Category: Brainspotting

Brainspotting: Questions & Answers

Why use Brainspotting? What does it do?

When we experience an emotionally intense, frightening or traumatic event, it may overwhelm us.  If that overwhelm does not naturally resolve, the experience gets ‘stuck’ in the body (the central nervous system) leaving us overly-sensitive and overly-reactive.  It also then diminishes or distorts our sense of self. 

Brainspotting works with those stuck memories so they can resume being naturally processed and it seeks to repair and strengthen our sense of self.  In the end, you will still have the memories, but they will no longer be as upsetting; you may still have present-day situations which are challenging, but they will no longer be triggering; rather situations will feel more manageable because you will feel more grounded, balanced and empowered.

 

 

 

What issues can Brainspotting be useful for?

Although both EMDR and Brainspotting are best known for resolving traumas and addressing PTSD-like symptoms, they are now being applied to ease anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours.  Most recently, and in concert with positive psychology, both are being applied to enhance peak performance and boost self-confidence and concentration

 

Why use the Bi-lateral sound?

The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body.  Our left brain thinks, uses language and solves problems. Our right brain is intuitive, emotional and involved in body functions. When we are overwhelmed with emotion and can’t think straight, our right brain has taken over.  When we are overly analytical and cut off from our emotions, we are stuck in our left brain.  But when we are feeling integrated and performing well, our right and left brains are interacting with each other effectively. The Brainspotting approach uses tactile pulsars or auditory recordings to provide the bilateral movement while finding an eyespot or Brainspot somehow connected to what’s being focussed on and which will enhances processing.

 

What is a “Brainspot?”

A “Brainspot” is the eye position which is related to the energetic/emotional activation of a traumatic or emotionally charged issue within the brain, most likely in the amygdala, the hippocampus, or the orbitofrontal cortex of the limbic system. Located by eye position, paired with externally observed and internally experienced reflexive responses, a Brainspot is actually a physiological subsystem in the body and nervous system holding emotional experience in memory form.

 

How do therapists Identify “Brainspots”?

Brainspotting is usually done with both eyes but may also be done with one. A therapist identifies a Brainspot by waving a pen-shaped object in a specific pattern in front of the patient’s eyes, and when the pen-like object comes across a Brainspot, the deep brain will reflexively signal to the therapist that a Brainspot has been found. This happens outside of the patient’s consciousness. These reflexive signals can include (all without the patient being aware of these happening) an eye twitch, facial tic, brow furrow, facial tic, pupil dilation/constriction, swallows, yawns, coughs, foot movement or body shifting. Among these signals, facial expressions are the strongest indicators of a Brainspot.

The identification of a reflexive response that indicates a Brainspot hints at the somatosensory experience of the trauma, emotional or somatic problem. By finding these Brainspots, the therapist is triggering these somatosensory experiences in the patient. To access the Brainspot and the emotions that can follow, the therapist holds the patient’s eye position while the patient focuses on the experience of the symptom being accessed by the Brainspotting.

The therapist and patient can also work together to find the Brainspots. The patient participates in this by letting the therapist know, during the Brainspotting scan, when he or she feels any heightened intensity, either physically or emotionally.

 

How Does Brainspotting Act as A Healing Agent Against Trauma?

The way that Brainspotting heals is that it helps the person process the trauma, or overhwhelm that lies within him or her. When the therapist accesses a Brainspot, the person experiences the distress that is associated with that Brainspot. The person then experiences the physical or emotional pain that presents itself, and the person can experience it in a safe, comfortable setting in the presence of the therapist. Over time, accessing this trauma in a safe environment will help the brain to break away from the associated trauma.

Within the field of psychology, professionals have come to realize that when someone experiences trauma, whether it be emotional or physical, it is held in the body. This trauma, potentially caused by a variety of events, such as a serious physical illness, acute or chronic pain, or life trauma in general, can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and one way that professionals can help to target and locate that pain is through Brainspotting.  Therapists use Brainspotting to target these areas of trauma stored in the body from previous traumatic experiences.

These traumatic experiences become stored in the body typically because the traumatized person has not had the means to properly deal with the trauma that he or she has experienced. Because the traumatic experiences have not been properly dealt with, they become a part of the person’s “trauma reservoir”, which can manifest in other physical and emotional symptoms.

 

How does a typical session go?

Here is a basic description of how Brainspotting works. The therapist acts as a guide, but you are in charge of your own process. You might begin with a few minutes of relaxed breathing and listening with headphones to BioLateral sound. You pay attention to the place in your body where you feel the most distress. You give a ‘0 to 10’ rating for the level of distress you feel, and then the therapist helps you find an eye position (“Brainspot”) – a point in front of you where the eyes naturally focus when your pain feels the strongest.

The therapist acts as a support and facilitator in helping you to slowly and safely move through the awareness that unfolds inside after finding the Brainspot. You and the therapist focus deep moment-to-moment attention on the troubles presented by this one neural pathway. What comes up? This is different for every individual and in every session. It may be visual images, memories, a few words, sensations in the body, forgotten sounds, and various feelings.

