What Is Brainspotting, And Is It Right For Me?
Updated November 28, 2019
Reviewer Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH
Brainspotting is a relatively new mental health therapy created by David Grand, Ph.D. in 2003.Over13,001 licensed therapists have been trained in brainspotting all over the world to date, and patients have boasted of the success of the therapy. Research is coming, so we still know very little about it. We want to take a look at exactly what brainspotting is and how it is supposed to help patients. On his website, David Grand shares that you have to experience it to understand it, but we think we have gotten a pretty good idea so far.
To understand brainspotting, we first have to look at how the brain works. Brainspotting assumes that negative experiences, whether from trauma, and emotional event, or a mental disorder, are stored in the brain with negative perceptions. Patients keep them tucked away but still suffer subconsciously. The work that David Grand did was to figure out how to pull out those negative perceptions in a safe environment. Grand also subscribed to the theory that the brain can heal itself if given the opportunity. Brainspotting works not by talking through emotions, but by allowing the patient to recognize them for what they are so that the brain can then start to heal. With the growing number of therapists that train in Brainspotting, he might be onto something.
What Is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting (BSP) identifies the traumatic and emotional experiences you face in life by pointing out how they manifest in your body. By using a pointer to hold your eye contact, the BSP therapist will find a spot in your field of vision that awakens the trauma and your emotions. By sitting in that spot, the theory is that your brain will be forced to reckon with the emotional responses and start to heal itself. BSP is a therapy that can be done on its own or in conjunction with talk therapy. The name of the therapy comes from the term "brainspot," which is the position of the eyes that awaken the emotional responses to an event or issue. Sometimes Bio Lateral sound is used to help find the emotional stimulus by using headphones to send sound waves back and forth through a patient's audio field.
Where you look affects how you feel. David Grand has found that by locating the exact position of your eyes that brings up negative feelings, physical pain, or memories, your brain begins to take down the walls that have kept you from dealing with an issue. Grand believes that the brain can then begin to heal itself. He boasts on his website, www.brainspotting.com, that you can be healed in as little as two sessions with him, though many need more than two. His website also claims that the BSP technique can also be used to bring out the creativity in a patient, and has a video testimonial of a video producer claiming that BSP helped him with his creative endeavors.
It's an interesting take on therapy, though it's too soon to know the long term affects patients. Because it can be used in conjunction with other therapy, Grand describes it as a tool for a therapist's arsenal, a new way to help with treatment, though not the end all be all. Because he also stated he could treat people in two sessions with BSP, it's hard to know exactly what his plans are for the treatment. Cautious optimism may be best used when looking into the therapy.
How Does It Work?
In Psychology Today, Eric Newhouse describes the brain's plasticity in PTSD patients. He claims that through a traumatic experience, the brain's process of converting perception into memory is interrupted, changing the way a person perceives his surroundings and making it hard to live a normal life. The flashbacks that normally accompany PTSD patients aren't memories, they're perceptions that never filed as memory, and that can change a person's whole behavior. Plasticity happens when the patient's start to forget how to do normal behavior. Newhouse uses isolation as an example. Because a PTSD patient has isolated himself from anything that could cause a flashback, his awareness and development reform around his new way of thinking. His brain can no longer function properly when trying to socialize.
Brainspotting is a technique that could, theoretically, get to the root of the trauma so that a therapist can then reform the patient's way of thinking. Because trauma is what causes the plasticity, the trauma needs to be reintroduced for the reforming to begin.
In a brainspotting session, a therapist will get to know you, and then ask you to pinpoint where your trauma or emotional issues sit on your body. Maybe your chest, your head, your stomach. Then, using a pointer, the therapist will work through your field of vision and ask you to pinpoint when the pain gets worse. Once that is found, your eyes will focus on that one spot in your field of vision while the brain works through the trauma. Eric Newhouse cited Doidge and his book The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science in saying that brainspotting could help with PTSD patients. Though he also says there are other therapies like it that could do the same thing. Again, the research is lacking to suggest one or the other is full proof.
Is Brainspotting Right For Me?
Because we are in the midst of the studies that will tell us more about brainspotting, the best thing for patients who are interested in brainspotting to do is to educate themselves on what is known so far. If you are intrigued by what you have read here and can find a therapist who will help you, you may find that the therapy is helpful to you. But if you are skeptical or unsure, there are plenty of well-tested therapies available for you to try as well. We talked a lot about trauma, but brainspotting is said to be helpful for other mental illnesses such as anxiety, ADHD, substance abuse, chronic pain, and more.
A similar therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an option if you are interested in therapy but not entirely sure of Brainspotting. EMDR uses a technique of bilateral stimulation with rapid eye movement, tapping, or tones to help reprogram a patient's response to a traumatic or emotional event. There have been more studies done on EMDR, and the research supports the therapy's use. EMDR is an 8 step process and is done in conjunction with other therapies for the best outcome of the patient. EMDR helped pave the way for brainspotting as David Grand studied it before finding brainspotting. He discovered through using rapid eye movement with a patient that having them lock their eyes in a specific position helped them tremendously.
Whether you go with brainspotting, EMDR, or some form of talk therapy, the most important decision is actually to go. We are still fighting for mental health's importance in society, but with new therapies coming out and more therapists willing to give things a try, we are heading in the right direction. You are not alone.
At ReGain, we want you to have the best information available to get the help you need. And we provide chat counseling to get you started. If you go to www.regain.us/start today, we will match you will an online chat counselor and a private room, where you can talk with the licensed counselor 100% online. These counselors are there for you in whatever you need, whether you want individual counseling or partner counseling. If you come with a partner, you can see each other's writings as well if you would like. Online chat therapy is just like talk therapy, but you don't have to sit in an office one on one. Your comfort is a top priority for us.
ReGain is just one of many therapy options for you to choose from. It's important to remember that therapy works differently for everyone, so you should choose the option that is right for you. Though Brainspotting is a much newer option, it has shown to be effective in patients and is continuing to grow. As we get to know more about the therapy and the long-term effects, we may see even more therapist using it in the future. If you would like more information about brainspotting, you can visit David Grand's website or find a BSP counselor near you.
At ReGain, we think mental health is just as important as physical health. We should see a doctor for physical as well as mental concerns, and therapies like brainspotting can help us point to where our issues lie. Our brains mean to protect us by hiding away the things we don't want to face. But the truth is, the sooner we face the difficulties, the sooner we will be happier and healthier. Be well.