“So, you want me to just keep looking at the stick and see what comes up?”
That is the question I usually get in my first brainspotting session with clients. It’s an understandable question. It seems too simple- looking at the end of a pointer will help resolve years of trauma or negative feeling?
My answer to that question and the one asked by clients is “yes”.
Of course, it really isn’t as simple as it sounds. Before I explain how it works, let me explain what it is.
Brainspotting actually was discovered by using EMDR (a form of therapy which uses bilateral eye-movements).
Dr. David Grand, who developed the brainspotting technique, was using EMDR on a client he had seen for over a year of 90-minute sessions. The client was a competitive figure skater who had come to Dr. Grand for help with her performance.
She had improved greatly with EMDR but still struggled to land the triple loop. During an EMDR session, Dr. Grand noticed the client’s eyes “wobble,” and instinctively decided to stop his fingers-holding her eyes in that exact position.
New memories of physical and emotional wounds poured from the client. The next day, she called Dr. Grand and reported a flawless triple loop.
Brainspotting works because of what happens in the mind AND body.
Unlike EMDR, which focuses on specific memories and cognitions, Brainspotting focuses on sensations and feelings in the body. Naming the feelings or knowing what is causing it is not as important as the awareness of the feeling itself.
From there, a “Brainspot” is found by tracking a pointer across the field of vision and looking for involuntary bodily reflexes, such as blinks, twitches, sniffs, etc.
Dr. Grand states “a Brainspot is actually a physiological subsystem holding emotional experience in memory form.”
When a Brainspot is located, the therapist facilitates a guided mindfulness in which the client observes without judgment the thoughts, memories, or feelings that arise naturally.
Brainspotting has been shown to access the limbic brain, which is the section of the brain that contains the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala.
It is believed that by accessing this part of the brain, the body’s innate ability to heal itself is enhanced.
Brainspotting has been used most notably for the treatment of trauma. In a study of those affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy in December 2012, Brainspotting was rated as one of the most effective interventions, ranking higher than somatic experiencing, equine therapy, and EMDR.
In addition to trauma, Brainspotting has also been used for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and even physical pain.
Grand, D. (2013). Brainspotting: The Revolutionary New Therapy for Rapid and Effective Change. Boulder, CO: Sounds True Inc.
Newton-Sandy Hook Community Foundation Inc. (2016). Report of Findings from the Community Survey.