Brainspotting in Walnut Creek
Brainspotting (BSP) is an effective form of somatic therapy (also known as body-based therapy) that heals the brain and body of trauma. Brainspotting is based on the basic idea that “where you look effects how you feel”.
Through BSP, the therapist guides the client to focus on their present-moment experience while focusing their eye-gaze on one spot. BSP allows the therapist and client to work together to go deep quickly so that traumas can be healed.
According to current research, somatic therapies, like BSP, EMDR or Somatic Experiencing, shows to be the most highly-rated and effective forms of therapy in treating trauma.
In one study, the parents and survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting received 25 different therapeutic modalities. The adults who received BSP, about 59% of them rated Brainspotting as “highly effective” while an additional 9% rated it as “effective”. Of that study of the Sandy Hook survivors who received various forms of therapy and healing modalities, Brainspotting was rated the #1 modality choice for the adults that received it.
How was Brainspotting discovered?
Brainspotting was discovered in 2003 by David Grand, PhD after he had studied and utilized EMDR and Somatic Experiencing in his practice for years. Grand discovered it while he was conducting an EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) session with a figure skater.
The figure skater was unable to complete a triple loop due to her own deep-rooted fears and anxiety.
While guiding her eyes back and forth, Grand observed a facial reaction from her when she looked in one particular spot. Grand guided to her to look at the one spot with her eyes for a long period of time. After the session when he checked in with the client and she was hitting every triple loop she attempted.
How does Brainspotting work?
Brainspotting works by accessing the subcortical brain, which is something that talk therapy is unable to access. While talk therapy is effective and helpful, the emotional and physical trauma response cannot be healed through talk alone.
Brainspotting gives the therapist the tools to help clients access their own brain and body processes. Through BSP, we can bypass the conscious, neocortical thinking and access the deep subcortical emotional and body-based parts of the brain. David Grand’s book on Brainspotting explains all of this in much greater detail.
This video shares more about what a “brainspot” is and what a typical BSP session may look like:
How does Brainspotting differ from EMDR?
EMDR (Eye-Movement Reprocessing and Desensitization) was developed in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro, PhD. It provides bilateral stimulation in order to process trauma.
EMDR and Brainspotting Similarities:
- Both of these therapeutic modalities allow you to reprocess information from past experiences
- Each modality helps you access information stored in the amygdala (which is in the subcortical part of your brain that is non-verbal, which we know is where trauma is stored)
- EMDR and BSP utilize bilateral stimulation to help process
- The rate of processing can be slowed down if desired.
How Brainspotting differs from EMDR:
- Brainspotting accesses the brain in a very focused way. With EMDR, some clients can have difficulty with it because they become overstimulated. With BSP, there are many tools that can the therapist can offer the client to make it more tolerable and still be effective.
- EMDR is based on many structured protocols that the therapist follows, where there are routine questions. Brainspotting has an open model that is client led. The client is in the driver’s seat and the therapist follows their lead. BSP allows the therapist to have more flexibility and, ultimately, room for creativity on what tool may best support a client in processing in the moment. Since BSP is an open-model, the therapist is also able to easily integrate other forms of therapy within it.
- EMDR is often done visually with rapid eye-movements. The therapist usually is unable to control the pace of that bilateral stimulation. With Brainspotting, the client is usually focuses on one single eye position.
Clients who have gotten both EMDR and Brainspotting tend to report that with BSP they felt that they processed deeper and more rapidly compared to EMDR. With my clients, many times, they tend to feel some shift by the end of session.
Of course, research shows that both methods are very effective at treating trauma. At the end of the day, the modality that will likely be most effective depends on the preference for both the therapist and, most importantly, the client.
What types of issues can Brainspotting help with?
Brainspotting is useful to help ailments that are trauma based. These can include (but at not limited to):
- Anxiety (fears, worries, phobias, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, etc.)
- Past abuse (physical, sexual, or verbal/emotional)
- Bipolar disorder
- Performance anxiety and overcoming creative blocks
- Flashbacks, nightmares or reoccurring traumatic memories
- Grief and loss
- Chronic pain that is not due to physical injury
- Addiction and compulsive behaviors
- Negative self-beliefs and criticism
- Relationship problems and old wounds
Does Brainspotting have any side effects?
After someone has a Brainspotting session, they continue to process the information from that session for hours after the session. The “side effects” that come up are a result of that continued processing.
If you have a Brainspotting session, I recommend scheduling the session in the afternoon or evening. That way you can rest for the remainder of the day. I sometimes also recommend having a 90-minute session for BSP. This way we can be sure that there is enough time for you to process and feel settled by the time you leave.
After a Brainspotting session, most people feel tired and fatigued. You may be a little more sensitive to external stimulation than usual. You may also feel more in touch with your emotional state, so it can be normal to become easily sad or angry for hours afterwards because your brain is still processing. Most people sleep very well the night after a BSP session. I tell my clients to rest after a BSP session and drink lots of water. In some cases, I may also tell someone to take it slow before doing an activity, like driving.
In some cases, clients have reported to leave the session with some muscle tension or a headache. This generally doesn’t last long and tends to go away shortly after the session as the brain continues to process.
None of these after-effects are particularly “negative” side effects that are chronic and long-term. Rather, these effects are the normal result of processing deep information in the subcortical brain.
Is Brainspotting the right therapy for me?
Whenever clients ask me this question, they’re often concerned whether or not they can do Brainspotting “right”. The good news is: There is no wrong way to do Brainspotting! Every session is going to be proactive towards reducing your trauma, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, grief or whatever it may be that you’re wanting to work on. Your brain knows exactly what it needs to heal. As your therapist, I’m merely going to be guide and support for you in that healing process. You’re in the drivers seat and I’m on the passenger side supporting you along the way.
That all being said, as a holistic therapist, I’m very aware that no “one” therapy works for everyone, every time, and at all times. Therefore, I like to integrate various forms of therapy based on where a client is in the moment. In addition to Brainspotting, I also utilize various forms of talk therapy, mindfulness, guided imagery, body-based (somatic) interventions (other than Brainspotting), art therapy, and various other experiential (and creative) techniques.
If you are curious about Brainspotting and have questions, then please contact me at 925-326-7974 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We can work together to decide what may be the right approach for you at this time.Contact me for your free 15-minute consultation!
Jennifer Twardowski, MA, AMFT is a holistic psychotherapist serving Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, Orinda, Alamo, Danville, Concord, Martinez, and surrounding areas of the San Francisco East Bay. She specializes in working with self esteem, trauma, codependency, anxiety, depression and highly sensitive persons. Click here to learn more about her and her practice.
Jennifer provides therapy through the Center of Psychotherapy, Spirituality and Creativity, a non-profit. She is supervised by Dana Locke, LMFT.