Understanding Brainspotting and Brainspotting Therapy

Trauma, a single or series of distressing events, is capable of overwhelming the brain resulting in experiences or fragments of an experience to remain unprocessed in the brain and body. The effects of a traumatic event do not discriminate, affecting everyone from infants to the elderly. Until recently, effectively treating people with trauma was commonly done through only a few reliable methods.

In 2003, David Grand, Ph.D., discovered and developed a breakthrough treatment method to aid in the recovery process of trauma victims. Brainspotting Therapy’s brain-body-based technique quickly grew in popularity because of the significant efficacy noticed promptly in patients. Rooted in the belief “where you look affects how you feel,” Brainspotting Therapy is a powerful tool for accessing unprocessed trauma and providing a space for the brain and body to resolve and heal itself.

By locating and focusing on eye location and the visual fields associated with trauma, a therapist trained in brainspotting can work with their patient to process and release the trauma. Brainspotting Therapy provides the trained therapists at Mindful Living Group a unique tool that can be used as a form of both psychotherapy and treatment. Primarily used for trauma and PTSD, Brainspotting Therapy has the potential to help those with physical illness, inattention, and stress. Trauma manifests in the body and mind of victims, “what’s in the brain is in the body and what’s in the body is in the brain…there is no mind-body separation.”Working with a BSP therapist creates the opportunity to locate where the unprocessed experiences are stuck, release them, and create a beautiful, loving, healthy life.

What Is Brainspotting Therapy and How Does It Work?

Brainspotting Therapy is found effective in treating several mood and behavioral disorders. However, it’s primarily used to treat trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD).

An important note: not everyone who experiences a traumatic or distressing event develops PTSD or CPTSD. Still, it is recommended to seek professional help from a licensed therapist or counselor specializing in trauma to avoid potential issues.

Effects of Trauma on the Brain and Body

The limbic system is a group of structures in the brain responsible for processing memory, emotions, situational and spatial awareness. Two significant structures are the amygdala and hippocampus. When a traumatic event – or series of events – occurs, it is a natural response for our brains to activate the fight or flight response. When this takes place, two regions of the brain (the mammalian brain and reptilian brain) become dominant, and the “thinking brain” takes a back seat. Once the threat ceases, the brain should return to a homeostasis state. However, the events may become too overwhelming for the brain to process, resulting in emotions and physical sensations being left unprocessed and improperly stored in the brain.

Many people who have been affected by trauma often tend to avoid or dissociate from the memories and feelings associated. In severe cases, the brain blocks the conscious mind from remembering the event to protect itself from harm. Regardless of whether the conscious mind has access to the memories or not, the brain is still in continuous communication with the body – the body still remembers, and unwanted behaviors or reflexes remain.

Brainspotting Therapy Releases Trauma

The eyes are the window to the soul.

Whether or not it was Shakespeare, the Bible, Cicero, or the French poet Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartes, who was the first to say it, someone was onto something great as far back as the 1500s. The connection between the eyes and the brain demonstrates the complex, profound, intertwined union of the brain and body. Broadly speaking, Brainspotting Therapy utilizes highly focused eye positions to locate the brainspot and associated areas where trauma is trapped.

The idea of “locating a brainspot” may sound alarming but is nothing to be fearful of. A brainspot is the connection between an eye position and a specific place in the brain. David Grand, Ph.D., defines a brainspot as “the eye position which is related to the energetic/emotional activation of a traumatic/emotionally charged issue within the brain.” Locating brainspots may be achieved through a collection of different methods.

A therapist specially trained in Brainspot Therapy will move a pointer slowly towards the left and right as the patient follows with their eyes. During this process, the therapist carefully watches for any place where the eyes may resist fixating on and other body movements – twitches, blinking, etc. This method is aptly named the “outside window.” The importance of the therapeutic relationship plays a key role in these moments. Being attuned to the patient provides greater insight to noticing cues of activating a brainspot. Often, patients are unaware of movements associated with a particular eye gaze location. The “inside window” is believed to be a more precise method than the “outside window.” Rather than locating the brainspot by the observations of a therapist, the patient will identify when a brainspot is activated in themselves.

