Interesting 🤔

I Keep Hearing About A Therapy Called Brainspotting. Is It Legit Or Bogus?

It’s most often used for treating psychological trauma.

The type of therapy you choose to do can be just as important as choosing your therapist. There are many types of treatment for your needs, and deciding which is best for you is crucial to your healing journey. If you're someone who suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, phobias, and trauma, recent headlines and social media videos about "brainspotting" have probably piqued your interest.

But... what is it? After all, it sounds sort of sci-fi-esque. In reality, brainspotting simply describes an alternative therapy to help people process and heal from different psychological and emotional challenges. It achieves this, in part, by using spots in a person's visual field to help them process trauma.

"It is based on understanding how eye positions can activate specific neural networks related to trauma," Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a NYC-based neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind, tells Scary Mommy.

Hafeez says brainspotting could benefit individuals who want to address past or current issues in their lives with an alternative method if talk-therapy approaches have not worked in the past. If this sounds like something you might want to explore, here are some important insights about brainspotting.

How does it work?

Brainspotting stems from the theory that certain places or "spots" in the brain store traumatic memories. It focuses on the midbrain, which goes into “freeze mode” when trauma occurs.

"During a session, your therapist will guide your eye movements to identify and focus on the 'brainspots' that correlate with your emotions and experiences, which could be related to unprocessed trauma or other issues," Hafeez explains.

From there, you will identify the area that is causing you any discomfort, and by incorporating mindfulness techniques, your therapist will aid you in processing the memories that are coming up.

How is it different from EMDR?

EDMR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is a therapeutic approach to healing physiological and emotional issues. While brainspotting is derived from EMDR, according to Hafeez, there are several differences between them.

"The basis of EMDR is relying on the use of bilateral eye movements to stimulate different areas of the brain to activate processing," she describes. "This can be achieved through auditory cues or tapping. While brainspotting involves eye movements, it does not necessarily rely on this specific technique. Brainspotting focuses on different spots in the brain within the visual field."

Additionally, says Hafeez, brainspotting aims to address said issues on a neurological level, while EMDR places greater emphasis on cognitive restructuring. "In EMDR, the therapist will take a more active role in the session, while a brainspotting therapist will be more reserved, allowing the client's brain and body to lead to the processing," she says.

One advantage to this difference is that brainspotting doesn’t require you to “relive” your trauma the way EMDR does.

Are there any potential risks?

While potential triggers may arise, along with emotional discomfort, Hafeez says brainspotting is considered a safe therapeutic method when conducted by trained professionals.

However, she does warn that clients "may experience a temporary increase in symptoms they are trying to resolve, including heightened anxiety and intrusive thoughts. This usually subsides as the processing continues."

Hafeez also points out that clients may need time to integrate the insights and changes that occurred during the session, which can be challenging to adapt to initially.

How effective is brainspotting?

Brainspotting has shown promising results in helping people heal from various emotional issues — the majority of clients have reported positive results and satisfaction after undergoing the treatment, says Hafeez. Having said that, more research needs to be done. "It is important to note that the effectiveness is also heavily influenced by the experience and qualification of the therapist performing the treatment," she says.

Those who have had success with the treatment experienced a release of traumatic memories, which allows for healing and emotional resolution. Hafeez reports that it has also been known to enhance performance in some activities, such as sports and creative arts.

What are some things to consider before trying brainspotting for the first time?

Hafeez recommends doing your research on the treatment, considering whether or not you struggle with the issues brainspotting focuses on, and whether it would be beneficial for you.

"Think about whether or not you feel emotionally ready to address these issues and how willing you are to engage in the deep level of processing," she says. "Ensure that you go to a properly trained therapist with the credentials and experience to create a safe space and positive outcome for you."