The point is to allow and witness these natural “leftover” responses from the trauma to surface. The individual is free to just experience the associations or they can share it in words with the therapist as they go along. You may periodically re-rate the distress and shift to another Brainspot. By the end of the session, your rating of the distressed state is most often lower and your “felt sense” of the suffering is lessened. A gentle release of energy happens with the process, which may be felt physically as tingling, slight shaking (like from a chill), or a need to stretch. This is the body’s natural response to “unfreezing” what was held from the past. You are also likely to experience a lasting mental relief upon realizing that this disturbance from long- go is no longer upsetting to you.

An after-sense of change stays with you outside the session in everyday life. When Brainspotting is facilitated within the context of a caring therapeutic relationship, it feels safe, non invasive and contained.

 

The Impact of Brainspotting

Brainspotting does not require “reliving the trauma” as much as it “releases the trauma from the memory.” After a number of Brainspotting sessions, it is possible to no longer see the images of any disturbing traumatic memories or feel the pain, upset and distress from the chronic or acute incidents of trauma. As a result, many signs and symptoms of trauma in the system eg. depressed and fluctuating moods, excessive anxiety, flashbacks, and dissociation – gradually became resolved and disappeared.

Afterwards you can learn to practice paying attention to what is happening inside at each moment (called mindfulness) outside of sessions. This gradually helps to end the need for defensive dissociation (cutting off from feelings, emotions, bodily sensations). An ability to safely re-associate thoughts, feelings and sensations becomes more of a continuous state of being.

If you would like to try Brainspotting, you can book an initial ‘experiential’ session at £25. Fill in the form on the contact page to make a booking.

Brainspotting: a neurobiological tool that supports the therapeutic relationship

I recognise I have a naturally skeptical part of me. So when I met with Mark Grixti (Chartered Clinical Psychologist, Systemic Therapist and EMDR Consultant) and he started to talk about Brainspotting, a new approach which he said had transformed his practice, I raised my eyebrows. Brain? Spotting? It was a new therapy discovered by one on the most experienced EMDR practitioners, David Grand, Ph.D, he explained. He had been using it very successfully with his clients. He was one of 9000 practitioners worldwide and he was now the UK trainer. I listened to him go on to describe how it worked with great enthusiasm. 

He suggested the best way to understand how it worked, was to experience it first hand and come to the next training. Since luckily I also have a very curious part, I signed up straight away. I bought David Grand’s book and I set off to London with a slight sense of trepidation. I read it acted in deep and primitive areas of the brain. That it provided direct access to the autonomic and limbic systems of the central nervous system. I knew it was going to be different to my previous training. Thankfully, there was an excited part of me that was very keen to experience this new approach for myself and learn it so I could also use it with my clients.

The training was very intense. I, and a group of other highly experienced psychologists, psychiatrists, EMDR practitioners and psychotherapists, all went through the training and practiced Brainspotting on each other. We all experienced the power of this approach. This was beyond EMDR, a proven evidence based technique already used within the NHS. It followed the client, it worked in a very focused way with the field of vision and the body via the limbic and deep brain; our “unconscious processes” in the language I was more familiar with. It stressed what had been told to me by Mark; that where we look changes how we feel. 

I will admit to having a profound experience. I had a shift in an issue I had previously worked on for several years in therapy. The shift happened over the course of the training and I noticed it consolidating in the weeks that followed as the processing continued. I felt differently. As I kept bringing the issue to mind, there seemed to be less of a reaction in my mind and body than there had been.

I went back to my practice and began to notice how my clients seemed to focus on one spot as they spoke; “gaze spotting” as David Grand, the founder described it. So I used the technique with my clients, I worked with these “Brainspots”. I followed their process, through the body. I have since been privileged to witness some powerful experiences and results. 

Let me be clear, I don’t believe in magical cures and this is not, as no therapy approach can be, a cure all, quick fix to every problem with every person. What it can offer is a different, deeper, often faster way of processing a range of issues within a safe and trusting therapeutic relationship. It offers the potential to access the unconscious or “out of awareness” deeply held thoughts and feelings. Such processing, or as Freud called it ‘working through’ can take longer with purely talking therapies that work with and process more directly through the Neo-Cortical, analytical, or conscious parts of the brain. It is a different way to get in touch with our feelings in an embodied way; a deep and focused means of accessing emotions safely within the therapeutic relationship. It can also help to promote self regulation through working at the edges of the “Window of Tolerance” (as described by Daniel Siegel). 

I invite clients to experience this technique and use it when I feel that perhaps a person feels stuck or when they find it hard to be in their bodies and access deeper, unconscious feelings. 

If you are interested to find out more or experience Brainspotting, please get in touch. I’d be very happy to discuss it further and/or to give a demonstration during an initial session.

claire@brightontalktherapy.com

+44 7557 656960

What is Brainspotting?

Norman Doidge, MD. FRCPC, author of “The Brain That Changes Itself”:

“David Grand is one of the most important and effective psychological trauma therapists now practicing, and his development of Brainspotting is a very important leap forward in helping people resolve trauma. Brainspotting is a remarkable, sophisticated, flexible addition to the therapeutic toolkit of any psychotherapist. I know because I use it regularly and find that, combined with the psychoanalytic approaches I normally practice, the results are astonishingly helpful. Using it, one becomes amazed at the extent to which our traumas can be detected in our ordinary facial and eye reflexes and how, by using these windows to inner mental states, many traumas and symptoms can be rapidly relieved. Grand writes clearly, and the cases, dramatic as they are, are not exaggerated.”

From the founder of Brainspotting, David Grand, Psychotherapist: