Brainspotting is a powerful, focused therapy approach which works by helping an individual locate, process, and release sources of emotional and physical pain and trauma where it has been suppressed in the brain. This treatment approach is effective for treating patients who have experienced physical or psychological trauma, as well as emotional disturbances, anxiety disorders, and phobias.
What is Brainspotting and How Does it Work?
Brainspotting is a relatively new (since 2003) treatment approach which works by identifying, processing, and releasing stored negative or traumatic experiences from the brain to help affected individuals heal from within. It also promotes healing for individuals suffering from physical pain.
Brainspotting: What is it?
Brainspotting is a model of psychotherapy created by David Grand in 2003, to help people overcome negative and traumatic emotions, physical trauma, as well as psychologically-induced physical pain. Brainspotting has been used extensively with people who had experienced traumatic events such as Hurricane Katrina, the attacks on the World Trade Center, as well as war veterans.
Dr. Grand defines a “brainspot” as the eye position related to the energetic and emotional activation of a traumatic / emotionally charged issue within the brain, most likely in the amygdala, the hippocampus or the orbitofrontal cortex of the limbic system. These parts of the brain regulate emotion, motivation, impulse control, and memory.
The theory underpinning Brainspotting suggests that the brain can heal itself from inside. Brainspotting aims to stimulate the brain’s healing ability by evoking and releasing the negative emotions and experiences that it has stored. It does this by identifying an eye position that triggers and releases these emotions.
This procedure is based on a concept that an individual’s direction of gaze can affect how they feel. It lends to the theory that the eyes have an intense relationship with the brain. Brainspotting is based on the fact that trauma is stored in the body and can be activated or triggered at a certain eye position.
The Brainspotting therapist uses a pointer to direct the gaze of people in therapy across their field of vision until an eye position is reached that activates a certain traumatic memory or emotion. This helps the therapists to assess an individual’s emotions on a much deeper level and evaluate the psychological effects of a traumatic experience on an individual.
How Does Brainspotting Hypothesize the Brain Works?
Brainspotting suggests that when an individual experiences a traumatic event, such as their life being threatened, negative experiences around the event are stored as memories in the brain: the individual struggles to handle the traumatised experience on a day by day basis. The longer traumatic memories are held in the brain, the more they create distortions in the individual’s mental processes, leading to decreased coping abilities and an increase in potential mental health issues.
Brainspotting helps the individual assess, process and release these stored emotions to begin their journey to recovery, by determining the traumatic event brainspot location, and then facilitating the brain stimulation to heal itself.
How Brainspotting Creates Change?
Brainspotting aims to release the negative emotions and experiences that have been stored in the brain. For example during the procedure, the therapist helps a client activate a traumatic experience him or her to focus on the brainspot which evokes the negative experiences during the traumatic event,
Once the client recalls the event, the therapist helps them to process the negative emotions associated with it and, ultimately, release them. This creates a mental environment for quick healing. Brainspotting works by tapping directly into the parts of the brain regulating emotions, memories, as well as the neuro-hormonal network of the brain.
What Happens in a Brainspotting Session?
Brainspotting is undertaken by a therapist trained in Brainspotting. The therapist and the patient work closely to determine the brainspot, which can be elicited via 3 different methods:
- Through the therapist observing the client who may find themselves “gazing” at a spot with any direction when they contemplate a traumatic event
- By the therapist observing the micro reflexive responses around the clients eyes and the clients body: blinks, eye twitches, facial tics, yawns, swallows, etc.
- By the client bringing to their awareness the emotion and body sensations and then determining on a horizontal and vertical axis the location of the brainspot based on the heightened intensity of emotion and body sensation feelings
By finding the brainspot, the therapist triggers the somatosensory experiences in the client. The therapist then asks the patient to hold that eye position while focusing on the experiences and emotions invoked. The patient lets the therapist know when he or she feels a heightened intensity during the brain scan, which corresponds to the brainspot. Over time, accessing these experiences in a safe environment in a therapy session helps the brain release the traumatic emotions and memories, and initiate a self-healing process.
Brainspotting uses a number of techniques to help isolate and treat brainspots: outside and inside window, one eye, rolling, z-axis, integrative model, dual attunement, neurophysiology and bi-lateral sound.
Brainspotting has been an effective therapy to help people recover from traumatic events. In its short existence, Brainspotting has demonstrated fast results and positive outcomes. There is a growing body of therapists who are incorporating Brainspotting into their client treatment plans for addressing psychological issues. Other therapists are using Brainspotting as an adjunctive therapy in the management of physical pain and injuries, as well as treating certain symptoms, such as low motivation, poor concentration, stress and certain emotional disturbances.
What Presenting Issues Can Brainspotting Be Used For?
Brainspotting is suitable as a treatment for all forms of trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder, physical trauma, anxiety disorders, anger issues, substance use and abuse, chronic fatigue and chronic pain syndromes, impulse control disorders, all types of phobias and sports performance anxiety issues.
How are Brainspotting Therapists Trained?
To be a certified Brainspotting therapist, it is first necessary to have a primary degree or certification in clinical psychology, psychotherapy, medicine, psychiatry or other allied mental health profession. The requirements to become a certified Brainspotting specialist include: the completion of Brainspotting phase 1 and 2 trainings, completion of at least five hours of consultation from a Brainspotting practitioner, with the last hour including a formal review of the applicant’s knowledge and skills in Brainspotting, at least fifty hours of written documented client case studies using Brainspotting and certification awarded by Brainspotting Trainings, Inc.
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