How Does Brainspotting Therapy Help Trauma?

Brainspotting Therapy

Brainspotting therapy is a psychotherapy technique that is becoming increasingly popular because results are both rapid and effective. 

You may have heard about it from others who have tried it, and gotten results, and you may be wondering what exactly this type of therapy is and whether it can work for you?

Let’s dive in and explore what makes Brainspotting therapy so unique and sought-after sought after!

Brainspotting creates physical changes in how your brain connects, filters, and responds to the things you are experiencing. It does this by processing your stored but unresolved trauma.

But just what makes this therapy so much faster and more effective than traditional talk therapy?

To understand the fundamentals of this therapy and why it works, we need to take a look at the brain and how it functions. I promise to keep this understandable!!

What is a brainspot?


Brainspotting therapy helps you look at specific traumas you may have experienced.  The idea is that your traumas are stored in one particular area of your brain and can be resolved by finding the “brainspot” for that trauma.  A brainspot is a point in your field of vision that correlates to where your brain is holding a given issue or unprocessed trauma in your brain.

This may sound strange, but stay with me!

Science has discovered that where your eyes look affects how you feel. When you look outward at a specific spot, you are also looking in at that spot in your brain. I know, fascinating stuff, right?!

Humans orient to their environment through the eyes. When we first open our eyes, we make a connection to our mother, who gazes back, making us feel safe and loved.  This is our very first brainspot!

The connection to mother with the emotions of nurturing and love are essential throughout our lives in terms of our ability to cope, self-soothe, and deal with whatever arises within us emotionally.

Your brain has different areas that do different things. The thinking part of your brain is called the neocortex. It analyses, handles problem-solving, and carries out rational day to day tasks.

The neocortex is the part of the brain where language lives. So, this is also the part of the brain that is firing in traditional talk therapy.

The part of the brain where emotions live is called the subcortex. The subcortex is where we emotionally interpret the events in our lives. This part of the brain has no logical existence of time.

Why are some traumas so hard to resolve?

Sometimes the brain doesn’t move your memories into the long-term memory storage areas that your brain labels “the past.” When the brain fails to consolidate memories to the past, those memories are left sitting in the “current” part of the brain.

But why does the brain do this in the first place?

The brain wants to protect certain memories. Specifically, it wants to protect itself from being overwhelmed by those memories.

The brain is so good at this protective process that it will sometimes encapsulate and deeply bury memories to not think about them again. This is one way the brain handles experiences of trauma and pain.

When a person experiences trauma, the processing ability of the brain tends to get overwhelmed. The result is that the traumatic experience is not fully processed and stored. This prevents you from moving past the trauma.

How does your brain hold onto trauma?

The unprocessed trauma (which can be fragments of – or an entire – event) is what gets encapsulated and stored. The brain can bury this information so deeply that a whole event is completely hidden from the conscious mind.

Information tends to flow upward through the brain, from the subcortex (emotional center) to the neocortex (thinking center).

This is how our brain filters what we perceive and guides how we respond to what is happening in any given moment. Because of this, our un-processed or unresolved traumas affect our lives and responses to our experiences, often without our consciously realizing it.

Since the brain and body are in constant communication with each other, traumatic memories in the subcortex (emotional center) can directly impact our physical body’s health.

4 quadrillion synapses

The brain holds over four quadrillion synapses! A synapse is a gap in the brain between two nerve cells where impulses (think “sparks”) move back and forth.

These synapses fire and wire together, creating neuropathways in the brain. A lot of this wiring takes place at a very young age in our life – even before we can understand or describe what is happening to us. Specific feelings such as hunger can be wired with fear if we experience a moment of extreme fear while our belly is rumbling for food.

The next time you feel the emotion of similar guttural fear (it can be 30 days or 30 years later,) the feeling and corresponding sensation will be experienced along the same pathway in the brain as the small child experiencing that initial event.

So essentially, we can say that our brain creates “grooves” during these highly impactful experiences.

What is Brainspotting Therapy?

Brainspotting is a psychotherapy approach that uses your field of vision to find where trauma is stored in your brain, specifically within the emotional center or subcortex.

It helps “unwire” those pathways in the brain so the trauma network disconnects from everything that has ever happened in your life and moved into long-term storage (the past.)

Once you have disconnected the trauma, when new events happen in your life that make you feel afraid, they no longer attach to the old traumatic memories. The new events become stand-alone events that are far easier to face.

Brainspotting causes the brain to take the traumatic memories and move them into long-term memory storage. Your brain now understands that it happened in the past but is not affecting you in the present. Memories essentially get moved into proper storage.  

