by Jennifer Delaney MA, NCC Psychotherapist, Boulder
OwlHeart Healing Arts owlhearthealingarts.com
Brainspotting shares similarities with traditional talk therapies, and there are marked differences. The main commonality is that “talking” is also part of Brainspotting, especially at the beginning and end of a session. Talking lights up the neocortex as we report, analyze and, ultimately, integrate important insights and information.
I’m going to spend some time here explaining the main difference that makes Brainspotting so effective.
The body speaks
Brainspotting can initially be disconcerting to people accustomed to “figuring things out.” Chronic thinkers feel confused and even somewhat threatened by the body-centered process. It can feel like not enough is going on to be successful. I encourage thinkers to notice the agitation coming up.
Overthinking distracts from emotions, so if you take away the constant think-think- thinking, you might feel exposed or vulnerable and uncomfortable. Brainspotting therapists are pretty safe people, therefore, ultimately, clients’ bodies become willing to trust the process, especially when clients begin to see and feel the wonderful benefits in their lives.
The body leads you there
The process may be somewhat physical, although almost always seated. Clients’ legs might shake or they might roll out their wrists or shake their head. But, by and large, as they track what’s going on in the body, it is often subtle. They might feel nauseous or notice a tingling. There are also positive sensations, like feeling lighter or expansion in the chest. What happens when people track their bodies is that they are led to information in the deep brain: perhaps a long-forgotten memory. The connections their deep brains make is what helps them get free.
The stream of consciousness process
The story line of a session is not linear as people notice feelings that change like clouds in a stormy sky, bodily sensations and random thoughts. At the end of the session, as we reflect, they are often pleasantly surprised by the insights that have arisen.
You won’t “figure it out”
Information in the deep brain is revealed via sometimes somewhat mysterious connections and metaphors. In order to make lasting changes it is essential to access the deep brain – the reptilian and emotional parts of the brain. Language cannot resolve the trauma encapsulated there, and if you don’t neutralize the traumatic responses, not much is going to change cognitively, or it will take much longer.
There is nothing wrong with you, your brain or your mind
Yes, you are intelligent. Yes, you have good intentions. Remember, in the words of Dr. Bob Scaer, your issues are not psychological but physiological? If you could change what’s going on, you would. Maybe you’ve prayed and meditated so much about life difficulties only to find nothing changing and frustration on the rise.
What does the process look like?
There’s something about the combination of:
- Tuning into the strongest emotion, and then
- Noticing what is coming up in the body as a result of the emotion, along with,
- The bilateral music,
- Focusing on a single point, and
- The therapist’s attuned presence that results in a stream of consciousness process that frees the encapsulated trauma.
Creator of Brainspotting, Dr. David Grand, is working with brain neuroscientist Dr. Damir del Monte to identify what exactly is going on in the brain that makes this technique so effective. They have proposed theories, but the fact remains that people experience profound shifts: reduction in fear, resolution of grief, changes in behavior, freedom from chronic pain and other benefits.
Brainspotting is not exclusive
One of the things that I appreciate most is that Dr. David Grand encourages therapists to incorporate Brainspotting into their therapeutic style and practice. He does not require that it become the only true and correct methodology, and he trusts the healing professionals whom he trains to show up with their unique skills and attuned presence.
I combine Brainspotting with inner child/inner teen healing work and inner critic awareness with powerful results.
You can try the steps on your own by downloading a YouTube of bilateral music, but the best results occur with a trained therapist who acts as witness and holds the space with attuned presence. Plus, they are taught a few other tricks outside the basic steps that can add to the healing effects.
Jennifer Delaney is body-centered psychotherapist, certified in Brainspotting, she is also a blogger, writing coach and speaker practicing in Denver and Boulder. Find out more at owlhearthealingarts.com