Counseling Options: What Is Brainspotting, and How Does It Work?


Going through some form of trauma in life is much less common than you might expect. In fact, 60% of men and 50% of women will experience one trauma throughout the course of their life.

The types of trauma experienced by men and women are often different. Women are more likely to have experienced abuse as children or a form of sexual abuse. Men experience trauma through combat, disasters, witnessing death, accidents, or physical assaults.

For many who experience trauma, it stays with them, even in the subconscious, long after the event. It’s also the reason many people seek counseling to work through those experiences.

Not all types of therapy are right for all people, so an alternative therapy like brainspotting can be helpful for those looking for a different kind of therapy option.  Read on to learn more about brainspotting, how it works, and decide if it might be right for you.

What Is Brainspotting?

Brainspotting is a relatively new type of alternative therapy. The goal of brainspotting is to help those in therapy to process a trauma and release it from their psyche.

Brainspotting is done by identifying spots in a person’s vision. Developed by David Grand, PhD., the therapy is a neuro-experiential form of Brain-Body mindfulness.

Brainspotting helps a patient look at the trauma they haven’t addressed by looking through eye positions in one’s visual field.

Researchers in neuriscience believe that when a person experiences a trauma, it leaves a brainspot that has a connection to deeper, inner emotional experiences. These brainspots can impact a person’s emotional regulation.

Who Can Benefit From Brainspotting?

You might wonder if brainspotting is right for you. It has shown promise for a variety of different types of trauma.

Brainspotting can be impactful for those suffering from:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Addiction
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Chronic pain
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Pre-verbal attachment issues

While brainspotting has shown to be effective for specific trauma. It has also been effective in treating broader issues for people struggling with low motivation or shame.

How Does Brainspotting Work?

A person has a part of their brain called the subcortical brain. It is the part responsible for emotions, motion, consciousness, and learning.

When a person experiences trauma, it’s believed the brainspots can get trapped in the subcortical part of the brain. The idea behind brainspotting is that the feelings and emotions connected to the trauma can get trapped in the body.

Once trapped, they can cause a person to suffer both physical and mental ailments. Brainspotting helps to process trauma and reset the brain’s memory.

What to Expect From a Brainspotting Session

So, how does a brainspotting therapy session work for the patient? This is a relatively new form of therapy, yet most sessions will go something like this.

Most of the sessions start with some form of relaxation techniques. It’s important for the patient to start relaxed and comfortable. This might involve some breathing exercises, for example.

Remember, the theory is that trauma is trapped in your body. So, once the patient is relaxed, and focused on their body and mind. The therapist will ask them to consider where they feel distress in their body. Some therapists will even ask the patient to rank the severity of the distress.

The therapist will guide the patient to find their brainspot. This is usually where the eyes rest when the patient is focused on the most distressed part of their being. The therapist will help the patient get their focus on the brainspot.

Therapists approach the next step differently, depending on their personal approach. The therapist will ask the patient to use the “outside window” or “inside window” approach.

The “outside window” approach has the therapist work on your gaze and help the patient to locate a new spot. The “inside window” approach has the patient locating that new spot.

An important part of what happens next is to process emotions connected to this spot. It’s important to  hone in on and process any feelings that arise so the patient can move on from them.

Benefits of Brainspotting

Trauma can have a widespread impact on a person, so they suffer from many side effects as a result of the trauma. Side effects might include anxiety, attachment issues, substance use, PTSD, chronic pain, and depression.

Brainspotting therapy can help a patient address trauma and can also help a patient work through the side effects. A brainspotting session can help a patient with:

  • Pain
  • Distressing memories
  • Lower negative thought patterns
  • Improve sleep
  • Boost energy

As the therapist better understands the patient’s therapy, they can help guide the focus and work through those brainspots.

Who’s a Good Brainspotting Candidate?

In most cases, both adolescents and adults who want to work through a trauma response are good candidates.

The patient needs to be cognitively aware of the feelings occurring in their body. Patients who are most successful are those who are ready to address trauma and can recognize the feelings that come when they consider the trauma.

Recognizing the feelings in the body is an important part of brainspotting, called activations. These activations are critical for successful brainspotting therapy.

The Risks and Consequences of This Therapy

The good news for brainspotting is that it doesn’t involve medications that might have side effects.

The risk and consequences for most patients is the process of facing and working through a traumatic event. The patient is likely to experience intense emotions and feelings.

Counseling With Brainspotting

Counseling for a trauma patient is key to working through and moving past the trauma. Brainspotting is an alternative therapy that’s been impactful for many trauma patients.

We offer brainspotting and other counseling options. To get your questions answered, or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.