What is Brainspotting?

Brainspotting was discovered by Dr. David Grand, and his book gives an excellent description of how he discovered it and how it has grown to an international phenomenon in mental and physical wellness. Dr. Grand also wrote This is Your Brain on Sports, a description of techniques that allow athletes to overcome sports traumas.

When I’m trying to quickly explain to someone what Brainspotting is, the following breaks down a complex process into an over-simplified approach:

  1. To describe as basically as possible: “Where you look affects how you feel.” Where you look actually affects the material that we’re accessing neurologically (in our brains).
  2. To describe with a bit more clinical definition:  “If EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Somatic Experiencing (the work of Dr. Peter Levine) had a love child, it would be Brainspotting.”  Brainspotting incorporates the eye movements and bilateral stimulation of EMDR while incorporating the “felt sense” used in Somatic Experiencing (sensations you feel in your body when you bring up memories or issues). For example, a felt sense might include heart elevation, stomach butterflies or discomfort, a lump in your throat, or a heaviness or tingling sensation in a part of the body. 
  3. Brainspotting incorporates focused mindfulness and biolateral stimulation (in the form of special music played in headsets) so that the client can process feelings, memories, and bodily sensations.

Unlike EMDR, Brainspotting uses a fixed eye position. There’s not a universal eye position for every subject matter, but the eye positioning to a given subject matter will be very specific to each individual.

What is a Brainspotting session like? During a Brainspotting session, you would sit in a comfortable chair and put on headsets so that you can listen to bilateral music.  Then the therapist will collaborate with you to find a Brainspot either through using the “inner window” technique or the “outer window” technique.  (A third possibility is Gaze Spotting, but I won’t get into that topic for now). Once you’ve found your Brainspot, it is time to allow a little bit free-flowing (almost like free association) to guide the healing process.

Likely there are periods of silence in this process. Brainspotting therapists are taught the WAIT technique (Why Am I Talking?). Human beings have an extraordinary ability to heal on our own when given the proper support and environment. Periods of silence are often dictated more by the client. Some people talk almost continually as long as they are accessing those deep brain levels, while other clients are quiet for 10, 15 minutes at a time – where they’re going is where they need to go.

Much like any other neurologically informed technique, what you can expect after is a variety of effects:  from tired, heavy or emotionally raw to relieved, happy, or even euphoric. All of these feelings are normal and are affected by whatever content has been processed. 

Why Brainspotting works. By including the brain in our healing process and more importantly including the midbrain and the brain stem (the seat of our emotional and- somatic experiences), clients are able to create shifts around obstacles and clear out what might be holding them back. A client could use the “talking cure” and be in a different part of the brain (our prefrontal cortex which has to do with higher levels of cognition rather than emotion or bodily experiences) and simply not be able to create any shift or only create shifts over long periods of time.

What is especially cool about Brainspotting? There is a concept in Brainspotting called Performance Expansion which has to do with receiving new insights, experiencing positive shifts, and moving to new levels of performance. Dr. David Grand avoids the semantics around “peak performance” because he feels that “peak” implies a stopping point, while the reality is that we can always be evolving and improving.

How can one experience Brainspotting? If you are in the Sun Valley area, you can come in and experience Brainspotting in my new office location in the Bitterroot building on Spruce (off Sun Valley road in downtown Ketchum). While I am finishing my supervised training, I am doing an initial visit free of charge. For a list of practitioners across the globe, this listing includes practitioners that have completed all four levels of training and supervision. One of my Brainspotting certification consultants is listed there if you happen to be near Appleton, WI.  Cherie is wonderful, and I’m honored to have her as my supervisor as I finish my remaining levels of training this year.

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