What is Brainspotting?

Rachel Hendron
Rachel Hendron, MSc

Hi, I’m Rachel, a Certified Brainspotting Practitioner by Brainspotting International. Right now I am the only Certified Brainspotting Therapist in New Zealand but surely more will follow. This site aims to promote Brainspotting in New Zealand to Therapists and Clients.

I’ve completed my training with Lisa Larson’s Pacific Trauma Centre’s , David Grand the founder of Brainspotting and Brainspotting International and Dr Roby Ables Brainspotting Australia Pacific, and with support from other therapists and clients.

Like Focusing-Oriented Therapy, in which I am a certified Therapist and Trainer Brainspotting is a Body-Oriented Therapy. These therapies do not involve touch by the therapist. They are somatic or body-based because the therapist helps the client to use their own ‘felt sense’ to ground themselves and identify the places in their body which hold trauma and places of stuckness as well as places of delight, creativity and personal power. 

Brainspotting uses “brain spots”, places which give deeper access to neurobiology than talking can get to. The ‘felt sense’ and ‘brain spots’ aren’t things we often talk about, but we all find that when we try to remember a certain event we use our eyes to shift our thinking. When we have an idea our eyes move to a different spot and when we sit lost in thought we spontaneously gaze in a direction without looking at the outside world instead it is as though our eyes are looking through our brain. This is what we refer to as a brain spot and “Brainspotting” as a therapeutic technique deliberately uses this unconscious, natural pattern, as the retina is a true part of the brain pushed out into the eye in our early development according to Professor John Dowling. It makes sense that our eyes are connected deeply to our brainstem where our reflexes and most unconscious habits and processes are kept, out of sight of our thinking mind.

We also use our ‘felt sense’. This is the part of us that says ‘oh-o’ when we think about walking down a dark alley, the tingle of anticipation in our stomach, the butterflies in our chest, the way we feel in our bodies when we are connected to ourselves rather than ruminating in our heads. 

Brainspotting Therapy isn’t a formalic approach, but one which is relationship-based and very much client centred, we go at a pace which suits the client with no hurrying or slowing, no forcing or fixing, but with a genuine curiosity for what will unfold in the client’s process. The client is the one with the difficulty and the resources to overcome it and so each person’s process is unique. Most clients find delight in what they and their body can do in an attuned relationship with a therapist who holds the space for them to process, gives guidance and suggestions and follows what is working for the client. People who think they can’t do this sort of thing are especially delighted to find that not only does the problem they came with feel changed for the better in some way but they realise how resourced they are. People learn to trust themselves and their bodies capacity for healing, growing, finding possibilities and unexpected shifts.

https://brainspotting.com/site/interview-with-david-grand-regarding-what-is-brainspotting/

When we speak of ‘The Brain’ in Brainspotting we actually mean the brain in the head and the total neural network and senses, what we’re referring to is the ‘Body-Brain’ because these can never be divided. Pain may feel as though it is in the foot but it is the foot which is injured the sense of pain in the Body-Brain. This means Brainspotting is helpful at healing physical and emotional pains whose origin is in the nervous system. Brainspotting, when used alongside modern medical advice and treatments, supports people to heal the emotional trauma of physical conditions such as traumatic brain injury, fibromyalgia, strokes, headaches, preparation for and recovery from surgery. It is used by people recovering from all types of trauma, including survivors of war or conflict, natural disasters, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

Survival, resilience and recovery all require our creativity

David Grand

Emotional trauma is best understood as being ‘stuck’; our brain goes round and round, our body seems to freeze or repeatedly flee or fight, we are stuck in a response from an event in the past, creative is flow would be the opposite. This is why the therapist encourages the weariest client to bring an attitude with some curiosity and creativity to their current difficulties. 

For people wanting a creative breakthrough in their performance, work of art.

Brainspotting can enhance performance with a duel effect. Many artists, sportspeople and creative thinkers handle set-backs and discouragement (‘failed’ experiments, auditions they didn’t get, missed goals, put-downs) these act like multiple assaults on the area of giftedness, laying the foundation for creative anxiety and blocks which are ‘muscled through’, but have a cumulative effect hindering natural potential. Additionally, sports people and dancers have physical injuries, which may include a history of ‘small’ brain injuries, these add up and pull away from our performance. From a neuroscience perspective, it is unsurprising that these emotional and physical injuries display as performance anxiety, burn-out and stress doing the activity which the performer is uniquely gifted to do and the thing that brings the most pleasure. The opposite of a performance block is the sense of flow, that eureka moment which comes out of the blue and surprises the artist. Focusing and Brainspotting together can overcome physical and emotional traumas and set the stage for a creative leap rather than hoping and waiting for one to arise spontaneously. 

Creativity is exponential, when we resource ourselves we can go further and everyone is creative! Creativity can be seen in a job interview, a new course, a formal presentation or getting the kids to all their activities, rather than competing on the world stage, maybe creativity for you is as simple as getting out of bed in the morning or eating well. We all have complex problems and many ways we could attend to them, but when we aren’t having to carry pain and trauma with us we can make better decisions and lead smoother lives.

Brainspotting Relationships

Brainspotting can be used by individuals, many couples and families I work with have trauma both as individuals and in the relationship, which is why difficulties frequently occur in their patterns of relating and communicating. Because Brainspotting is a relational therapy it helps with attachment and trauma difficulties as well as problem solving and personal development. Much of what happens in a Brainspotting session cannot be described but needs to be experienced as it is as unique and complex as our brains themselves. 

Transpersonal Brainspotting

Some of what comes up may well be Intergenerational and some people find Brainspotting helpful in their relation to the Spiritual, being connected to ourselves we find our connection to the universe, not as a rigid belief system but simply in awe of what arises within us and between us.

Practice Guidelines for Clinical Treatment of Complex Trauma

Australia’s National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma, Blue Knot Foundation says: 

  • Brainspotting (BSP) is a new treatment approach which dates to 2003 and which is presented as ‘an effective alternative therapeutic approach’ to EMDR (Hildebrand, Grand & Stemmler, 2017). It is a ‘brain-body mindfulness-based relational therapy’ (Grand, 2018) which utilises focused rather than moving eye position to locate the ‘spot’ at which trauma is located in the brain. BSP facilitates processing when the corresponding feelings and sensations are focused upon.
  • While the apparent rapidity of Brainspotting might seem to be destabilising, BSP is explicitly attuned to complex developmental trauma and the challenges of dissociation (Grand, 2018). It combines all four dimensions of brain, body, mindfulness and relationship which serves as a safeguard.

BSP is NOT a Trauma Therapy Training but can be used with trauma for those ALREADY trained as trauma therapists. The Brainspotting Australia Pacific trainers, Salene Souza and Dr Roby Abeles, have been personally trained by Dr David Grand and are Approved BSP Trainers through the Brainspotting Training Institute, NYC, NY, USA.

Brainspottng Australia Pacific are the ONLY approved trainers for all Australian and New Zealand Brainspotting training events. And in 2020 Dr Roby Abeles is coming to Hamilton to do International Trainings! Leave your details below to find out more or see the events page on Vibrant Life.

There is a lot of information here, to ask a question or to use Brainspotting with me as a client, reach out below: