Where you look affects how you feel
Brainspotting is a powerful, focused, and rapidly effective treatment method that works by identifying, processing, and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional/body pain, trauma, dissociation, and a variety of challenging symptoms.
Christine Ranck, PhD, LCSW is a Senior Brainspotting Supervisor and Trainer. A close colleague of Brainspotting’s discoverer and developer, Dr. David Grand, Christine was one of the first to learn about Brainspotting. Christine also participates in a monthly Brainspotting consultation group in NYC with Dr. Grand. She leads BSP Phase 1 trainings in the US and internationally.
What is a Brainspot?
We humans orient ourselves to our environment primarily with our eyes, guided by unconscious survival instincts from our reptilian brain. Constantly we visually assess our surroundings for safety, food, and connection. And at birth, our very first and most important eye gaze usually falls upon our mother, who (if we are lucky) tenderly gazes back at us as she calmly nurses and nurtures us in her arms, keeping us safe in our formative years. That crucial connection with mother through our eyes is our very first Brainspot.
Where we look affects how we feel
Brainspotting was discovered by psychotherapist Dr. David Grand in 2003 when he began paying close attention to his clients’ eyes, and over time he discovered that “where we look affects how we feel.” He noticed, when his clients were upset or “activated” by a certain issue or event, that guiding their eyes to stationary eye positions caused some very noticeable reflexive body reactions (blinking, eye wobbles, sniffling, swallowing, body twitches, yawning, etc.). He reasoned that these mostly unconscious reflexive reactions on specific eye positions (“Brainspots”) might indicate the location of the troubling material in the brain. By holding the eyes stationary on these spots, he and his clients noticed a remarkable resolution of the focused-on issues. But soon Dr. Grand also discovered that his clients could identify their own Brainspots from their internal felt sense, after many said to him, “No, the spot isn’t here, it’s right OVER THERE!”
Grand postulated that Brainspots create a direct connection to the subcortical neural networks that carry specific trauma—by essentially holding open the “files”—and that the body and nervous system can tell us right where they with reflexive reactions and/or a felt-sense. “A Brainspot is a neurological resource grounded in the body experience that—like a laser beam—zeroes in on brain activation, bypassing the logic-oriented, thinking brain (neocortex), and provides an attuned, focused anchor to subcortical networks that carry information in maladaptive homeostasis (frozen in primitive survival modes).” (Grand & Corrigan, Medical Hypotheses Journal, 2013) And by the same process, a calm, grounded “Resource Brainspot” can also be located to strengthen one’s natural resources and resilience.
At the core of BSP is the therapist’s deep relational attunement and simultaneous neurobiological attunement to the client, creating a powerful frame that facilitates healing in ways never before possible. By holding the eyes on the pinpointed Brainspot. and then observing what’s going on inside (applied mindfulness), the client’s brain/system can locate, then process the issue—subcortical neuroplasticity—until it is released forever. The therapist follows what is happening—just as the tail of a comet follows its head. “Our innate healing capacity works organically when you get out of the way…The Brainspotting philosophy is that the client is the expert…We do not lead the client, and the process goes exactly as it is meant to go.”
What is Brainspotting (BSP)?
Brainspotting is one of the most exciting and most researched new therapies today, an international phenomenon in 30 countries. With over 10,000 therapists now trained worldwide, BSP is fast becoming one of the most sought-after treatments for the resolution of trauma, performance enhancement, and a host of other diverse issues. From the moment of discovery, BSP has spread like wildfire due to its fast and effective results. The first international BSP conference was held in Rio last year, attended by therapists from 22 countries. There is a BSP Institute in Brazil, several in Europe, and three in the US (including the Southeast Brainspotting Institute in Atlanta).
After the tragic events at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut in 2012, that community engaged many therapists to attend to the resident survivors and first-responders. The Community Foundation conducted an effectiveness survey of the various therapeutic interventions used. Of the some 20 different therapies offered (including talk therapy and EMDR), 59.09% of respondents said that BSP had been very effective, far more than all the other therapies used.
BSP works well in the treatment of a wide range of issues besides deep trauma— including medical, physical and psycho-emotional, from relationships and professional performance anxiety, deep worries and fears, to creativity enhancement. BSP can be used with couples, in groups, and shows amazing results with children. There is not a single issue that cannot be addressed with Brainspotting. It can be easily integrated into a wide range of psychological as well as somatic approaches to physical healing, including advanced bodywork, chiropractic, acupuncture, somatic therapies, physical therapy, nursing, medicine, and other specialized approaches.
Creativity spontaneously flows when you take the blocks away. Brainspotting’s direct access to the body and the deepest parts of the brain re-connects us with our most creative selves. And when our inner vision changes, everything in our outside world is also transformed.
Brainspotting is a very important leap forward in helping people resolve trauma, a remarkable, sophisticated, flexible addition to the therapeutic toolkit of any psychotherapist. I find that the results are astonishing. Using it, one becomes amazed at the extent to which traumas can be detected in ordinary facial and eye reflexes and how, by using these windows to inner mental states, many traumas and symptoms can be rapidly relieved.