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What is Brain Spotting?

Jul 31, 2023

3 Minutes


Our therapy provider Marie Hettick LICSWA explores the theory of Brainspotting and it's applications in outpatient behavioral health.

A brain-body based technique for healing and growth has been discovered and developed by David Grand, PhD. As a practitioner using EMDR to work with thousands of trauma victims, including 9/11 survivors and Hurricane Katrina survivors, he noticed that his clients tended to fixate on a particular spot in their visual field when re-processing. 

Through the process of dual attunement and utilizing the uncertainty principle, the intuitive exploration of the reflexive midbrain leads to both healing areas of stored trauma and expanding creativity. Dual attunement is essentially the working relationship between the therapist and client. It is the communication and regulation that happens when two people are intentionally connecting. Dual attunement is not limited to in-person sessions, and brain spotting has shown to be highly effective both in virtual and in-person treatment. 

The uncertainty principle is the assumption that humans are incredibly complex. Due to the brain containing approximately one quadrillion connections (1,000,000,000,000,000), there is no way for a therapist to know exactly what another human needs in order to heal. When a therapist and a client are attuned to one another, the therapist uses intuition, or decisions based on a combination of experience, knowledge, and their connection with the client, to help guide and support the client through the process of exploring where either their trauma or creativity are stored. 

There are multiple ways of identifying the location of a brain spot, including having the client identify the spot (called the "Inside Window"), having the therapist watch for reflexes ("Outside Window") to locate the spot, or a combination of client and therapist locating a spot ("Gaze Spotting"). 

Because it can be difficult to begin the process of accessing trauma when there have been multiple defenses used as protection, there are various ways of bringing up material or activating the spot. The primary way that David Grand uses is through bi-lateral sound. When both sides of the brain are engaged, the effect is to open up and relax constructs that prevent integration and healing. Once a spot is located, the client will simply keep their eyes focused on that spot and allow their brain to work through the healing or expansion that is needed and desired. 

When trauma is unlocked or released, there is always some type of somatic response ranging from mild to severe. The therapist helps their client to identify their window of tolerance in order to avoid re-traumatizing the client. The relationship between the client and the therapist is paramount to the effectiveness of this technique. Because the release of stored trauma puts a client in a vulnerable state, the therapist must be confident in their ability to hold or contain and maintain a safe environment for the client. The client must also trust the therapist to be able to do so. 

Brain spotting is perhaps the most effective and efficient manner of releasing stored trauma. The effects of this technique, when practiced within the scope of trained practitioners, tend to be full resolution of symptoms related to trauma. 

Have you noticed that your gaze gravitates towards a particular area when processing difficult events or concepts? Are you interested in what else could be uncovered with trained guidance? Meeting with a mental health professional may be a good next step.  

By Marie Hettick, LICSWA 

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