What is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting is a powerful method for addressing maladaptive emotional pain and trauma. This therapy evolved out of EMDR, and it combines aspects of talk therapy, mindfulness, and somatic therapy. It utilizes specific eye positions as a way to access deeply stored pockets of psychological experience. These eye positions are connected to memories, emotional schemas, and somatic experiences in the brain and body. The process helps to locate and address root cause symptoms that are normally out of the reach of the conscious mind. Brainspotting can accelerate healing for deeper issues in a way that may not be possible through talk therapy alone. It is commonly applied for treating trauma and PTSD. However, it can also be an effective tool for a wide range of issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, dissociation, emotional regulation, attachment injuries, and addictions
EMDR vs Brainspotting: What is the Difference?
Brainspotting is a newer therapy than EMDR. It works with fixed eye positions while the client focuses on the internal experience that arises during therapy. Each person is unique, so the discovery of activated eye positions is a collaborative exploration, rather than a cookie-cutter formula. In contrast, EMDR uses a repetitive pattern of active, side-to-side eye movements, and the therapy is applied in a highly structured, manualized formula. Recent studies comparing Brainspotting to EMDR show similar rates of effectiveness for improving PTSD symptoms in adults (Hildebrand et al., 2017). Another study showed that Brainspotting significantly reduced the occurrence of memory-related distress in adults, while also increasing heart-rate variability (D’Antoni, 2021).
What to Expect During a Therapy Session
Your Brainspotting session may be integrated with other therapeutic methods utilized by your therapist. Every session is custom-tailored for your situation, so appropriate interventions will be applied to fit your needs. Your therapist will conduct a thorough intake interview with you in order to map out issues and goals you want to work on, along with desired states of being you would like to cultivate. Brainspotting therapy can be enhanced by the use of bi-lateral music. This music is designed with alternating audio patterns that stimulate of each cerebral hemisphere. The aim is to increase the brain’s processing ability, and the music is applied through earphones. Bilateral music is not required for brainspotting to be effective, and it may or may not be applied during your session.
Brainspotting to Expand Your Potential
In contrast to activated brainspots, expansion brainspots are eye positions that are connected to positive emotions, strengths, and other internal resources. These help to cultivate desired states of being, tap into your potential, and expand on qualities such as creativity, performance abilities, life passions, and personal skills. Through expansion, it is possible to increase a felt sense of hope, peace, gratitude, motivation, joy, connection, presence, and a feeling of being in a state of flow. The aim is to improve positive neural networks, reduce suffering, and accelerate transformation. Expansion Brainspotting is also a crucial element for more vulnerable clients who have experienced intense trauma. The expansion method helps keep enough emotional regulation on board so that productive therapeutic gains can be made.
Are There any Risks with Brainspotting?
When an activated eye position is located, you may experience unpleasant emotional states or distressing memories. However, it is important to know that a certain level of activation is a crucial ingredient in the process of mental / emotional change. Neuroscience research shows that moderate activation of distress is part of what stimulates the brain to undergo a process of permanent change. This phenomenon is known as memory reconsolidation (Ecker & Vaz, 2022). When the distress is therapeutically activated, there is a 5-hour window of time in which old emotional learning can be modified and updated by new, present-day experiencing. Therefore, activation of distress is not the only ingredient necessary for change. New learning through direct experiencing must also occur (Ecker & Vaz, 2022). Your therapist has a solid understanding of these principles, and therapy will aim to guide this process to naturally unfold whenever possible. Finally, activation of distress needs to be balanced with enough emotional regulation so that the brain remains in a productive healing state. This is known as the “window of tolerance.” Your therapist is trauma-informed and will work with you in a way that honors your own personal window of tolerance.