What Is Brainspotting: Everything You Need To Know About This Powerful Technique

Dr David Grand discoverer of BrainspottingDiscovered by Dr. David Grand, Ph.D. in 2003, Brainspotting is an innovative, highly effective psychotherapy technique. Since its discovery, thousands of therapists have been trained to use Brainspotting to successfully treat their clients.

To call Brainspotting a “powerful” discovery isn’t too far-fetched. There are unlimited psychological situations in which Brainspotting can open the door to peace of mind and a sense of emotional security. Sound interesting? Excellent! Here’s everything you need to know about this innovative technique!

What Is Brainspotting?

At its core, Brainspotting is an esteemed contemporary psychotherapy method that promotes mental health, trauma healing, and psychological wellness. In Dr. David Grand’s words, the discoverer of Brainspotting, the general idea behind this therapy method is that “where you look can affect how you feel.”

When you have a trauma, your brain is receiving loads of information. It can’t always process and label all that information correctly, so it gets dumped somewhere in your brain. You may quickly forget – or not even realized – that the information is 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 files, allowing your brain to fully process the information and self-heal.

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 trauma. The Brainspotting practitioner operates in a supportive role providing a safety net and helping the client find clarity when examining the personal experiences that have affected them.

Intuitively, this approach makes sense. The client is the one best equipped to identify and Brainspotting can dramatically assist in healing their emotional wounds. The therapist’s work can aid clients by providing direction, clarity, advice, and practical techniques, but obviously, 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 that you can or should attempt to do on your own. Instead, you’ll need to find a trained Brainspotting practitioner to work with you. Fortunately, there are over 13,000 clinicians trained in this mode of therapy. As such, you shouldn’t have trouble locating anyone 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 get 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 when given the correct circumstances, so too can the connection between brain and body heal our psychological wounds, when given the correct circumstances. This is the power of what Brainspotting offers.

Brainspotting empowers your mind to do the necessary healing. Most other approaches seek to uncover the trauma so your therapist can help you heal. However, that approach is less effective. Your mind knows what it needs to do to organize the trauma and move past it, what it needs is the opportunity for reflection and reprocessing.

That’s the decisive difference between Brainspotting and other psychological approaches to trauma. Brainspotting, as the name implies, unites your brain and body to marshal the forces of your own body’s natural mechanisms for self-healing, thereby promoting your overall well-being.

How does it 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 scan your field of vision, you’ll typically have areas where you direct your eyes that set off a feeling of discomfort, angst, or disquiet. Thereby causing you to, unconsciously feel a sense of anxiety, fear, or insecurity which you do not experience when your gaze is cast in other directions. Maybe you look up, which 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 the general idea of how trauma can be triggered by where you cast your eyes.

When these original events that created hurt, pain, or anxiety were occurring in real-time we were reacting in the moment and not aware of the foundation of trauma that was being laid, nor how our brain and body were filing and categorizing the hurtful event.

Where we focus our eyes and visual field can and does connect our conscious mind with 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 cleanly organized.

Now, imagine that you have 1,000,000 photos. You’ll probably just upload them over time and leave them disorganized since the huge task of organizing the photos is just too overwhelming.  The result ends up being that finding a specific photo 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 certain directions all the most uncomfortable pictures race by in milliseconds, leaving you feeling tense or irritable or anxious, but because it all ran by so fast you don’t even realize those pictures were the cause of the emotion they stimulated. So again, it does not tend to make you wish to categorize them. Instead, it makes you try to run from the task, to ignore it, to pretend it isn’t important.

Brainspotting simplifies all of that chaos. It allows you to easily file, categorize, and organize all of the difficult and challenging events in your life so that the hard drive of your mind runs quickly, seamlessly and cliché free.

Who Can Benefit From Brainspotting?

Everyone can benefit from Brainspotting! Honestly.

However, the degree to which you’ll benefit from this therapy depends on your underlying traumas. Brainspotting has worked successfully for people suffering from any of the following issues and many more beyond the limited scope of this list:

  • PTSD
  • Sexual abuse
  • Childhood violence/sexual abuse/neglect/verbal abuse
  • Accidents
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Recovery
  • Eating Disorders, i.e. Bulimia, Anorexia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD)
  • Stage Fright
  • Divorce, Separation
  • Creativity
  • Success
  • Performance
  • Decision-making
  • Conflict (internal or external)
  • Indecision
  • 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
  • Depression
  • Grief and mourning
  • Generational trauma
  • Phobias

Does Brainspotting Work With Children?

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 tracks. It will stop the brain from creating and causing long term, post-traumatic stress as the child and the brain continues 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?

Now, the astute reader will likely look at the list above and wonder how Brainspotting could help with something like “Success”? Many times our lack of success or the difficulty we experience performing a new skill stems from unprocessed emotions, insecurities, setbacks, or challenges.

Think of an elite athlete, like Michael Jordan. To have his level of precision and perfection, 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 do it with absolute perfection.

Recall the example of your brain being like 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 on the hard drive nicely and neatly stored, 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. That background task makes it very hard 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 ability to focus and concentrate until a practical Brainspotting session shines a light on them so you can begin a rapid self-healing.

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 own distressing memories.” She theorized that a traumatic episode causes negative emotions and the troubling event’s memories are stored in the same brain section.

For a while, Dr. Shapiro’s method wasn’t in the mainstream field of psychology. It wasn’t until 2011 when 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 helps stimulate the healing process and allows the client to seek closure on the ill-fated affair.

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 was successful in achieving every single athletic move she needed to learn except for one specific necessary, but complex, 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. As he was moving his finger back and forth in front of the client’s vision field, typical of an EMDR session, and asking her eyes to track it, her eyes repeatedly got to a specific point in her vision field where they “shook” or “wobbled” back and forth. David stopped moving his fingers back and forth and held his fingers solely at the point in space where she was looking. All of a sudden, she began talking about a previously-undiscussed trauma. Then more information, she elaborated on a history of sadness and pain that was connected to her personal history, all of this accompanied by tears and a flood of emotions.

In that session, this talented skater offloaded the relevant trauma from her mind that was holding her back, interrupting her ability to move forward. During that session, her healing effectively began. Days later she called Dr. Grand and told him that the maneuver, which had historically been so difficult and elusive was now easily performable and that she had repeatedly demonstrated and mastered it over and over again since the conclusion of their recent session.

At that moment Dr. David Grand realized he was clearly on to a new psychotherapy technique that was healing, transformative. He immediately began trying it on other clients of his. The results continued to demonstrate 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 Does Brainspotting Work?

You may be reading this with a healthy degree of skepticism, 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 regarding the trauma instead of the ones that the logical parts of your brain have filtered.

Therefore, it is recognized 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 were informed that someone dear to you died, or when you saw that car crash happen.

Once you have identified a Brainspot in the therapeutic session, you and your therapist can work together to begin the natural healing process and shine a light on those feelings. Indeed, Brainspotting might sound conceptually quite simple, but it’s incredibly powerful 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, the fact that tens of thousands of therapists worldwide use this technique daily with extraordinary results is also a testament to its incredible power.

Brainspotting works quickly and effectively

Perhaps the most overt power 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.

Originally, this type of therapy was used to treat trauma and severe distress from emotional events you have experienced in life (such as divorce, job loss, assault, rape, or difficulties encountered in childhood.) Increasingly, however, therapists are also using Brainspotting to help relieve psychologically-induced physiological trauma. If 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 underlying your fears, concerns, and anxieties more rapidly using Brainspotting. That effective 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 definitely offers the fastest recovery possible.

If you are a therapist who is interested in joining the thousands of successful Brainspotting practitioners please check here for the training process.