What is Brain Spotting Therapy?
Brain spotting therapy is a form of alternative therapy, where patients are able to process their trauma through the use of spots in the visual field.
It can be a really effective holistic style treatment for mental illnesses that are rooted in past traumas.
Read on to find out more about this style of therapy, including its origins, the scientific basis, and the actual process.
What is Brain Spotting Therapy
Brain spotting therapy is a type of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) which uses visual stimuli to help treat various mental health issues.
This method was developed by Dr. David Grand in the early 2000s, who believed it could be used as an effective way to help people cope with traumatic events from their past.
This is because it can help to access traumatic memories that are trapped in the subcortical brain.
Such brain areas are responsible for things such as movement, consciousness, emotional processing, and learning new concepts.
The theory behind brain spotting therapy is that when someone experiences a stressful event, they will develop a spot in their visual field that represents the memory of the event.
Originally, it was discovered by Dr. Grand, doing a patient’s appointment for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (which is known as EMDR).
Whilst administering this kind of therapy, Grand had observed the patient’s eyes getting ‘stuck’ in a certain spot, and she was able to access her trauma more deeply doing the talking part of the therapy whilst in this spot.
Therefore, it is very similar to EMDR therapy, though there are a few differences.
It does not need to relieve the trauma that is the root cause of the illness, in order to remove it from the body.
Instead, it helps to release the emotions associated with the trauma, so that the person can heal.
The main difference between the two therapies is that EMDR focuses on the conscious mind, whereas brain spotting therapy works with the subconscious mind.
How does Brain Spotting Therapy Work
The basic premise of brain spotting therapy is that if you have experienced trauma, it will get stuck in the body, and if you are experiencing a negative thought/emotion, then your eye will get stuck somewhere in your visual field.
This ‘stuck trauma’ can cause both mental and physical illnesses.
During the brain spotting therapy, focussing the brain’s memory on a specific incident of trauma can help to reset both the body and the brain, alleviating all illnesses.
In his initial research on this kind of therapy, Grand explained the stuck trauma as ‘frozen maladaptive homeostasis’.
This means that the body is trying to maintain a constant state/stable environment, which is known as homeostasis.
Though usually, homeostasis is a good, beneficial thing, in this case, it is not beneficial.
Brain spotting allows access to this frozen, maladaptive state of homeostasis, and tries to integrate the experience, and finish processioning it in the brain.
For example, if you’re thinking negatively about something, then your eye might get stuck in the right-hand side of your vision.
The reason why this happens is that the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body, and vice versa.
If you have experienced a trauma, then the left hemisphere of the body will try to protect itself by keeping away anything that reminds you of the trauma.
Therefore, if you are having a negative thought, then the left hemisphere thinks it’s best to keep the right-hand side of the body safe, and therefore blocks out any information coming into the right side of the brain.
This is the same process as what happens during sleep; your brain shuts down most of the time, only allowing a small amount of activity to take place.
When we wake up, our brain has to re-integrate everything back together again, and this takes a lot of energy.
As such, our brains shut down much of the time, and sometimes don’t even remember things that happened yesterday.
In this sense, brain spotting is like waking up from a dream.
Understanding Brainspotting Meaning and Therapy Techniques
Brain spotting is quite a fluid form of therapy, and therefore there is no set of standard protocols or processes for a session of brains spotting.
That being said, most sessions, while tailored to individual needs, typically follow some general guidelines that encompass the Brainspotting Meaning, so you can expect a session to follow this blueprint
A typical brain spotting therapy session looks like
A therapist guides you through the process of relaxation, focusing, and identifying your brain spot.
You are then guided to focus on that spot, and the therapist helps you identify what part of your body is causing the pain.
There are a couple different approaches that the therapist can take.
The therapist can take an Outside Window approach, where they notice the client’s eye movements, and the client knows what eye spot they think should be focussed on to deal with the trauma.
Alternatively, the ‘Inside Window’ approach suggests that the client identifies the eye spot.
Once the eye spot has been identified, the therapist guides the client through processing the whole experience and the meaning of the feeling that they have when they focus on the eye spot.
You may uncover previously unknown things about your trauma, or be dealing with all the feelings as they come bubbling up.
You will take the time to process the entire therapy session, and what it could mean about your trauma.
Towards the end of the session, you might rate your level of distress, which should be lower than at the start of the session.
You may be feeling like you have experienced a mental or physical release, and you may be tingling, or shaking.
After the session has been concluded, you may feel emotionally tired or more worn out than usual, and more difficult emotions and memories to cope with may start to surface.
Which Conditions can Brain Spotting Therapy Help With
There are a number of conditions that brain spotting therapy can help with, as it is based on the principle of discovering and releasing past traumas.
Often, the problems that arise after trauma are widespread, as trauma has such a wide-reaching effect.
Some of the most notable conditions that brain spotting can help with are:
- Substance use & abuse
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic pain
- Major depressive disorder
- Attachment Issues
Benefits Associated with Brain Spotting Therapy
In small research studies, there have been a number of studies that have found benefits associated with brain spotting therapy. These include:
- Reduction in chronic pain
- Memories become less painful and traumatic to revisit
- Reduction of negative thought patterns
- Better quality and quantity of sleep
- Increased energy.
In conclusion, brain spotting therapy is a very new field of study, but one that is growing rapidly.
It is still unclear exactly how effective brain spotting therapy is, but it seems to be a promising way to help people who suffer from PTSD and other psychological disorders.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: November 29, 2023