Brainspotting is helping people all over the world heal trauma that contributes to anxiety, depression, and other mental health and behavioral conditions. At BLISS Health, our Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Brainspotting Practitioner, Lucianne Silva Machado, uses brainspotting to help patients who struggle with negative emotions and behaviors release those stored negative emotions in order to make positive changes in their lives.
Brainspotting can also be used for creativity and performance enhancement–this is especially useful for artists, athletes, or anyone who wants to excel at work!
What is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting is a relatively new therapeutic technique based on the theories behind EMDR. EMDR uses eye movement to help patients heal emotional stress caused by traumatic events. Brainspotting, on the other hand, requires the patient to maintain a fixed gaze–its motto is, “Where you look affects how you feel.”
Brainspotting was created in 2003 by David Grand, PhD. Grand developed Brainspotting while using EMDR techniques to treat trauma survivors, including 9/11 survivors. Throughout his work, he noticed that patients experienced significant improvements when they fixed their gaze on one point, instead of moving their eyes during treatment.
Brainspotting uses one’s awareness of the mind-body connection and a fixed gaze to release stored information in the body’s nervous system.
How Does Brainspotting Work?
Looking at a specific point in one’s visual field can trigger an emotional response related to a specific event. These activation points are referred to as “brainspots.” By locating brainspots, therapists hope to access and work with a part of the brain called the limbic system (the part of the brain responsible for emotional responses and storing memories).
When someone experiences a frightening event, trauma can impact the nervous system and can cause strong emotions, reactions, and/or behaviors after the event. Brainspotting is a technique that helps the patient process trauma and move past it. It works with the limbic system to help the body process past trauma while also calming the nervous system when these negative emotions are triggered.
Brainspotting is most commonly used to help patients with PTSD and other trauma-related disorders, but it is also helpful in treating anxiety, phobias, and substance abuse, as well as helping people with creativity and performance enhancement.
What Happens During a Brainspotting Treatment Session?
Once you’ve identified a situation that you’d like to work on with your therapist, your therapist will ask you to share what emotions you feel surrounding the event, and where you feel it in your body. Next, using a pointer, your therapist will guide your eyes so that they focus on different points within your visual field. Your therapist will ask you to identify the point that elicits the strongest emotional reaction connected to the traumatic event or situation that you want to work on. This is the spot you’ll be gazing at during treatment.
While fixating on this spot, your therapist will ask you to share memories, thoughts, and feelings around the event, but it’s not necessary to relive the situation. Your therapist may also ask you to listen to soothing sounds or music, called bilateral sounds, to elicit your brain’s inner healing/processing mechanisms.
Brainspotting at BLISS Health
“Brainspotting is creative, and favors a deep healing process that I use almost every day in my practice,” says Lucianne Silva Machado, LFMT, CCPT, who is a Marriage & Family Therapist at BLISS Health. “I use this with a focus not only on the mental health aspect, but also on trying to support medical treatment, improve health outcomes, and focus on the patient’s continued wellbeing.”