How do you find a brainspot?

Locating the brainspot is achieved by following the therapists moving fingers, a pen, or a pointer with your eyes while feeling the emotions of, or focusing on, a particular issue.

The therapist will watch for erratic or rapid eye movements or a wobble that may occur at a particular point in the procession of your gaze. Once that happens, your therapist will stop and have you hold your eyes directly on that point, allowing your brain to process anything that may arise.

This can stimulate memories, thoughts, and viewpoints, or even just seemingly random emotions to pop up.

The brain is beautifully designed to heal itself. Once the spot is detected and your focus is held on that spot, the brain will immediately begin to process the information it discovers!

How and when was Brainspotting therapy discovered?

In 2003 Dr. David Grand was holding a session with a patient we’ll call Jane. Jane was a figure skater who had mastered all but one crucial move in her sport, the triple loop.

Each time Jane attempted a triple loop, she would fall. So in this particular session, Dr. Grand (who describes himself as having always been an experimenter) asked Jane to focus internally on the precise moment when she would fail to complete the triple loop.

david grand brainspottingAt the same time, he guided her eyes with his hand. He noticed that at a certain point, she began to blink rapidly.

Intuitively, he stopped his hand there and had Jane hold her gaze on that spot. Dr. Grand just held the position quietly for 10 minutes while Jane kept her gaze. As they held the gaze (or brainspot), Jane began to experience a flood of associations and memories she had previously not experienced.  After the session was over, they both noted that the session’s spontaneous direction and result were indeed impressive.

Before Jane was due for her next session, she phoned Dr. Grand. She told him that following that session, she had practiced and finally successfully performed the triple loop…22 times!!

Going forward, Jane never had an issue successfully performing the move again! This result astounded Dr. Grand, and so, Brainspotting was discovered, and he began to develop the technique!

How effective is Brainspotting / How long does it take to see results?

Brainspotting is incredibly effective at resolving core issues that may or may not be consciously recognized by the patient.

By unwiring the pathways that are created during a traumatic event, the brain is relieved from continually returning to the original traumas that are responsible for how you perceive and respond to life.

The length of time it takes to process and resolve a trauma will vary from patient to patient and especially from trauma to trauma. Different people have different histories and different conditions.

Typically, a single event trauma can be resolved within a few sessions. If a person has a lifetime of reoccurring trauma, it can take longer to process fully. But during that time, the brain is focused, efficient, and working on the exact places where each trauma is stored.

What can I expect in a typical Brainspotting therapy session?

During your first session, your therapist will complete some intake paperwork to get to know you on a deeper level and find out what issues you would like to resolve.

The therapist will begin to discuss with you those issues and the emotions that are connected to them.

For the technique to work, your therapist will help you connect with and really feel those feelings. Then the therapist will guide your vision slowly using their fingers, a pen, or a pointer to find the spot with your eyes where you feel the strongest emotions.

Once the spot is discovered, you will hold that position and stay there. Your therapist will allow you just to feel and follow anything that pops into your brain.

Typically, during this time, your therapist will not say much. The point is to allow your brain to just flow with whatever comes up for you.

Your therapist will let you know you can talk as much – or as little – as feels natural to you. As long as you are paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, it is not imperative to vocalize the experience.

Your therapist will check in with you at different times throughout the process if they don’t hear from you or if you appear distressed. The therapist will have bilateral music and nature sounds playing. This bilateral sound helps the brain’s right and left hemispheres to integrate for deeper processing and general relaxation.

Brainspotting causes an actual physical change within the brain structure itself.  The brain physically begins to heal itself. It has neuroplasticity and, once a pathway is unwired, your brain can create new positive pathways to replace the trauma pathways.

Following a session, you may experience mental and or physical fatigue. It is natural to experience this because the brain is working hard to process the uncovered trauma and may continue to do so for hours longer once the session is completed.

Where can I find therapists who offer Brainspotting?

As this service continues to become more popular everywhere, many therapists will continue to add this technique to their practices.

If you are having trouble finding a therapist who offers Brainspotting therapy, you can visit the following directory to locate a Brainspotting therapist in your area.


Brainspotting is a highly efficient and effective therapeutic modality that accesses the core traumas that are often underlying repetitive mental, emotional, and even physical issues that hold us back from achieving everything we want to achieve. Brainspotting therapy is both focused and fast and offers a more comfortable,  minimally invasive process between the patient and therapist.

In a fast-paced world that is busy and results-driven, it is easy to understand why a therapy this effective has made leaps and bounds in the mental health world since its discovery!