Brainspotting (BSP) is a relatively new type of therapy, similar to and building on EMDR, designed to help people gain access to, process, and resolve trauma, negative emotions, and pain, including psychologically induced physical pain. Brainspotting was developed by David Grand in his work with survivors of trauma, and many therapists using the approach have found it to be an effective form of treatment for a variety of mental health concerns, and especially for trauma. Corner Canyon therapists who use both state that it speeds up the process of recovering from trauma and is less difficult for clients emotionally.
According to therapist and brainspotting creator David Grand, the direction in which people look can affect the way they feel. During brainspotting, therapists help people position their eyes in ways that enable them to target sources of negative memories and emotion. Trained brainspotting therapists use a pointer to slowly guide the eyes of people in therapy across their field of vision to find related “brainspots,” with a brainspot being an eye position that activates a painful emotion or traumatic memory. Therapists who use the procedure believe it allows therapists to access emotions on a deeper level than other therapies and target the stored effects of trauma. There is increasing evidence that trauma is “stored” in the body and that it can alter the way the brain works and compromise its efficacy. Trauma can have a significant effect on emotions, memory, and physical health. Brainspotting seems to activate the body’s innate ability to heal itself from trauma.
While a therapist may attempt to access both the emotional and physical “locations” of negative emotions, brainspotting therapists use something called dual attunement, a process through which the therapist simultaneously attunes themselves to the therapeutic relationship as well as the brain-body response of the client in therapy. There is accumulating evidence that brainspotting works primarily on the limbic system, a set of brain structures that play a role in long-term memory, emotion, cognition, motivation, impulse control, and several other psychological factors that can affect a person’s well-being.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Brainspotting (BSP) are two effective and research validated therapeutic methods that Corner Canyon Health Centers uses to help treat clients who have experienced a traumatic situation(s) or are suffering from an acute stress syndrome, and/or are suffering from PTSD. They can also be effective in alleviating symptoms caused by anxiety and depression. PTSD is positively correlated with higher levels of health-related problems, lower levels of functioning, and is often a chronic and persistent disorder, so it’s important that we treat these symptoms with effective treatments, according to an article published in the Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology (Hildebrand et al, 2017). EMDR and BPS have been talked about as “power therapies” because they process through past trauma at a faster pace than other methods of therapy.
Both EMDR and Brainspotting use therapeutic modalities to help reprocess memories that are stored in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that is accessed verbally. They’re both developed around a client’s line of vision with the idea that working with the position of a client’s eyes or where the client’s gaze is directed can unlock some deeper insights that have not yet been recognized in other types of therapy. EMDR and Brainspotting help the client approach things from a different perspective, deal with the past trauma, and ultimately rebuild the memory structure to help the client’s healing process exponentially.
EMDR is usually performed visually using rapid eye movements to access the part of the brain where non-verbal information is stored, while BSP is focused on a single fixed gaze position, called the brainspot, that corresponds with a certain specific emotional response or situation, stored from past experiences. EMDR follows a specialized protocol and guidelines on how a therapist should respond to the client. BSP is more flexible and focuses on the attunement of the client with the therapist, rather than a specific set procedure.
Brainspotting has been proven by research to be more flexible than EMDR methods. This adaptability gives the therapist more flexibility in their approach with clients, allowing the therapist to customize to the client’s individual treatment needs, yielding deeper and faster results. EMDR has been found to be over stimulating by some clients, limiting which ones can benefit from its use. BSP requires very little conversation by the client, making the technique more appealing for clients who have a hard time verbalizing their concerns or opening up to therapists.