Where you look affects how you feel.
Brainspotting is a leading edge counseling modality that is used to treat emotional trauma as well as improve artistic and sports performances.
Developed by David Grand, PhD a pioneer in the field of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing another leading edge modality used to treat trauma. Brainspotting allows each individual to access their own internal healing mechanisms and resources to bring about incredible healing and recovery.
Brainspotting can be used to treat distant past events and experiences as well as recent traumatic experiences and events.
Brainspotting can also be used to improve artistic and sports performances.
Brainspotting allows for the enhancement of artistic and sports performances by allowing the performer to access inner strengths and wisdom that are extremely difficult to access via the neo cortex or what some might describe as a “more conscious way.”
Before we get to how Brainspotting works an extremely brief and simple lesson on the brain.
The Triune Brain model and Brainspotting
Our brain can be divided into three parts with each part roughly having a certain set of functions and characteristics. Do remember though that our brain works in an a complicated yet integrated manner.
The Reptilian Brain
This part of the brain is just above the base of the neck it includes the brain stem and is responsible for things like our heart beat and breathing. The functions that occur in this part of the brain are completely automatic and we have no real control over it. For example, try to hold your breath and eventually you will start to breathe again whether you want to or not.
The Limbic Brain or Emotional Brain or Subcortical Brain
This is our mid brain. One way to “locate” our limbic system is to place your index finger from one hand in the middle of forehead and then place the other index finger on the temple of the same side as the hand that is not on your forehead. Now image a line from your finger on your forehead going through your head and coming out the back of your head. Then imagine a different line from the finger on your temple going through your head and coming out through the opposite side of your head. Now imagine where these two lines intersect and this is your limbic brain or limbic system.
The processes of the limbic system are designed to occur at an extremely rapid pace which are subconscious or outside of our awareness. These processes are focused and primarily designed to keep us safe and out of danger. This applies to both physical danger and emotional danger.
The Neo Cortex or New Cortex
This is the top part of our brain with a very important part just behind our forehead called the pre-frontal cortex. The neo cortex is our conscious thinking or rational brain. It’s where abstract thought and creativity resides and the part of the brain where we make complicated decisions such as driving a car or develop plans to build a house.
Traditional talk psychotherapy occurs in the neo cortex.
Neuronal connections in the brain
Our brain is a vast connection of neuronal networks. Neuroscientists estimate that we have 4 to 5 quadrillion neuronal connections in our brain. One quadrillion is one billion times one million so that’s 4 to 5 times this amount.
Brainspotting naturally utilizes the relevant neuronal connections to bring about profound healing and recovery.
When a person has experienced a traumatic event or other negative experience the connections in our neuronal networks can be so severely impacted that these connections change which in turn change the way the person functions. For example, if someone is in a terrible car accident on the highway they may subsequently restrict their driving and no longer drive on the highway even though doing so would more efficient.
In this example, the person’s neuronal connections or networks have been so severely impacted and changed as a result of the car accident that their brain now interprets driving on the highway as too dangerous and is to be avoided at all costs.
Another example, if someone grew up with a very frightening parent or adult. The person as a child may learn that the best response to keep safe is to say yes to everything and accept responsibility for anything even if they didn’t do it.
In this example, the brain connections and neuronal networks form around the idea that in order to stay safe in frightening situations the best bet is to say yes or take on the responsibility for the situation.
Research in the last 20 years or so indicates that traumatic and negative experiences and energies are held and stored in the limbic system or emotional brain (subcortical brain), the brain stem and the body. Accessing these unresolved traumatic experiences and energies is the pathway to healing and recovery. However, accessing the limbic system, the brain stem and the body can be quite challenging via talk therapy.
This is where Brainspotting comes in.
How does Brainspotting work?
Brainspotting utilizes the person’s field of vision via an eye position i.e. where the person looks to access the brainspots and body spots locations that correspond to location of the traumatic experiences and energies that are stored in the brain and body. Yes, I realize this can be confusing but read on.
What is a brainspot?
A brainspot is a collection of neurons which encapsulate or house the experiences of our life events. Clusters of neurons involved in trauma are called trauma capsules in Brainspotting theory. A person can have multiple interwoven and interconnected trauma capsules and other capsules.
In treating trauma, Brainspotting focuses on the neurons in the trauma capsules associated with the traumatic or negative event or experience to bring about healing and recovery. Brainspotting relies on the person’s own healing resources to engage in whatever healing process or patterns that are necessary to bring out the healing and recovery.
The process used to bring about healing and recovery located in the trauma capsules is known as focused mindful processing. During this processing the brain and body begins to access its own internal healing resources to reprocess and release the traumatic energies resulting a decrease in the emotional charge of the experience or event.
It is during the focused mindful processing that a person for example can begin to realize that the car accident was an accident and realize that they can drive on the highway again and it doesn’t mean they will automatically get into another accident.
