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Brainspotting is a powerful treatment technique that allows people to quickly and completely heal from traumas. It effectively helps you unpack a trauma and remove the limitations trauma leaves behind.
Dr. David Grand, Ph.D., discovered Brainspotting in 2003. Since its discovery, thousands of therapists have been trained to use Brainspotting to treat their clients successfully.
You may find the technique called Brain Spotting (separated into two words.) But the official name for this remarkable method is Brainspotting – one word.
To call Brainspotting a “powerful” discovery isn’t too far-fetched. Brainspotting can open the door to peace of mind and emotional security in countless psychological situations. Sound interesting? Excellent! Here’s everything you need to know about this innovative technique!
What Is Brainspotting?
At its core, Brainspotting is a respected contemporary psychotherapy method that promotes mental health, trauma healing, and psychological wellness. In Dr. David Grand’s words, the general idea behind this therapy method is that “where you look can affect how you feel.”
When you experience an event under normal circumstances, your eyes (and other senses) take in information. The brain will process the information it receives, label it, and store it in your brain as a properly labeled memory. This organizing process allows you to cope with the event and file it where it belongs – in the past.
When you experience a trauma, your brain receives vast loads of information – frightening or disturbing information – very quickly. It can’t always process, label, and store all that information efficiently, so it gets dumped somewhere in your brain and buried. You may quickly forget – or not even realize – that the memories are in there.
As you go through life, traumas tend to pile up on one another, creating a very messy filing system.
Brainspotting connects your conscious attention to those buried, unlabeled emotions and memories, allowing your brain to process the information and self-heal.
The History of Brainspotting
To better understand Brainspotting, let’s look at its history.
This technique’s roots go back to the well-known and respected form of psychotherapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). In 1987, Dr. Francine Shapiro invented EMDR when she noticed that “moving her eyes from side to side seemed to reduce the occurrence of her distressing memories.” She theorized that the brain stores the negative emotions of a traumatic episode in the same section of the brain with the event’s memories.
For the first several years, the mainstream field of psychology rejected Dr. Shapiro’s method. It wasn’t until 2011 that scientific research began to back up what Shapiro suspected all along: the conscious direction of eye movements can desensitize and reprocess traumatic experiences our brains have stored in memory. This process stimulates the healing process and allows the client to seek closure on the ill-fated affair.
A Remarkable Discovery
Dr. Grand’s discovery of Brainspotting happened during an EMDR session with one of his psychotherapeutic clients.
He was working with a prominent, award-winning skater in New York. She successfully achieved every athletic move except for one specific required but complicated maneuver. For an unknown reason (at the time), she could not master this one essential move.
As her psychotherapist, Dr. Grand embarked on an EMDR session with her. He moved his finger back and forth in front of the client’s vision field, as is typical of an EMDR session, and asked her to follow his fingers with her eyes. Dr. Grand noticed that her eyes repeatedly “shook” or “wobbled” back and forth at a specific point. He stopped moving his fingers back and forth at the point in space where her eyes wobbled and asked her to hold her gaze there.
All of a sudden, she began talking about a previously-undiscussed trauma. She elaborated on a history of sadness and pain connected to the event, all of this accompanied by tears and a flood of emotions. In that session, this talented skater offloaded the details of the trauma.
Days later, she called Dr. Grand and told him that she had successfully performed the maneuver, which had been so elusive, not once, but 22 times in a row!
At that moment, Dr. Grand realized he was clearly on to a new psychotherapy technique that was healing and transformative. He immediately began trying it on his other clients and continued to see markedly significant results. He asked several of his colleagues to try the method. They, too, all had the same life-altering breakthroughs with their clients.
Just like that, Brainspotting came into existence!
How Is Brainspotting Different from other therapies?
One of the fascinating differences between Brainspotting and other therapy methods is that Brainspotting puts the client in control. Brainspotting respects that the client is the one who is the expert on their own life, emotions, mental health, and personal experiences, including trauma. The Brainspotting practitioner operates in a supportive role providing a safety net and helping the client find clarity when examining the unique experiences that have affected them.
Intuitively, this approach makes sense. The client is the one best equipped to identify how experiences have affected them. A qualified therapist, using Brainspotting, can aid clients by providing direction, clarity, advice, and practical tools. But in the end, the therapist is outside the client’s mind and experience. The most potent healing will always come from the inside.
Keep in mind that while it is a client-directed therapy, Brainspotting is not something you can or should attempt on your own. You’ll need a trained Brainspotting practitioner to guide your work. Fortunately, there are over 13,000 clinicians trained in this Brainspotting therapy. As such, you shouldn’t have trouble locating a therapist in your city, state, or country that can work with you using this method!
