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Brainspotting: Where you look effects how you feel

Posted by Trina Grater on February 19, 2020

Trina 1.5I’ve formed a few different approaches when succinctly capturing “Brainspotting.” To fit many audiences here, let’s take a glimpse at a few of those different angles on the trauma counseling Modality.

What is it? Brainspotting is a focused treatment method that grew out of EMDR. A “Brainspot” is the eye position that is related to an emotionally charged issue within the brain. Research is rapidly growing as Brainspotting is gaining a reputation for efficacy for healing. It works by identifying, processing, and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional and body pain, trauma, dissociation and a variety of other symptoms that historically were seen as challenging in therapy.

How does it work? A “brainspot” or eye position taps into the limbic system, which is the flight-flight-freeze part of our brains. The limbic system is the reptilian part of our brain and is quite primitive. Trauma overwhelms this part of the brain and its processing, leaving pieces of the unprocessed experiences frozen in the brain and body. Brainspotting looks for a figurative door into the memory and the associated emotions with it.

What could one expect from a Brainspotting session? Individuals can anticipate going inward, and staying curious. No fireworks are going to go off. You can share, and you don’t have to. Brainspotting sets a process in motion that is already inside you, and what unfolds is ideal for healing the emotional wounds. Because of the reconnecting to one’s Self through the reprocessing of the activating event or thought, Brainspotting can lead frozen traumas being Released.

What does a Brainspotting session look like? Any of my clients can request to do a Brainspotting session. The client chooses the topic, let’s check in how activating it is, at times we’ll want to find a resource spot for regrounded if needed. Then, we’ll start with the topic chosen and scan a few different eye positions. The client steers the process through their physiological cues and, in part, by following their intuition. Let your eyes wander and see what comes up. Stay curious. Just notice any thoughts, feelings. I’m here. At times, I may check in and invite a body scan; somatic aspects of Brainspotting pull us front a cognitive level (prefrontal cortex) to the heart level (limbic system). There are no rules; anything is normal. Observe yourself. Go with it if you can. Let anything up and out. I’ll stick with you.

What’s happening during the session? Our minds often have to catch up with what our heartsalready know. Mindful reprocessing happens as one stays curious in their mind and body, whilethe therapist is astutely attuned to the client. The client experiences ilateral stimulation through nature music which moves from one ear to the other. This bilateral stimulation allows the brain to actually move through, let go, and open up for reconsideration.

Brainspotting session stories from the field: Physiological reprocessing during Brainspotting can look a variety of different processes. I’ve observed the client seemingly riding a horse, nearly throwing up, squinting and eye movements, in addition to crying. Clients often identify feeling something like tightness in their throat, stomach, or chest. They come to insightful conclusions on their own related to their future and their potential. Some clients have realized on their own that some previous confusing experiences weren’t their fault no matter what. They also make connections and find meaning with what happened and how to move forward in their lives. Following a session, students have come to terms with impactful experiences and at times begin to share about something they’ve been rumbling around for a long time. I’ve sat with clients in silence and wept alongside with them as they began to get in touch with things they couldn’t put words to yet.

Our wounds don’t make logical sense. Therefore, at times, healing isn’t as simple and controlled as we would like it to be. Healing occurs when we quiet the mind and listen to the heart on that journey. It takes more self-love than self-discipline.

The heart of therapy is a safe space to face our monsters, and to finding freedom from them. I find that Brainspotting is a powerful additional tool that can get around things that can keep treatment stagnant and engage clients in ways that are more approachable.

Brainspotting is flexible and it is to be integrated with many other therapeutic approaches, one can take on anything, and it is rooted in a humanistic foundation. The latter is often at the heart of my clinical work; I believe we have the answers to our struggles already inside us, which can be terrifying and empowering at the same time. The young ladies I work with in the field respond well to this for these reasons, and because of the value of setting talk therapy aside and setting in motion an innate healing experience. Further, that doesn’t necessarily have to fit into language. For the clinically sophisticated clients I work with, it is invaluable toward going deep, fostering the therapeutic alliance, and doing instead of talking about what could be productive.

And, I was skeptical at first. I’ve been a client and done Brainspotting. These were some of the most powerful therapy sessions I’ve experienced. I remember wondering if it would be awkward that the therapist is watching me and I’m zoning out at a different spot. For me, everything else disappeared besides that spot. I spoke the stream of consciousness that seemed to flow up. I wasn’t aware of the psychological releases that were taking place at the
time, and it was astounding to hear the therapist describe them later. In the weeks and months following, I found myself more easily doing things that I struggled to commit to previously but knew were best for me. Simple things, the little things that are actually the big things, like cleaning up or starting something early or taking a hot bath. For me, my experiences with Brainspotting improved my well-being.

As you think about this concept, you are likely doing some Brainspotting. Different eye positions are connected to a myriad of parts of our brains. Where you look effects where you access in your brain and, subsequently, your body and your heart. Healing happens at the heart level. It takes tuning into one’s heart. So, stick with that spot for a moment, and just notice what comes up.

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