“Where you look affects how you feel.” Dr. David Grand
When I read those words, I was immediately curious.
Even more so when I learned that over 13,000 trained therapists actively practice Brainspotting across the US, Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Asia. They have been using it to successfully address and resolve trauma, PTSD, and many other issues. To learn more I conducted an interview with Dr. Christine Ranck.
Brainspotting is quickly gaining worldwide renown as a powerful and effective method for the therapeutic treatment of diverse issues and challenges.
I hadn’t heard of Brainspotting – or BSP – being used in India by therapists, mental health professionals, healers, or coaches. My colleague, who met Dr. David Grand in the US, was enthused and eager to introduce the theory and practice in India. So was I when I heard more. We knew this would be of value to both helping professionals and the people who turned to them for help.
So, what is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting was discovered and developed in 2003 by Dr. David Grand, PhD., a master EMDR facilitator and ‘one of the most important and effective psychological trauma therapists now practicing.’ Through the use of extremely slow eye movements, he discovered that “where his clients look affects how they feel.” Dr. Grand found that, unlike eye movements, stationary eye positions (called Brainspots) create a direct connection to the neural networks that carry specific trauma. Brainspotting identifies, processes and releases core neuro-physiological sources of emotional / body pain, trauma, dissociation, and other symptoms. It taps into and harnesses the body’s natural self-scanning, self-healing ability. Like EMDR, Brainspotting is one of the new ‘power therapies’ that works faster and more effectively than longer, traditional talk therapies. It is also a brain-based tool that does support the therapy relationship.
Interview with Dr. Christine Ranck
I spoke to Dr. Christine Ranck, PhD., one of the earliest practitioners of Brainspotting, to learn more. A colleague of Dr. Grand, she was sharing an office with him in 2003 and started using the tool almost as soon as he developed it. “I am a psychoanalyst, so when I learned EMDR, I found it was quicker. But then, when I learned BSP, I switched my talk therapy clients to BSP. Talk therapy helps … but sometimes it doesn’t get to the reptilian brain.”
To resolve trauma, BSP can get into the mammalian brain and bypass the thinking brain. This means bypassing the neo-cortex and getting to the deeper, more emotional responses of the sub-cortex. Dr. Grand says that “It is the brain’s activity, especially the deeper brain, the sub-cortical brain that organizes itself around the eye position.”
What is an eye position
The idea of an eye position is really quite unique, as is finding the spots. Anger and sadness are so close to each other. When a Brainspot is stimulated, the deep brain appears to reflexively signal the therapist that the problem’s source has been found. With focus and precision – like a laser beam – the Brainspot locates where the patient is holding the trauma and then allows the brain to process through the trauma in a way that talk therapy alone cannot. The brain knows how to do this on its own. BSP can also, therefore, be used to find and strengthen our natural resources and resilience. In addition to an activation model, it is also a resource model, where the patient feels more grounded, calm, resilient, and “….then you find a brainspot for the grounded-ness – a groundspot, and then process the trauma from that.”
The goal of brainspotting
Brainspotting’s goal, Dr. Grand affirms, is to create rapid, immediate, profound, and permanent change. The basic model, he believes, is ideally two sessions – to experience, resolve and review. Of course, depending on the person and the issue, the therapy takes its own time but is far quicker than others.
“I was skeptical at first,” says Dr. Ranck, “but I have learned from experience that, with BSP, you can make miracles for some people. Even victims of rape and violent assault have recovered so fast! People can feel good again fast.”
What conditions can Brainspotting work with?
BSP works well not with just deep trauma but also in the treatment of people with a range of issues – medical, physical, and psycho-emotional. From relationships and professional performance anxiety, deep worries, and fears to creativity enhancement, BSP is a valuable resource. Dr. Grand, myself, and many other practitioners have seen tremendous breakthroughs using this revolutionary tool. It also works really well with children since they are more open and haven’t yet completely developed. BSP also works well with couples or in groups. There’s not a single issue that cannot be addressed with Brainspotting.”
