What is brainspotting & how does it work?

Written By Maria Hernadez & Victoria Valdez 

Brainspotting is a reasonably new and innovative approach that provides faster or immediate improvement in a patient's psychological health. It uses fixed spots in the person's visual field to help them identify and release negative emotions and treat recurrent or uncovered trauma and even physical pain that may be connected to these issues. This method was developed by David Grand, Ph.D., a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, lecturer, performance coach, and public speaker, known for his advancements in healing trauma and enhancing performance and creativity.

This concept is based on the strong connection between the eyes and brain and how particular eye positions can trigger or activate brain responses linked to negative or traumatic emotions. Brainspotting suggests that our brain categorizes traumatic experiences or events as suppressed memories that a person tries to cope with subconsciously. By not having the necessary means to identify or treat these negative emotions/memories or not being aware of their existence, then mental health decreases exponentially. 

Brainspotting suggests that by identifying a specific eye position or spot that triggers or accesses these memories stored in the brain, then it can be stimulated to heal itself by releasing and processing those negative emotions. 

This type of therapy does not have predetermined steps. You will start by trying to relax your body by conventional methods, such as breathing exercises. Then, you will discuss your goals for this therapy and the issues you want to work through. It is essential to be as specific as possible to identify repressed emotions or memories better. 

Next, the therapist will have the client look around with the help of a pointer or gaze spot and focus on specific positions to identify a spot that triggers a patient's unconscious responses or expressions like an eye twitch or pupil dilation, tense muscles, for example. The client then holds that eye spot while working together to uncover why this position holds suppressed emotions. In terms of physical pain, you will first identify the affected area of your body, and you and your therapist will then try to pinpoint where your eyes focus when you feel discomfort. 

Again, the goal is to identify your feelings while holding a specific eye position. You are free to work through these emotions out loud or internally but as opposed to conventional sessions; your therapist won't offer significant input in this process until the end of the session to ask how you're feeling. Brainspotting during a therapy session can range from 10-15 minutes to a full 45-minute of brainspotting during a session. Or brainspotting can be done for 90 minute sessions or even intensives that consist of 6 hours of brainspotting (with breaks) over consecutive days. Victoria typically integrates brainspotting throughout a session but also provides brainspotting sessions for 45 minutes or longer for deep processing and faster results. 

Although this is a noninvasive session, it is vital to be in the right mindset. It would help if you didn't change anything about your daily activities but did the things that would usually help you start your day in the best way possible. It is not necessary but recommended to clear your schedule after the session or have it be your last activity for the day. Having someone driving you to and from your brainspotting session can be helpful but not required. Getting enough sleep and drinking lots of water before and after the session is also essential. Ensure your body and mind are not affected by other factors or substances such as caffeine, alcohol or drugs.. Including some type of physical activity after a brainspotting session is optional but would be beneficial. Taking a walk is one example.  

After the session, you may feel relieved while physically or mentally tired. It all depends on what worked through during the process. Reactions are different for everybody. You may feel pensive or maybe irritable while you work through these results. Getting a good night of sleep post-session is essential as well. There are no long-lasting or significant negative or harmful side effects. Keep in mind your body may continue to process traumas over the next several days. It can be very helpful for clients to keep a journal and document any changes they have noticed. Changes may include: improved confidence, improved sleep or mood, increased motivation, less reactivity to past trauma triggers, brief increased anxiety followed by a calm state or other. 

If you're not fully convinced of this method's efficacy,  you can use it alongside other therapeutic approaches. Sandtray Therapy is one option, where you will provide insight into your inner struggles through a physical representation of how you perceive the world in a sandbox filled with miniature objects that you would organize to your desire. You can also choose to include Art Therapy, where you would use various types of art such as drawings, paintings, collages, and such to express yourself and be analyzed by your therapist. Another example would be Neurofeedback therapy, which measures a person's brain waves and teaches you how to control them while dealing with specific issues. It all depends on your needs and what you feel would be more effective.

Brainspotting therapy benefits everyone because it gives patients a sense of control that promotes faster results. Clients who have experienced Trauma, people who have PTSD, ADHD/ADD, addiction to substances, confidence issues, attachment wounds may find it especially  healing. It can also benefit injury recovery patients and help treat physical illness, inattention, stress, and low motivation.

Victoria is Phase 1 brainspotting & brainspotting for children (0-18) trained and uses sand tray, art and play therapy (play when working with children) integrated with brainspotting.

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