What is “Brainspotting”?

What is “Brainspotting”? 2019-06-01T15:42:36+00:00

Psychologists and people seeking treatment for many psychological problems are increasingly looking into brainspotting. The new form of therapy is showing promise in the treatment of many emotional and physical issues faced by clients. Just what is the new treatment, and how does it work? What are its advantages over traditional treatments? To answer those questions, it is necessary to first define the term.

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What is Brainspotting?

The therapy was created by David Grand combining aspects of Somatic Experiencing Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). It is a method of treating emotional or biological pain, trauma, addictions, and other psychological issues by identifying a neuropsychological trigger, processing it and releasing it. Brainspotting assumes that the direction in which a person looks affects the way they feel.

How it Works

Therapists use a pointer to direct the client’s gaze across a field of vision seeking eye positions that trigger painful memories, physical sensations or emotions. They also sometimes utilize something called Bilateral Sound Therapy in which clients are exposed to a different selected sound in each ear. The sounds chosen are usually music, nature or simply tones.

The practitioner must employ a concept called “dual attunement” or paying attention not only to what is occurring during the therapy but the brain-body response of the client. When the therapist detects a reflexive response to the process, he notes the eye position and asks the client to recount the experience or event triggered.

Because the therapist first develops a trusted relationship with clients, he can assist them in reprocessing the experience. Once the client has dealt with the trigger, he or she can release the pain or stress that it causes.

Why it Works

It is increasingly believed that the brain stores memories, especially traumatic ones, as physical “files” that can cause emotional or somatic reactions when they are opened. Brainspotting targets the Limbic System which is a collection of brain structures that regulate emotional response. These structures are usually activated consciously by the individual, but they can also respond independently through the subconscious.

Therapists have long used Somatic Experiencing with clients to uncover deep emotional pain. According to an article in Psychology Today, this is an innate ability that all animals seem to possess of recovering after the stress of “flight or fight” incidents by releasing certain chemicals into the body. Clients who suffer from PTSD, addictions and other traumas seem not to be able to do this on their own. Therapists sometimes address this through EMDR, but facing the underlying experiences again can add more trauma. Brainspotting combines the two therapies in a gentler treatment that seems to reap good outcomes.


One of the benefits of this therapy is that it works with so many conditions. It is primarily used in treating trauma, but can also be helpful in addiction treatment, relational problems, brain damage, Fibromyalgia and a score of other disorders. It is relatively short-term, so it is more cost-effective than many types of therapy. Brainspotting can be a stand-alone therapy or may be combined with other treatment forms. It also doesn’t require people to go over a traumatic incident repeatedly.

Although this therapy is fairly new, it is showing enough promise to make it a frequent choice for therapists of clients dealing with unexplained physical or emotional issues. The fact that clients will probably not face years of this treatment makes brainspotting an attractive option for clients as well.