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Spotlight on Brain Spotting: Illuminating Insights for Mental Wellness

Brainspotting therapy represents a unique approach in the realm of alternative therapies, utilizing specific spots in an individual's visual field to aid in processing trauma. Rooted in the subcortical brain—the region governing motion, consciousness, emotions, and learning—it delves into unresolved emotional experiences.

Discovered in 2003 by Dr. David Grand, PhD, as an evolution of his work in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, Brainspotting emerged from observing a client's profound engagement with a fixed point during therapy sessions.

At its core, Brainspotting targets the body's innate ability to maintain equilibrium, seeking to reset the brain's memory of trauma and integrate interrupted processing. Unlike traditional talk therapy, which operates from the conscious mind downwards, Brainspotting and other brain-body therapies adopt a "bottom-up" approach, aiming to alleviate physical stress to address emotional distress.

Operating on the midbrain, which governs vital functions like vision, hearing, sleep, and motor control, Brainspotting seeks to address the freeze response triggered by trauma, which is essential for survival but less helpful for psychological well-being.

In a Brainspotting session, clients typically engage in self-directed activities guided by a therapist. After relaxation exercises and possibly bilateral sound listening, clients identify areas of distress in their bodies and locate their "brainspot"—the focal point where discomfort is most pronounced. The therapist assists in this process, employing either an "Outside Window" or "Inside Window" approach.

Throughout the session, clients delve into the emotions surfacing from the identified spot, processing their experiences. By the session's end, clients often report reduced distress levels and a sense of release, both mentally and physically.

While Brainspotting primarily targets trauma, its benefits extend to various issues such as anxiety, attachment concerns, substance use, posttraumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and major depressive disorder. Though clients may experience heightened emotions following sessions, these reactions are part of the healing journey.  

Differences between Brainspotting and EMDR

1. Eye Movement and Eye Positioning: EMDR, eye movements are a central component of the therapy, involving rhythmic side-to-side eye movements guided by the therapist. These movements aim to facilitate the processing of traumatic memories. Conversely, Brainspotting focuses on eye positioning, with clients identifying specific eye positions or "brainspots" associated with emotional distress. The therapy then targets these spots to access and process trauma.

2. Protocol Flexibility: EMDR typically follows a structured protocol with predetermined steps and techniques, making it a more rigid approach. Brainspotting, on the other hand, is characterized by greater flexibility, allowing therapists to adapt the therapy based on individual client needs and responses. This flexibility enables a more tailored approach to addressing trauma and emotional distress.

3. Reliving Trauma: EMDR often involves the reliving of traumatic memories as part of the processing technique. Clients may be asked to recall distressing experiences while engaging in eye movements. In contrast, Brainspotting emphasizes working through emotions without reliving the trauma. Clients focus on the emotional and physical sensations associated with trauma, without necessarily revisiting the traumatic event itself.

Brainspotting offers a promising avenue for holistic healing and emotional well-being, tapping into the body's innate capacity for healing and growth.

Overall, while both EMDR and Brainspotting aim to process trauma and alleviate distress, they differ in their approach to eye movements, protocol structure, and the reliving of traumatic experiences. Clients and therapists may choose between these therapies based on individual preferences, therapeutic goals, and responsiveness to different treatment modalities.

Toni Vitale, LCSW

Coach, Consultant, and Psychotherapist 

Scedule a consult 

Call or email today

(757) 603-3642


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