Brainspotting Therapy for Trauma Victims
Brainspotting therapy has recently emerged as a promising new therapy for trauma victims. As mental health professionals progress in their understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), brainspotting therapy has been of special interest due to the unique way this treatment activates specific areas of the brain.
What Is Brainspotting Therapy?
Researchers have discovered that when a patient who suffers from PTSD talks about his or her traumatic experience, the part of the brain responsible for vision becomes more active. In addition, brainspotting has been shown to help the patient access the midbrain – the part of the brain responsible for survival instincts such as defending against or running away from threats. To help a patient recover from PTSD, brainspotting incorporates vision and midbrain stimulation.
During a brainspotting session, a therapist uses bilateral stimulation and a fixed visual point to activate specific areas of the brain that can lead to healing from trauma. Patients are often asked to put on headphones that play a sound or music in alternating ears. By alternating the sides in which you hear the sound, the midbrain is bilaterally stimulated and activated for therapy. Next, the therapist will ask the patient to think about a specific traumatic event or memory that he or she wants to work on. With that memory in mind, the patient is asked to find a natural spot to gaze at while paying special attention to any bodily sensations that occur. While this process may seem simple, it has profound effects on trauma processing and healing.
How Does Brainspotting Therapy Help Trauma Victims?
Individuals who have suffered from various traumas often experience somatic symptoms (bodily sensations). Even if an individual’s trauma experience did not involve physical touching – such as if a person is threatened with a gun but is not touched by the weapon or perpetrator – the fear that a person experiences often causes physical sensations such as heat, sweating, trembling or pounding heartbeat. These physical sensations occur because the midbrain becomes activated and sends the body into a “fight or flight” response. PTSD can cause a person to re-experience these physical sensations long after the trauma is over.
During a brainspotting therapy session, a therapist helps the patient identify the specific physical sensations associated with unpleasant traumatic memories. Then, with time and a supportive therapeutic relationship, the therapist can help the patient gain control over this bodily sensation and begin calming the body’s survival reflexes.
Brainspotting should only be done by a licensed mental health professional who has completed advanced training in the brainspotting technique.
Corrigan, F. M. & Alastair, M. H. (2015). Recognition of the neurobiological insults imposed by complex trauma and the implications for psychotherapeutic interventions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4478907/
Corrigan, F. & Grand, D. (2013). Brainspotting: recruiting the midbrain for accessing and healing sensorimotor memories of traumatic activation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23570648
Grand, D. (n.d.). What is brainspotting? https://brainspotting.pro/page/what-brainspotting