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What Is Brainspotting Therapy and Is It Right For Me?

By: Zana Van Der Smissen

New therapies are popping up all the time and making sure what therapy works best for you is vital when working with your therapist. So, learning what is out there can be useful when wanting to explore something new in the therapy space! 

Brainspotting: What Is It and Is It the Right Therapy for You?

Today, I will be talking about a brain-based therapy called, Brainspotting. Dr. David Grand developed this therapy in 2013 wanting to find a way to combine the powerful aspects of talk therapy with the successful effects of a therapist following the client’s brain-body processes (Grand, 2013). Now what does ‘following the client’s brain-body processes’ mean? Well, Dr. Grand breaks it down by talking about how the eyes and the brain are interconnected. Our eyes can be used to scan the world for information and through signals sent from our eyes, our brain will direct where we look. Now, Brainspotting tries to replicate the same process but with internal information in our brains. For example, by having our eyes look around our environment, we are looking around in our brain for memories and specifically trauma. 

Dr. Grand started to explore this method when working with 9/11 victims who had deep traumas in their brain that were going unresolved. Through Brainspotting, the therapist could look out for signals from the clients through their facial movements and how their eyes were responding to the environment. Looking for spots of activation in the brain is done through the observation of the therapist; however, clients can also help guide the therapist to spots that they might have passed. To make it easier for the client to follow the therapist, a pointer is used to go across each side of the client’s field of vision. Once a spot of activation is found, the client talks through the images, emotions and any information they can get from that memory. 

At this point you might be asking yourself, how might Brainspotting be different to Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)? They both use eye movements to work through trauma. However, Brainspotting works where the therapist is looking for a reflexive response to find the activation spot while EMDR focuses on the stimulation between the two sides of the brain and focusing on the past, present and future to process the trauma. In 2017, a study done by Anja Hildebrand, David Grand & Mark Stemmler found that Brainspotting was as effective in treating clients with a PTSD diagnosis (Hildebrand, Grand & Stemmler, 2017). Brainspotting is a more recent type of therapy so more research is being done into how it can be effective for other mental health diagnoses. 

So is this the right therapy for you? Right now, there are 6,000 psychotherapists around the world who are trained in Brainspotting so finding a therapist who knows about Brainspotting might prove to be tricky. However, as it gains momentum, Brainspotting can be useful in the future for clients who are experiencing: 

  • Trauma
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Dissociation 
  • Performance
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Whether this therapy seems to be of interest to you or not, having a conversation with your therapist about different therapies can be a great opportunity. It allows you to learn more about a therapy that you heard about and let’s you try it out in a safe space with your therapist. Trying something new can be daunting but also lead to a breakthrough in your mental health journey! 

Grand, D. (2013). Brainspotting: The revolutionary new therapy for rapid and effective change. Sounds True.Hildebrand, A., Grand, D., & Stemmler, M. (2017). Brainspotting–the efficacy of a new therapy approach for the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in comparison to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology, 5(1).

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