Brainspotting® is a non-invasive therapeutic technique that has the potential to produce profound psychological, emotional, and physical results. It is a unique process that uses the brains own ability to stimulate, focus, and activate the body’s natural ability to emotionally heal itself.
Brainspotting® (BSP) which was discovered and developed by Dr. David Grand in 2003 is an innovative, cutting-edge technique that allows people to access, process, and overcome negative emotions, pain and trauma, including psychologically-induced physical pain. It is also a useful tool that can enhance creativity, improve sports and performance outcomes by shifting negative thinking patterns that result in blocks, performance anxiety, procrastination and self-defeating behaviours.
Have you experienced any of the following?
Trauma results when we find ourselves in situations that challenge our ability to have control over our circumstances or our lives. This includes experiences in childhood or through out our lives of;
- physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse,
- physical or emotional neglect, or
- parental separation/divorce
Or growing up with a parent who;
- suffered from mental illness
- was substance dependent
- had been incarcerated, or
- was a perpetrator or victim of domestic violence
Additionally trauma also occurs as a result of;
- physical injury
- traumatic breakups
- death of loved ones
- unforeseen redundancy
- bulling, or
- overwhelming and unexpected financial losses
According to an American study conducted from 1995 to 1997 called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE study) 67% of the American population have experienced at lease one of the above events and it is reasonable to assume these statistics are likewise reflected in Australian culture. Frighteningly they discovered that a person’s cumulative ACEs score has a strong, graded relationship to numerous health, social, and behavioral problems throughout the lifespan including increasing the likelihood of heart disease, cancer, substance dependence and suicide.
So how do negative experiences or trauma affect us?
When a person experiences trauma, the brain becomes overwhelmed and the normal functioning thinking brain is temporarily disrupted as instinct kicks in. In our primitive state this was useful helping us to fight, flee or play dead in the face of threat (this is known as the flight, fight or freeze response). However in our modern lives trauma impacts us very differently, it is often less overt and it is usually persistent, repetitive and invasive. Regardless, ANY kind of trauma inhibits the usual processing of events by the brain, causing memory to be incomplete with distortions occurring and people will most likely experience some symptoms of emotional distress, hyper-reactivity, hyper-vigilance, anxiety and sometimes physical body-based symptoms.
How does the brain manage trauma?
Humans have a triune brain that has evolved as over time including;
- the reptile – Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm
- the mammal – Limbic system, focused on approaching rewards
- and the primate (human) – Cortex, focused on attaching to “us”
The lizard or reptilian brain is particularly relevant to trauma. This part of the brain instinctively engages during times of threat and it focuses on avoiding danger. During frightening experiences the rest of the brain tends to go offline. In the body the stress hormone adrenaline is released causing an increase in blood pressure and heart rate and increasing glucose in the muscles in order to assist the flight or fight response. At the conclusion of the stressful event animals manage to literally physically shake of the adrenal overload. However, humans are less successful at managing this leaving trauma to remain unintegrated and unconsciously stuck in the body and in the brain. When that happens a person’s memory, emotions, and physical health will be compromised.
The reptilian and mammalian part of the brain (limbic system or sub-cortex) is responsible for sensation, memories, emotions in unconscious form and Brainspotting works by finding an eye position (or Brainspot) that correlates with the area in the sub-cortex that encapsulates the original trauma. Working with the brainspot along with observing sensations in the body and noticing emotions long since suppressed allows traumas to be gently accessed, integrated and released.
So what happens in a Brainspotting session?
Any life event which causes significant physical and/or emotional injury and distress, in which the person powerfully experiences being overwhelmed, helpless, or trapped, can become a trapped traumatic experience. Emotional material or trauma is stored or frozen in the body, brainspotting can locate and assist the client to process this through activating the body’s healing response.
During a brain spotting session, clients and therapists explore the perceived issue together and the client establishes a SUD score (Subjective Units of Distress Score) between 0 and 10. This is usually achieved by noticing the intensity of the reactions in the body to the impact of the remembered problem. The therapist then helps a client to find the eye spot (brainspot) that triggers the traumatic memory or a painful emotion. Therapists stay relationally attuned to the client’s physical, emotional and mental processing and helps them to notice what memories and feeling arise during the session and support the client while the sub-cortex does its work in processing the unintegrated issue.
Amazing results are being seen globally and Brainspotting has been shown to be an effective treatment option for those experiencing;
- All forms of trauma
- Anger issues
- Low self-esteem & confidence
- Sports and performance issues
- Creative blocks
- Attention issues (ADHD)
- Substance abuse
- Chronic fatigue and chronic pain
- Impulse control issues
- Eating disorders