What is Brainspotting?

What is Brainspotting?: An Introduction To Brainspotting

Brainspotting is a rapid, effective therapy that works with trauma as well as a wide range of other issues. It is one of a few types of newer therapies focusing on the brain-body connection, including Somatic Experiencing and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). 

Brainspotting is different from traditional talk therapy. Traditional talk therapy is known as a “top-down” therapy. That is, traditional therapy tries to solve problems with the conscious mind, believing this in turn releases emotional stress in the body. This certainly can be true, and many people benefit from talk therapy. However, some people find that insight and conscious awareness are not decreasing the distress caused by trauma and report still feeling “stuck” regarding certain symptoms or patterns after having tried talk therapy for some time. 

These newer brain-body therapies like Brainspotting are known as “bottom-up” therapy, and they aim to release the physical stress in the body, thereby leading to a release of the emotional stress in the body as well. Brainspotting helps to regulate a person who feels “stuck”, returning them to homeostasis, or a state of balance and health. Many people report a decrease in the intensity of “triggers” previously connected to past traumatic events and memories.

The Brainspotting motto is “Where you look affects how you feel.”   What has been discovered is that if you are bothered by something and look to the right, you will feel different about it then when you look to the left, or center.  This is because we actually look with our brains, and in our brain is a part that helps us orient ourselves to our environment, which is both connected to what we see and how we feel.

Brainspotting gives us a tool to neurobiologically locate, focus, process, and release experiences and symptoms that are typically out of reach of the conscious mind and its cognitive and language capacity. As a result, it can be helpful for reducing the symptoms of emotional/body pain, trauma, dissociation, and a variety of other symptoms. 

What happens in a Brainspotting session?

When working with a therapist, a person begins by discussing their presenting concern, and over the course of the discussion finds something specific to address. They would then, with the help of the Brainspotting therapist, find a Brainspot. This is done by connecting the identified issue with a body sensation, and then identifying a spot in their visual field to focus on.  By using focused mindfulness, and sometimes bilateral sound (music played through headphones that is designed to move from one ear to the other), one’s brain and body begin to naturally release the internal material that brought about the disturbance. The person working may talk freely as they process, or be silent and report only occasionally to their therapist what they are experiencing. Each person processes differently, and the therapist is trained to follow the rhythm and reflexes of the client.

History of Brainspotting:

​Brainspotting was started by David Grand, Ph.D. while working with a figure skater who was having trouble with her triple loop jump. 

He had worked with her for a year and a half in 90-minute sessions combining Somatic Experience, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), and other brain-body therapies. While going across her field of vision one session, he noticed her eyes wobbling. Instead of continuing to move across her field of vision, he stayed on the spot and a torrent of material that had not come out before came out. He got curious, and over time noticed this was not just the experience of one patient.

By continuing to track the reflexes of patients and waiting for their natural process to unfold, rapid healing happened. He brought his observations to his colleagues, and they continued to observe this process of healing related to many different presenting issues. Brainspotting has expanded, and now over 10,000 therapists in over 30 countries have been trained and utilize it.

Who Brainspotting Helps:

BSP has been helping people heal from experiences including, but not limited to:  

  • Abuse 
  • PTSD 
  • Car accidents 
  • chronic fatigue 
  • Traumatic brain injury 
  • Athletic performance 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Pain
  • Addiction


Brainspotting FAQ’s:

Is Brainspotting only for people with trauma?

No, Brainspotting is not only for people with trauma. However, we all have experienced trauma in some capacity, whether it be from distressing events, adverse childhood events or experiences, unmet emotional needs, or abuse and neglect. In that sense, Brainspotting may provide benefits to anyone. 

Could Brainspotting help me?

BSP is an effective therapeutic tool for people with a variety of issues. If you are new to therapy and are looking for a way to change patterns of behavior, Brainspotting can help resolve the emotional and physical pain that keeps you stuck in those patterns. If you have been in therapy before; but have the sense that your work could go deeper, BSP can take therapy to another level of healing.

If you are uncomfortable with talking about your past traumatic experiences, this method will enable you to heal without having to tell or retell your story. Brainspotting can be used to enhance performance and creativity and create regulation in your brain and body.

How effective are the results?

Clients report that they “are able to find the causes of their conflicts and turn them into growth opportunities.” They often report experiencing a decrease in the intensity of “triggers” and other problematic or negative reactions to stressors. Individuals regularly report new insights and awareness following Brainspotting sessions that allow for ongoing integration, healing and growth. 

What happens after a Brainspotting session?

After a Brainspotting session, some clients feel completely calm and relaxed. Others feel tired, as if they have expended a great amount of emotional and even physical energy, and say they feel like they need a nap. Some compare it to how they feel after getting a massage. Others say they were more moody or on edge for a few days. Others report not feeling any different, but find themselves thinking about things over the next day or two.

Is Brainspotting effective if it’s done online?

Yes, Brainspotting is equally effective if it is provided in person, or online through telehealth.

Is there any research supporting the effectiveness of Brainspotting:

Yes, case studies can be viewed here: https://brainspotting.com/about-bsp/research-and-case-studies/

Applications of Brainspotting:

  • Physical and emotional trauma
  • Anxiety, phobias, OCD
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Recovery from injury and accident
  • Trauma resulting from medical interventions and treatment
  • Performance and creativity
  • Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions

The information in this article has been taken from a variety of sources, listed below:

Liz Fava, LPC, is a trained Brainspotting therapist in Atlanta, GA. To learn more about getting started with Brainspotting, schedule a free consultation call with Liz here.

About Liz Fava, LPC

Liz provides individual and couples therapy for adults, including counseling for dating, engaged, and married couples. She also conducts couples workshops, and training and supervision for therapists.