Brainspotting therapy is a new technique to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. This holistic therapy was developed by Dr. David Grand and involved identifying specific brain areas that certain stimuli can trigger. In this article, you’ll learn what it is, how it works, its benefits, and how to get started.
What Is Brainspotting Therapy?
Brainspotting therapy is a novel method of bringing mental, emotional, and physical balance to the nervous system and a revolutionary form of treatment for trauma, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. It’s based on the idea that our brains have a natural ability to heal themselves from emotional wounds by rewiring neural pathways in the brain.
The brainspotting process involves identifying specific locations on your body where you feel stuck or blocked energy — known as “brainspots” — then using your mind to visualize these areas being cleared of negative energy to promote healing of whatever is causing them. The therapy consists of two steps:
Step 1 — Identify the part of the brain causing your problems and then retrain it using direct cortical feedback; this involves identifying areas in your brain that are overactive or underactive and then retraining them to become more balanced (or active).
Step 2 — Use a computer program called “Brainspotting,” which provides real-time visual feedback during your sessions to see which parts of your brain are activated during each treatment phase.
How Does Brainspotting Therapy Work?
While the body is designed to heal itself, it can only do so when it’s not in the midst of a fight-or-flight response. Brainspotting therapy uses visual cues to help the client access unprocessed trauma in the subcortical brain. The brain has two hemispheres: the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere controls language, logic, math, and reasoning. The right hemisphere controls intuition and emotion.
Trauma lives in the subcortical area of the brain, which processes emotion and memory. To heal from trauma, PTSD, depression, etc., people need to access their subcortical brain to process what happened and integrate it into their conscious minds. This is where brainspotting comes into play.
Brainspotting is based on three basic principles:
1) The brain has an innate ability to reorganize itself in response to experiences, both positive and negative;
2) The brain uses sensory input from our bodies as well as our emotional reactions (such as anxiety or anger) to organize itself;
3) Trauma causes disorganization in the brain, affecting our cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and emotional regulation.
Brainspotting locates points in the client’s visual field that help access unprocessed trauma in the subcortical brain and is based on the discovery that specific points in the visual field are associated with traumatic memories and that these points can be accessed through eye movements. The practitioner can then elicit a detailed psychophysiological response at those points by using a simple hand gesture.
Brainspotting Therapy vs. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
Brainspotting is a therapeutic method based on the idea that when we experience an overwhelming emotional state, our body can respond the same way as it would if we were physically injured. There is often a somatic marker — some physical feeling or sensation — associated with the traumatic event in these moments.
Dr. Grand developed an algorithm for analyzing these patterns and creating a map of the client’s mind that can be used to target specific issues related to their trauma. The Brainspotting process involves guiding the client through their traumatic memory while having them tap into specific areas of the brain that correspond to various emotions related to their issue(s). The therapist then guides them through images or body sensations that help release this energy from the body.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which Francine Shapiro developed to heal from trauma by helping clients reprocess their memories while simultaneously desensitizing them from their negative emotions. It involves guiding clients through a series of bilateral stimulation (such as tapping or moving your fingers back and forth) while focusing on images or sensations related to their traumatic event(s).
How Is Brainspotting Therapy Different From Other Therapies?
Brainspotting therapy is a new approach to therapy that uses the brain’s natural ability to change. It is different from other therapies in five main ways:
- Brainspotting is based on neuroscience and uses the latest research on how the brain works.
- It uses two of the body’s most powerful systems for healing – the mind and the immune system.
- Brainspotting is a short-term treatment that can be done once a week for up to four weeks, with no long-term commitment or follow-up.
- Brainspotting is an active process where you do something rather than talk about your problems or listen to someone else talk about them.
- Brainspotting helps you find solutions instead of just treating symptoms to move forward in your life with confidence and happiness.
Benefits of Brainspotting Therapy
As discussed above, brainspotting therapy is a unique and powerful technique for healing the mind and body. It is a safe and effective method to quickly treat a wide range of symptoms and conditions, including:
- Anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, phobias, PTSD, and OCD
- Depression, mood disorders, and personality disorders
- Pain syndromes including migraines, ADD/ADHD, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and many other disorders
- Insomnia, stress, and fatigue
- Children with learning problems such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or ADHD
There are many other benefits to receiving brainspotting therapy, such as:
- Improved mood and reduced symptoms of depression
- Improved sleep quality and decreased sleep latency (the time it takes you to fall asleep)
- Increased self-confidence and an increased feeling of safety in your environment
- Improved concentration and focus when performing tasks such as studying or working on a computer
- Reduced cravings for drugs or alcohol
Does Brainspotting Work?
Many people are skeptical about whether these therapies can work in an age of increasing medical intervention and genetic research. The idea that a person’s memories could be changed by simply tapping on their head sounds like new-age pseudoscience. And yet, there’s plenty of evidence that it works.
The effectiveness of brainspotting therapy has been proven by scientific research and clinical practice. A study published in the Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology found that brainspotting has been more effective than CBT or EBDR.
How to Get Started With Brainspotting Therapy?
Brainspotting is a relatively new form of therapy, proving to be one of the most effective therapies available today. The first step to getting started is finding a qualified therapist with experience with this type of therapy. You can do this by searching online or asking other people who have undergone this treatment. Once you have found someone with whom you feel comfortable, schedule an appointment and go over your goals for treatment.
Once you’ve found a therapist specializing in Brainspotting therapy, they will begin by assessing you to determine your issues and how they may affect your life. Once they have defined these things, they will create a tailored treatment plan for your needs and goals.
Related Read: What is Neurotherapy, and how does it help?
Brainspotting is a unique form of therapy that uses the brain’s natural ability to create new neural pathways to help people overcome emotional and physical issues. The concept is based on the theory that the brain has an innate ability to rewire itself, even after traumatic events. By stimulating the right side of your brain, you can grow stronger connections between your emotional and rational sides. This can help you better understand your feelings and learn how to respond in positive ways.
- Corrigan, F. M., Grand, D., & Raju, R. (2015). Brainspotting: Sustained attention, spinothalamic tracts, thalamocortical processing, and the healing of adaptive orientation truncated by traumatic experience. Medical Hypotheses, 84(4), 384–394. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2015.01.028
- Corrigan, F., & Grand, D. (2013). Brainspotting: Recruiting the midbrain for accessing and healing sensorimotor memories of traumatic activation. Medical Hypotheses, 80(6), 759–766. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2013.03.005
- Shapiro, F. (2014). The role of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy in medicine: Addressing the psychological and physical symptoms stemming from Adverse Life Experience. The Permanente Journal, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.7812/tpp/13-098
- Hildebrand, A., Stemmler, M., & Grand, D. (2017). Clinical practice guideline for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Eye Movement and desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR). PsycEXTRA Dataset. https://doi.org/10.1037/e516172017-001