While we’re careful here not to make bad analogies when it comes to mental health, looking at a treatment plan can feel a little bit like visiting a fusion restaurant and going over the menu choices – a lot of it can sound overwhelming and odd in name, but end up being quite pleasant, or surprisingly mundane.
We take our job extremely seriously, so we want to see to it that you know exactly what you’re getting before you place your order. And one of our less known and more exotic-sounding treatment options is brainspotting.
Brainspotting is a relatively recent form of treatment for many stress- and memory-related mental health issues, insofar that it’s been around for over a decade, but has only recently begun to gain traction in mental health circles as a legitimate therapy. It’s built around the concept of brainspots – areas of the mind where emotional turmoil and trauma are encapsulated, the release of which can trigger relief from the symptoms of several mental diagnoses.
The essence of brainspotting is simple – it utilizes the theory that mental issues and traumatic experiences are trapped within the body, within the brain, in very distinct and specific locations that can be focused on through eye movement. There is no physical intrusion into the brain or anything else that might suggest invasive measures.
It sounds far-fetched, but even after several centuries of medical study, there are many things about the human body – and by extension, the mind – that are unknown, perplexing, or confusing. At first glance, brainspotting is one of these things. But the deeper you go into the research and theory, the more it makes sense.
The History of Brainspotting
Brainspotting’s beginnings started in 2003 when therapist David Grand created the modality, specifically for use in trauma patients. Brainspotting is also known as BSP. The therapy was born through research conducted on trauma patients from natural disasters, war zones and terror attacks, to specifically determine the existence of brainspots and their role in the resolution and dissolution of traumatic stress – and the efficacy of BSP as a diagnostics and treatment tool.
Brainspots, as an integral part of BSP, follow the theory that the mind and body stores trauma and stress within itself, and that contributes to the paralyzing effect a traumatic experience can have on people. Repressed memories, with intrusive thinking and unwanted flashbacks, are symptoms of an unhealthy “clump” of feelings located within the deeper brain. Eye movements help a therapist identify the location and nature of these feelings and through a form of exposure therapy, brainspotting can actively address and help eliminate the symptoms of traumatic stress and other related mental illnesses.
Brainspotting has grown phenomenally in the past decade, with over 10,000 trained therapists throughout the world on four separate continents. Although it’s an entirely separate treatment with a very distinct structure and underlying theory, brainspotting is the extended result of research done into both somatic experiencing and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
What is EMDR?
EMDR is a related yet separate form of therapy usually linked to post-traumatic stress, and it utilizes bilateral stimulation in addition to eye movements to intensify traumatic recall within a safe, therapeutic space. The idea is that exposure therapy is a great way to ultimately overcome trauma – but EMDR goes a step further in revealing the intensity of a traumatic experience through eye movements, rhythm, and other stimuli, to further desensitize a patient to their past.
The idea behind all trauma therapy is that trauma is an open wound that cannot ever be erased but can be turned into a faint scar. We can’t – and shouldn’t – excise what is ultimately a part of us. And even buried memories manifest themselves in painful mental symptoms. So, by uncovering, laying bare and openly tackling trauma, EMDR and other similar therapy options help people overcome the paralyzing effect their trauma has.
Brainspotting isn’t simply limited to post-traumatic stress, however. It’s a treatment option that carries on being useful for different diagnoses, including anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks.
A Diagnostic Tool and a Treatment
As a therapy tool, brainspotting doubtlessly has its uses – that’s why we at Vantage Point recommend it. But another strong suit for the method is its ability to act as a diagnostic tool, giving trained therapists further insight into your symptoms, their causes, and any codependent issues you may have as a patient.
It doesn’t take much experience with mental health issues to understand that mental health is complex, and individual cases can be vastly different from one another even across the same diagnosis. And symptoms broadly apply to many different conditions, making it tough to pinpoint what the problem might be, why it manifested, and how it can be beaten. Brainspotting can help a therapist further identify the nature of your diagnosis.