What happens in a Brainspotting session

what happens in a brainspotting session

Brainspotting is a focused and, therefore, highly effective treatment method that identifies and releases trauma at a core level.  Brainspotting digs deep into the connection between the brain and the body to unpack the source of trauma so you can remove the limitations trauma causes.

If you are interested in trying a Brainspotting session with a knowledgeable, trained therapist but want to know what happens in a Brainspotting session, this article will help. Here’s how that session might work in practice.

Setting goals for the Brainspotting session

First, your therapist will talk with you about your goals.  The therapist will explore why you are interested in therapy and what you are trying to overcome.  They will get some background information to help them guide you through the Brainspotting process.  In Brainspotting, your brain will heal itself.  The therapist is there to keep you focused and safe.

Next, the therapist will explain the Brainspotting process to you. You’ll learn what the technique is, how it works, and what outcomes you can reasonably expect. The therapist should get a verbal confirmation from you that you want to try this out.

The therapist will help you define a specific target event, emotion, or concern you wish to explore. The therapist will typically ask you to rate your distress on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no noticeable distress to 10 being the most severe distress.

Using Bilateral Music

Some therapists will give you headphones that will play bilateral sounds or music at a very low level. Bilateral sound is sound that alternates from the left headphone speaker to the right speaker repeatedly back and forth. There is clinical evidence to suggest that it assists with Brainspotting to reduce anxiety and accelerate the healing and trauma resolution. It isn’t required, but it can speed the process of healing. Bilateral sound is also used with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a foundational part of Brainspotting.

What Happens In A Brainspotting Session

Once you identify your distress level and have your headphones on, the therapist will work with you to move your eyes methodically around your vision field. They will use either their finger, an extended pointer, and have you follow it with your eyes. As you think about the event and track the pointer’s movement, you may notice specific points where your emotions will spike. Your therapist will also watch your eyes carefully for places where your eyes may wobble or jump. That particular spot is called a “brainspot.” A brainspot is the specific spot in your visual field that connects to the trauma or event’s emotions. 

Finding The Brainspot

Think of it this way. Maybe you were starting to cross the street, suddenly heard a car horn honking, brakes screeching, and you quickly looked to the left to see a car trying frantically to stop so it wouldn’t hit you.  In many cases, we would feel enormous fear, followed by immense relief to be still okay, followed by massive embarrassment about being so absent-minded.  Your brain might decide to “hide” that event so you don’t have to keep re-experiencing the trauma.  However, you might (or might not) notice that looking sharply to the left causes you to become anxious.  A brainspot connects you to a trauma like this in a visceral way.

When you have identified a brainspot, the therapist will then hold that position and work with you to stay focused on the spot. As you focus on the brainspot, your therapist will help you discuss, as you choose and feel comfortable, what may be coming up for you about the trauma, event, or situation (i.e., emotions, physical feelings, thoughts that come into your mind). Throughout this time, the therapist will maintain the emotional space necessary for you to work through your feelings.

Working Down The Emotional Level

Your therapist will occasionally check in with you to see if the emotional level you felt at the start of the session is lower. The goal of a Brainspotting session is to work the emotions down to a point close to 0.

Winding Down

The therapist guides the client to an appropriate stopping point to fully work on each breakthrough. After the Brainspotting session concludes, the therapist will likely spend some time winding things down and talk about what happened.

Finally, during any follow-up visits, the therapist will often ask you what differences you noticed after the Brainspotting session ended. Typically people will see very immediate changes. Positive effects might include a reduction or elimination of the emotions attached to the event. You might feel a sense of being lighter as if the discomfort has been lifted from you. You might feel less anxious, or you might sleep better.

How Quickly Does Brainspotting Work?

How quickly Brainspotting works depends on the depth and duration of the original event or trauma.  Smaller, more recent events will disappear more rapidly than larger, older events.  But each time you resolve a traumatic experience, you may notice that other problems unexpectedly disappear.

Where Can I Find A Brainspotting Therapist?

If you are interested in finding a Brainspotting therapist in your area, visit the International Brainspotting Directory, enter your location. You will find a list of therapists in your area prepared to use Brainspotting to help you move your life away from the limitations of fear and toward positive possibilities.