Brainspotting Heals by using the Brain-Body Connection
Take a minute to think about your brain. Science tells us that our physical brains have 100 trillion connections and 100 billion neurons. These neurons are responsible for consciousness, memories, emotional reactions, and many similar things. They’re also responsible for scanning for and reacting to problems. If you scrape your knee, some of these neurons will fire to let you know that you have pain. Others will fire to recall that you need to get a bandage and put some ointment on it.
When it comes to our perception of our experiences, we often don’t view psychological pain through the same lens as physiological pain. We intuitively know that our brains actively scan our bodies for physical problems, but it feels less obvious that our minds would check for psychological ones. But our brains do. When we experience a trauma, that’s a raw psychological wound that our minds may never have adequately disinfected and cleaned. Instead, that wound sits in our subconscious and festers away, causing unpredictable outcomes.
Just like our bodies can heal our physical wounds, so too can the connection between brain and body heal our psychological wounds when given the right circumstances. This is the power of what Brainspotting offers.
Brainspotting empowers your mind to do the necessary healing. Many other approaches seek to uncover the trauma so your therapist can help you heal. However, that approach is less effective since it is slower and based on the therapist’s abilities. Brainspotting trusts that your mind knows what it needs to do to organize the trauma and move past it. What your brain needs is the opportunity for safe reflection and reprocessing.
That’s the decisive difference between Brainspotting and other psychological approaches to trauma. Brainspotting unites your brain and body to marshal the forces of your own body’s natural self-healing mechanisms, thereby promoting your overall well-being.
How does Brainspotting work?
Brainspotting uses your field of vision to locate precise areas in your brain where you have stored a trauma or negative experience. As you move your gaze around your field of vision, you’ll typically find places that set off a feeling of discomfort, angst, or disquiet. The act of looking at a particular point in space might cause you to unconsciously feel a sense of anxiety, fear, or insecurity that you do not experience when you cast your gaze in another direction.
As an example, you might look up and find it triggers a flashback to a traumatic situation where you looked up and saw a car accident. Or maybe looking left makes you think of the time your girlfriend broke up with you. These are simple examples, but they give you a general idea of how a past trauma’s memory or emotions can be triggered by where you cast your eyes.
When events that created hurt, pain, or anxiety were occurring in real-time, you reacted in the moment. You were not aware of the foundation of trauma being laid, nor how your brain and body were filing and categorizing the hurtful event.
When we focus our eyes within our visual field, our conscious mind automatically connects to many of our subconscious thoughts and impulses. Let’s take an example, think of your brain as a hard drive. Now, imagine you’re backing up your photos to that drive. If you only have a few images, you’ll label them, put them in folders, and it’ll be very orderly.
Now, imagine that you have 1,000,000 photos. You’ve probably just uploaded them over time and left them disorganized since the task of organizing all those photos is just too overwhelming. As a result, finding a specific image becomes such a daunting task that you just avoid looking at most of the pictures.
But just because you don’t look at the photos does not mean that they stop existing, nor that they stop taking up storage space on your hard drive. On the contrary, it is as if when you look in specific directions, all the most uncomfortable pictures race by in milliseconds, leaving you feeling tense or irritable or anxious. Still, because they all ran by so fast, you don’t even realize those pictures were causing uncomfortable emotions. It does not make you want to organize the images. It makes you want to run from the task, ignore it, and pretend it isn’t important.
Brainspotting simplifies all of that chaos. It allows you to file, label more easily organize all of the difficult and challenging events in your life, so the hard drive of your mind runs smoothly, seamlessly, and glitch-free.
What Creates a “Brainspot”?
You may be reading this with skepticism, still wondering how your eyes and field of vision can play such a large role in healing something as traumatic as, say, sexual assault or having someone die in your arms.
It’s first worth addressing the initial point of that skepticism: eye movements play an essential role in our brain and mind’s interpretation of traumatic events. Scientists studying EMDR have long established that these two things are linked.
Scientists suggest that Brainspotting targets the right hemisphere, the brain stem, and the limbic system. It appears to bypass your brain’s “logic” sections and tap directly into the emotional ones. That’s the power of this incredible technique – it allows you to access your brain’s raw emotions about the trauma instead of the thoughts the logical parts of your brain have formed around it.
We now realize that any point in your vision field could contain enough sensory clues to activate innumerable traumatic, painful, or life-altering memories. Perhaps you were looking 30 degrees to the left when you heard that someone dear to you died or when you saw a car crash. That position in space is a “brainspot” that connects your field of vision to your memory of the event.
Once you identify a brainspot in the therapeutic session, you and your therapist can work together to shine a light on those feelings and begin the natural healing process. Indeed, Brainspotting might sound conceptually quite simple, but it’s compelling in practice and life-altering in its long-term benefits.