This is a very meaningful and powerful healing process that the person’s own body and brain system creates and integrates into their neuronal networks. This healing is profound and permanent. It is this healing that allows the person to drive on the highway again.
Listen to David Grand, Phd, Founder of Brainspotting along with Christine Ranck, PhD talk about brainspots
Brainspotting's Dual Attunement Process
The presence of the psychotherapist or counselor
Brainspotting utilizes the primary concept of dual attunement.
The Brainspotting therapist pays explicit attention to the client's experience during the counseling session usually by looking directly at the client, silently observing the client’s non verbal processes, travel along with them energetically and emotionally in their focused mindful processing.
The dual attunement frame allows the psychotherapist or counselor to gently encourage and guide the focused mindful processing as needed without directing or controlling it.
The counselor or psychotherapist helps the client to set up a frame for the Brainspotting session. The frame acts as a container and protective barrier for the emotional processes that occur during the session.
This frame allows the client to feel safe during focused mindful processing by signaling to the client’s brain and body that they can disengage from self protection and focus the brain and body’s resources on healing and recovery.
The frame is a necessary part for comprehensive, thorough healing and recovery.
When we experience a traumatic or negative event this is often within the context of a relationship. The person experiencing the traumatic or negative event is typically alone. Having a highly attuned counselor or psychotherapist present creates the emotional and energetic safety container for healing to occur.
What are the results of Brainspotting?
Despite popular belief, the goals of counseling is not to simply to talk about issues.
The goals of Brainspotting counseling and counseling in general is to move from:
chaos to order
dyregulation to regulation
emotional imbalance to emotional well being
hopelessness and despair to hope and optimism
a poor quality of life to a high quality of life
Brainspotting is known as a bottom up approach. This means the Brainspotting process targets body sensations or somatics in addition to the limbic system in the brain. There is a lot less talking during a Brainspotting counseling session.
Somatic sensations and symptoms although non verbal, contain the energies of the traumatic event along with the messaging that resulted from the traumatic experience(s). These symptoms and sensations are located in our neuronal networks and often have absolute command and influence over a person’s emotional state and functionality.
When a person begins to heal the significant emotional wounds located deep within their brain and their body the neuronal networks and capsules begin to heal and function more effectively and efficiently.
The brain and body is no longer ruled by the neuronal wiring that resulted from the traumatic and negative experiences. By default this healing process allows new insights and new ways of being in the world.
In today's online world many people expect and want some type of testimonial regarding a service or product.
Currently, in the USA counselors/psychotherapists are not permitted to request testimonials from clients. I realize that some of you are probably now wondering if this is true how come you have seen testimonials from clients on other therapists' websites.
The answer is simple those therapists are breaking ethical guidelines.
The section below is excerpted from an article on client testimonials by my colleague Roy Huggins, LPC in Portland, OR.
Solicitation of Reviews/Testimonials From Clients is Unethical
(click on the above link to read the entire article)
The ACA, APA, and NASW codes of ethics all prohibit the solicitation of testimonials from clients:
Counselors who use testimonials do not solicit them from current clients nor former clients nor any other persons who may be vulnerable to undue influence.
ACA Code of Ethics, 2014, C.3.b
Psychologists do not solicit testimonials from current therapy clients/patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.
Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, 2010, 5.05
Social workers should not engage in solicitation of testimonial endorsements (including solicitation of consent to use a client’s prior statement as a testimonial endorsement) from current clients or from other people who, because of their particular circumstances, are vulnerable to undue influence.
NASW Code of Ethics, 2017, 4.07.b
There is a lively and relevant debate about whether or not this is appropriate in the modern social climate, given the impractical consequences of the blanket prohibition. That debate is better left to a different article, however.
Fortunately, I have two testimonials that do not violate ethical guidelines.
Now that you have read more than you ever thought you would about client testimonials and counseling I have two testimonials regarding Brainpotting.
Both testimonials are publicly available and neither one was solicited by me.
The first testimonial is by Ted, someone who had a profound healing experience as a result of Brainspotting. His experience is publicly available on YouTube.
The second testimonial clip is from the ESPN film on former Mets pitcher Mackey Sasser.
Ted's healing and recovery through Brainspotting
Former Mets pitcher Mackey Sasser and Brainspotting
Click on the above link to be taken to YouTube. It costs $1.99 (HD) or $0.99 (SD) to watch this clip which is Season 2 Episode 9. There is no affiliate relationship between me and YouTube or ESPN. In other words I don't receive any money for purchasing or clicking on the link.
Brainspotting brings about life change.
The person begins to feel and experience a reduction in their trauma symptoms and a freedom to live a truly fulfilling life.
A life that is:
Increase emotional regulation capacity
Greater emotional well being
Hope and optimism
Higher and improved quality of life
Brainspotting is effective with an array of issues. In my counseling practice, I use Brainspotting to help clients heal and recover from: