Brainspotting in Walnut Creek & Online in California
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”. Each of our eyes hold thousands of neurotransmitters, and, when we are developing in the womb, our eyes literally emerge from our brain. So when we utilize approaches that use the eyes we are able to directly access the brain.
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 able to complete a triple loop.
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 by maintaining one or a few eye positions. The therapist finds these eye positions organically depending on the client. The process can be fairly fluid.
- EMDR is based on structured protocols that the therapist follows, where there are routine questions and steps. 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 provides bilateral stimulation either visually with rapid eye-movements or through tactile stimulation using “tappers” that can be held in hands or place on or under your legs. With Brainspotting, the bilateral stimulation provided is often given though music. Though most clients want the bilateral music and report it helps them “process deeper”, it isn’t required to do Brainspotting.
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, including low self-esteem
- Relationship problems and old attachment wounds
- Anger issues
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, though some may feel a little more stimulated at night. 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. If this happens, 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?
If you want to know if Brainspotting is right for you, then lets Get Started Now by scheduling a 15-minute phone consultation.
Jennifer Twardowski, MFT is a Holistic Psychotherapist and Certified Brainspotting Practitioner serving Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, Orinda, Alamo, Danville, Concord, Martinez, and surrounding areas of the San Francisco East Bay. Click here to learn more about her and her practice.