many sessions of brainspotting are needed to resolve my symptoms?
- How long have you been providing this service?
- What types of brainspotting technique do you use?
- Will the brainspotting procedure be performed by me or a provider?
- Any lifestyle changes to make my brain training more effective?
- Do you have any references or fellow practitioner I could speak to?
Final Thoughts on Brainspotting
Brainspotting is a powerful, focused therapy approach which works by helping an individual locate, process, and release sources of emotional and physical pain and trauma where it has been suppressed in the brain. This treatment approach is effective for treating patients who have experienced physical or psychological trauma, as well as emotional disturbances, anxiety disorders, and phobias. However, the limited data on brainspotting restricts information on the possible drawbacks and complications of this procedure.