Here’s the Brainspotting origin story I learned in training: Dr. David Grand was seeing a young figure skater with severe childhood trauma to address trouble she was having on the ice. During the usual EMDR protocol of eye movement side of side, Dr. Grand noticed the client’s eyeballs suddenly wobble in their sockets, and he stopped his hand so that her eyes stayed focused on one spot. The client began talking about trauma memories and body sensations that had not come out in their previous 18 months of therapy. They stayed where they were and let the experience unfold. Not sure what to make of it, they came to the end of the session and parted ways with little discussion. That afternoon, the skater called to say she had finally been able to do the jumps on the ice that had eluded her to that point. This began Dr. Grand’s exploration of a phenomenon he came to call Brainspotting.
Brainspotting capitalizes on a direct pathway between eyes and brain. Where we look in space impacts how we feel, so we can use eye position to reach traumas that are otherwise difficult to get to with talk therapy. Brainspotting sessions often begin with locating a spot in the body that the client experiences as neutral calm, and this becomes a safe or “resource” spot the client can return to if feelings become overwhelming. When working with a painful memory or experience, Brainspotting helps bring the flame of arousal down so that the trauma takes its rightful place in the past, out of perpetual present-moment awareness.
Here’s what I love about Brainspotting: the client can choose to talk or not talk – the brain can turn down the intensity without the client sharing the whole story. Brainspotting is gentle, and it acknowledges the nervous system and its overwhelm when trauma is present. The client is gently guided back to the body to notice what is happening there, and this information guides the experience. The client remains in control of direction and the therapist is available as support. I also love that mindfulness, a powerful tool in healing, is one of the key elements of Brainspotting – the therapist guides the client to observe the experience and take a non-judgmental stance on anything that arises. I appreciate that we don’t have to know or understand why Brainspotting is working in order to benefit.
Brainspotting offers hope, as many clients experience a shift in 3-5 sessions.
If you’d like to know more, check out these videos and call for a consultation with Lalah, Jesse or Natalie. We would be delighted to discuss whether Brainspotting might be a good approach for your healing.
Lalah Manly, APC