What is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting (BSP) is a powerful therapeutic tool used for processing emotional wounds and traumatic experiences to resolution. It is also used to improve athletic performance and artistic or creative ability. It was discovered in 2003 by David Grand, Ph.D. It works by locating points in the client’s visual field that help to access unprocessed trauma in the subcortical (or subconscious) brain. Our brains and subconscious processes are extraordinary, and BSP harnesses the brain innate capacity to heal, transform, and recover from blocks and negative experiences. BSP can work whether the issue you want to work through happened a long time or if it is presently unfolding in your life.
Dr. Grand discovered that "Where you look affects how you feel." It is the brain activity, especially in the subcortical brain that organizes itself around that eye position. BSP makes use of this natural phenomenon through its use of relevant eye positions. This helps the BSP therapist locate, focus, process and release a wide range of emotionally and bodily-based conditions. BSP is also a brain-based tool to support the therapy relationship. We believe that BSP taps into and harnesses the body’s natural self-scanning, self-healing ability. When a Brainspot is stimulated, the deep brain appears to reflexively signal the therapist that the source of the problem has been found. BSP can also be used to find and strengthen our natural resources and resilience.
What makes brainspotting so powerful?
BSP is powerful because of its dual attunement frame. The dual attunement frame consists of:
While the BSP process is occurring, your therapist is intently engaged with you. We are attentively observing reflexive movements, facial muscles, shifts in posture, bodily movement, or other non-verbal processes. Your therapist stays present and connected mentally, emotionally, and energetically to you and your process. We will gently guide you to mindfully focus on your process without trying to direct or control it. You are in the driver’s seat of your process. We trust implicitly in the power of your embodied brain to heal and transform itself. We are present and with you. If you start to feel dysregulated, we can support you back into your window of tolerance so that you may continue to process. The presence of a trained, experienced, and compassionate therapist allows you feel safe and comfortable, which is key because it is the relational component that signals safety to your brain and body so that you can relaxand focus on healing. People get hurt in relationship, and people can heal in relationship. It is this dual attunement frame that makes BSP such a powerful tool for healing, recovery, and transformation.
My Observations with Brainspotting
My BSP sessions with clients reflects what BSP therapists around that world have found. BSP seems to works much faster than traditional cognitively-based therapies and quickly resolves the underlying trauma and root causes of issues such as anxiety, depression, out-of-control behaviours, post-traumatic stress, anger, relational difficulties, stress, burn out, disorganization, dysphoria, work stress, chronic pain, fatigue, lack of motivation, emotional upsets, dissociation, and other commonly reported issues. Benefits are seen even after one session. Even if you don’t feel like talking about the details of a traumatic experience, BSP still works! BSP has often been described as “EMDR on steroids” and preliminary research shows significant and sustained positive gains even after therapy has ended.
What is a Brainspotting Session Like?
Brainspotting may be introduced and seamlessly integrated into your treatment plan. I will attempt to describe what a very basic BSP session is like for clients. Of course, there are variations and modifications that may be introduced on a case by case basis. A basic session would look something like this:
First, I will ask for your consent to integrate BSP into our work together. If you don’t feel comfortable, we will move on to other available tools. If you consent, we will move forward with the BSP process.
It is likely that you will have already brought a difficult issue to therapy. If this is a case, great—we’re ready to get into it. If not, I may ask you what you would like to work on in our session together, and we can collaboratively identify a salient issue.
Once we’ve decided on the issue, I will ask you to rate how upset your feel about it on a scale of 1 to 10. This scale is called “SUDS” or Subjective Units of Disturbance Scale. When I ask about SUDS, I am asking about how activated you feel about the issue. Activation can refer to feelings or thoughts about the issue or situation, physical symptoms or bodily symptoms, memories, flashbacks, or images that may come up.
If you are already at a high activation level, we’re ready to move to the next step. If not, I will guide you to increase your SUDS level to about a 6 or 7 out of 10, or higher. This can usually be done by talking more about the issue or closing your eyes and thinking about how upset you might be feeling about it.
Once you’re feeling more activated and SUDS has increased, I will move my pointer horizontally across your visual field, back and forth a couple of times, to identify a Brainspot. I may invite you to let me know if you feel particularly activated at a specific spot.
Once we have identified a spot, you will maintain your eye position by looking at the pointer and we wait to see what comes up for you and process accordingly. You may have thoughts, feelings, big emotions, fears, physical sensations, memories, images, and other phenomenon come up. You may even feel some pain as your brain processes old wounds.
Please note that I am present with your throughout the process. If you feel too activated or feel like you are slipping out of your window of tolerance, we will modify the process accordingly to help you feel safer and more grounded.
For more information, please visit Brainspotting.com.
Watch this video to learn a little bit about what a Brainspot is…
This is a video of David Grand PhD, the therapist who discovered Brainspotting, explaining what Brainspotting is.
While therapists are not allowed to solicit testimonials or reviews, this is a video that is available on YouTube of Ted’s journey to healing with Brainspotting.