What is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting (BSP) is a powerful form of psychotherapy that can be used in trauma therapy and addiction counseling. It utilizes a fixed eye gaze to access stored emotional content on the subcortical levels in the brain. Participants are asked to move their eyes to find the visual field wherein they are the most connected to the experience they wish to address. BSP is widely used as a form of trauma treatment, however it is also effective in treating anxiety, depression, triggers related to alcoholism and drug addiction, anger, panic attacks, obsessive behaviors, intrusive thoughts, emotional reactivity, and more. It is also used to strengthen the neurological pathways for joy, connection, confidence, and performance.
What does it look like in session?
In a Brainspotting session, the therapist and participant will collaboratively narrow down the target to be addressed. When a participant enters session and begins to share about their week, the therapist will pay attention to any shifts in emotional charge. Once the therapist notices the charge, she will pause the dialogue. Holding her fingers or a pointer in the middle of the participant's visual field, she will begin slowly moving them from the right side of her body all the way to the left, having the participant's eyes follow. They will stop when they've arrived at the "brainspot", or the visual field where the participant feels most connected to the place of distress. The therapist will then move her fingers or the pointer vertically to hone in on the exact "brainspot".
From here, the therapist will support the participant in noticing what sensations are coming up in the body, as well as any emotions or cognitions. As the participant is with the distress, the therapist ensures that it does not exceed their ability to tolerate the negative affect. She may interrupt by asking the participant to bring attention to the edges of their body, or a place physiologically that feels the opposite to their current experience.
By the end of the session, it is expected that the level of distress should decrease. Because we're working with the subcortical brain, it is anticipated that the presenting symptoms the participant entered therapy with should begin to resolve. While relief can be experienced in one session, folks utilizing this method of treatment should expect to receive multiple BSP treatments to achieve full resolution.
Brainspotting and EMDR
Adrienne Loker, LCSW is one of the few trauma therapists in Henrico and Richmond, VA trained in both BSP and EMDR, and one of the few in the entire state of Virginia trained in the trauma node isolation protocol, which marries EMDR trauma therapy with BSP. Additionally, Adrienne has been working toward the creation of her own EMDR protocol that integrates the wisdom of BSP and Somatic Experiencing.
Due to concerns of proper containment of this powerful approach, Adrienne uses it in combination with her EMDR practice, weaving in various protocols that suit the individual's nervous system. In this way, Adrienne will introduce bilateral stimulation to accelerate the brain's reprocessing system so that the individual sits in distress for a shorter period of time.