The difference between BSP and EMDR
There is a vast difference between BSP and EMDR. In Dr. Ranck’s experience, BSP is gentler and works faster sometimes. Researchers have now found that with EMDR, rapid eye movements can be traumatizing, often overwhelming the patient. It also is dictated by the protocol, where every single step must be followed. “People aren’t made that way,” says Dr. Ranck. “It cannot be a cookie-cutter protocol.”
Since I see it as a mind-body tool, I ask her if it is meditative. She agrees and tells me that the mindfulness aspect of it is indeed meditative. A very deep process where the patient stays focused on the brainspot can be very gentle and very relaxing, even though usually a lot is going on in the mid-brain. There is no language in the mid-brain, only emotion and images, and memory. There are times when it is not necessary to talk at all.
The BSP philosophy is unique. The mindfulness of the process is essential. It depends on very powerful attunement – staying in tune with the client and paying close attention to their physiology and neurobiology. It is about following the client and the system. “The system will work if you get out of the way…As therapists, we are trained to be the experts and see the themes. In the BSP philosophy, the client is the expert… we are quiet and do not lead the client. The process goes exactly as it is intended. Keeping quiet is a difficult thing for psychoanalysts to do! Here it all about WAIT – Why Am I Talking?” says Dr. Ranck.
A “no assumptions” model
“Brainspotting is based on the profound attunement of the therapist with the patient, finding a somatic cue and extinguishing it by down-regulating the amygdala. It isn’t just PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System) activation that is facilitated, it is homeostasis.” — Robert Scaer, MD, “The Trauma Spectrum”
But what about professionals who already work successfully with other methods? Therapists are learning and growing throughout their careers. No matter what stage they are at, BSP can help therapists provide quick-healing tools that they don’t already have. Quite clearly, Brainspotting is a physiological therapeutic tool that can be integrated into a wide range of healing modalities, including psychological and somatic approaches to treatment. It can be the primary tool used by helping professionals, or it could be integrated easily to complement various body-based therapies, including advanced bodywork, chiropractic, acupuncture, somatic therapies, physical therapy, nursing, medicine, and other specialized approaches to physical healing. 
There is a tremendous amount of research that has been done and continues to be done around Brainspotting. It has proven to be a highly effective treatment for trauma and other issues and is fast becoming the most sought-after treatment for the resolution of trauma and positive performance enhancement.
After the tragic events at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut, USA, in 2012, the community engaged many therapists to attend to the mental health and wellbeing of the residents. The Community Foundation conducted a survey to understand the effectiveness of various types of therapeutic interventions. 59.09% of the respondents felt that BSP had been very effective, far more than all the therapies offered.
From the first moment of discovery to becoming an international phenomenon, BSP has spread like wildfire. People recognize the validity of this technique. The first BSP conference was held in Rio; there is a large BSP Institute in Brazil, one in Germany, and three in the US. David Grand travels across the globe – “My goal for BSP – in whatever time is to inspire therapists all over the world to discover breakthroughs – beyond BSP.”
“David Grand(’s)…. development of Brainspotting is a very important leap forward in helping people resolve trauma. Brainspotting is a remarkable, sophisticated, flexible addition to the therapeutic toolkit of any psychotherapist. I know because I use it regularly and find that, combined with the psychoanalytic approaches I normally practice, the results are astonishingly helpful. Using it, one becomes amazed at the extent to which our traumas can be detected in our ordinary facial and eye reflexes and how, by using these windows to inner mental states, many traumas and symptoms can be rapidly relieved….”
~ Norman Doidge, MD. FRCPC, author of The Brain That Changes Itself
 Norman Doidge, MD., FRCP
 Dr. Christine Ranck, PhD, LCSW
 Brainspotting: Sustained attention, spinothalamic tracts, thalamocortical processing, and the healing of adaptive orientation truncated by traumatic experience, by Frank Corrigan, David Grand, and Rajiv Raju. Published in Journal of Medical Hypotheses, May 2015