Locating and activating a brainspot creates an opportunity for the brain and body to process misplaced information and sensations. Releasing the trauma allows for healing, recovery, and the patients’ ability to move forward from the past.

Brainspotting Therapy is a form of psychotherapy. One of the most critical elements of Brainspotting Therapy is establishing a solid, healthy therapeutic relationship. For a BSP therapist to provide beneficial healing, it is essential for the patient to feel comfortable and safe with their therapist. The traumatic event may have happened days or years ago. The sensations, insights, and emotions that will be uncovered are deeply personal. Patients require the security to be vulnerable and open so they may heal. Therapists’ jobs in BSP are to provide and maintain a safe place, guide their patients, and provide support.

Processing Trauma with Brainspotting Therapy at Mindful Living Group

Depending on the complexity of each patients’ situation, a therapist will determine the best methods to approach locating a brainspot and processing it. Once a brainspot is located, your therapist will encourage you to remain mindfully focused on that location for several minutes. The activated brainspot will proceed in creating bodily sensations. Tension, smells, sounds, urges, and other sensory input has been reported by patients.

As you remain fixated on this eye gaze, these feelings are allowed to be released and processed. Your therapist will encourage you to breathe, express what you’re feeling, or may sit silently, all while maintaining a safe environment for you to acknowledge deep and powerful feelings that have likely been suppressed for too long. Brainspotting Therapy takes advantage of the space between words.

While the brain-body is processing and releasing the trauma, patients frequently go between verbalizing information they are becoming aware of, noting physical feelings, and moments of silently observing the sensations throughout their body. During this time, anxiety reduces, their conscious mind begins to ground itself in the present and gain the solid footing required to address core issues. The release of emotions, impulses, urges, and sensations typically last until nothing is left or until they become manageable for the brain and body to process correctly.

What can you expect to occur during Brainspotting Therapy?

During the first session, you may not do any brainspotting. This time is ideal for establishing the foundation of the therapeutic relationship between you and your therapist. Part of building this alliance will include discussing the situation that brought you to seek BSP, expectations, and any questions you may have.

Although Brainspotting is a form of psychotherapy, there is a noticeable difference. During sessions of psychotherapy, discussion led by your therapist is expected. Once the brainspot has been located, you will continue to focus on this particular area for several minutes. Your therapist will likely not speak as much during this time, but you are encouraged to talk as little or as much as you wish – sharing things that arise, feelings in your body, and so forth. At the end of the session, you and your therapist will process and conclude the session.

What Brainspotting Therapy Can Do For You

Unprocessed trauma is likely to open the door for other problems such as depression, addiction, anxiety, relationship and attachment issues, disruption in performance, and much more. Similar to most mental and physical health concerns, avoidance will only make things worse. It is never a bad idea to talk with a licensed therapist about distressing events – remember, the brain likes to protect itself; there may be unprocessed remnants that you are not consciously aware of.

Brainspotting Therapy is a pathway to forgiveness. Being able to forgive others truly, or yourself is a significant milestone in the healing process. Holding on to negative emotions towards others only harms yourself in the long run.

Vulnerability and openness are sacred – especially to trauma victims. Commonly seen amongst adults who experienced continuous trauma in their early years is extreme levels of self-reliance. Depending on yourself is important, but facing the world alone is exhausting and may lead to other mental health issues. Learning to create and maintain relationships where you can be vulnerable, ask for help, and rely on others is valuable. Humans need connection.

Getting Started with Mindful Living Group

Beginning anything new could potentially be overwhelming. Trusting someone to see into personal moments, pain, and fear is scary. The kind, compassionate therapists at Mindful Living Group offer a place of safety – a place for you to heal and become your most whole self. You don’t have to continue the internal battle with yourself. Contact us here to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed therapists trained in Brainspotting Therapy. Let us help you take back your life and create the one you deserve.