While this is a relatively new psychotherapy method, the fact that this approach has its roots in long researched and well-tested therapy, EMDR, provides credibility and foundational merit in the science of its effectiveness. Additionally, tens of thousands of therapists worldwide use this technique daily with extraordinary results.
Who Can Benefit From Brainspotting?
Everyone can benefit from Brainspotting! It works effectively to resolve trauma, but it also stimulates creativity and brings clarity to any situation.
However, when using Brainspotting to resolve past traumas, the degree to which you’ll benefit from this therapy depends on your underlying traumas. Brainspotting works successfully for people suffering from any of the following issues and many more beyond the limited scope of this list:
- Sexual abuse
- Childhood violence/sexual abuse/neglect/verbal abuse
- Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Recovery
- Eating Disorders, i.e., Bulimia, Anorexia
- Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD)
- Stage Fright
- Divorce, Separation
- Conflict (internal or external)
- Pain management
- Death anxiety or fear
- Mood disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Pain management and relief
- Relationship problems, difficulties, and crossroads
- Migraines and headaches
- Attachment Disorders
- Dissociative Identity Disorders and Multiple Personality Disorder (DID, MPD)
- Personality Disorders
- Sports injury traumas
- Autism and Asperger’s spectrum
- Grief and mourning
- Generational trauma
Brainspotting is an effective children’s therapy
Dr. Grand has said that children often benefit the most from this technique because they have not developed as many logic filters in their brains. Indeed, children can locate the trauma rapidly and begin the healing process very quickly. There are no age restrictions when it comes to Brainspotting.
If a child has experienced trauma, using this therapy as soon as possible following a difficult, painful, or traumatic event, will stop that trauma from laying down a foundation. This will effectively halt its continued manifestation, stopping it in its track. It will stop the brain from creating and causing long term, post-traumatic stress as the child and the brain continue to develop.
Since the method is conceptually simple, as long as your child can follow basic instructions, they can comfortably and easily participate in a Brainspotting session.
How can Brainspotting be so effective?
The astute reader will likely look at the list above and wonder how Brainspotting could help with something like “Success”? Lack of success or difficulty performing a new skill can stem from barriers presented by unprocessed emotions, insecurities, setbacks, or challenges.
Think of an elite athlete, like Michael Jordan. To have professional precision and focus, you need a mind that is free of distractions. Your mind must be able to focus 100% on the task at hand so you can perform it perfectly.
Think back to our example of your brain as a hard drive. Let’s expand that analogy and consider your mind to be like a computer. The hard drive contains your memories. If all your memories are stored neatly on the hard drive, you’ll get the best performance out of the computer. However, if your memories are disorganized, then the computer (your mind) needs to spend search cycles hunting down those various memories and filing them away in their correct locations. When your brain has to perform complex background tasks, it’s tough to focus on the moment and achieve perfection, especially in a highly-competitive position.
That’s what unprocessed traumas do. Little by little, they eat away at your brainpower and your ability to focus and concentrate until a practical Brainspotting session shines a light on them so you can begin a rapid self-healing.
Brainspotting works quickly and effectively
Perhaps the most significant proof of this technique truly lies in the rapid results people experience. After one or two sessions, most people report positive improvements in their overall quality of life. Compared with other therapeutic techniques (such as Cognitive-Based Therapy), this is remarkably fast. It gets right to the root of the trauma and allows the brain to heal itself.
Initially, Brainspotting was used to treat trauma and severe distress from emotional events (such as divorce, job loss, assault, rape, or difficulties encountered in childhood.) Increasingly, however, therapists are using Brainspotting to help relieve psychologically-induced physiological trauma. Suppose you lay awake at night besieged by stress, fear, anxiety, acid reflux, fibromyalgia, or other physical pains related to trauma from your past. Brainspotting can help free you of all of these.
One of the other awesome things about this psychotherapy technique is that it isn’t incredibly complicated. As a client, you won’t need to sit through hours of talk therapy for extended years. Instead, you’ll find and focus on the core issues underpinning your fears, concerns, and anxieties more rapidly using Brainspotting. That practical and targeted approach results in more expedient and effective long-term healing.
Whether you’ve tried other therapies before or you’ve never had a therapeutic session in the past, consider seeking out a therapist who is certified to offer Brainspotting. As hundreds of thousands of people have seen already, Brainspotting has a powerful effect in uncovering and healing emotional and psychological wounds you may never have known existed but may actively be affecting your daily life, decisions, and choices. In the end, while the road to recovery may not be instantaneous, Brainspotting offers the fastest recovery possible.