By Anita Vasudeva
Brainspotting is a revolutionary healing and therapy tool that greatly benefits those suffering from trauma and emotional wounds, says Anita Vasudeva
here we look affects how we feel,” I was told when I was introduced to Brainspotting. I was immediately curious. And my mind was making the connection. When I am explaining a concept that I am still grappling with, my eyes move and then hold still about 10 inches above a person’s face. I am looking at the concept. When my nephew talks about his fear of not getting the work he wants, he looks fixedly at his hands and is then able to dig deep into his fear. A colleague told me his aunt would turn her head gently to the left and look at a dot on the wall whenever the conversation turned to violence against women. She was a survivor.
Were these brainspots? Are these fixed positions that our eyes hold on to as the brain works through a challenge, a fear, a trauma, an anxiety? If so, how does it help us to know that? How does it help to make my nephew, or my colleagues, feel better?
Chronic anxieties and deep traumas need the intervention of professionals. However, those who suffer often shy away from treatment, anticipating prolonged and expensive sessions which may last years.
A new therapy
Brainpotting (BSP), a revolutionary healing therapy, can resolve this impasse. New to India, BSP is being used by over 8,000 trained therapists across 30 countries. Professionals have been using it to successfully address and resolve trauma and many other issues. It is increasingly gaining world-wide renown as a powerful and effective method to help people. Apart from the uniqueness of its approach, the goal of BSP, its founder, Dr Grand affirms, is change; change that is rapid, immediate, deep and permanent. The basic model, he believes, is ideally two sessions – to experience, resolve and review. Of course depending on the person and the issue, the therapy takes its own time, but is far quicker than others.
I hadn’t heard of Brainspotting being used in India by therapists, mental health professionals, healers or coaches. My colleague, who met Dr David Grand in the US, was enthused and eager to introduce the theory and practice in India. So was I when I heard more. We knew this would be of value to both helping professionals and people who turned to them for help.
So, what exactly is Brainspotting? Brainspotting was discovered and developed in 2003 by Dr David Grand, PhD., a master EMDR facilitator and ‘one of the most important and effective psychological trauma therapists now practising.’ EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that is used for the treatment of trauma. Its very name – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – demonstrates its focus: the movement of the eyes.
Dr Grand found that, unlike eye movements, stationary eye positions – when the eye holds still and fixes itself on a particular location – create a direct connection to the neural networks in our brain that carry specific trauma. He discovered that “where his clients look actually affects how they feel.” Through the process that he developed, Dr Grand could help clients identify, process and release core neuro-physiological sources of emotional/physical pain, trauma, dissociation and other symptoms.
Our bodies have a natural self-scanning, self-healing ability. Brainspotting harnesses this ability. It is able to bypass the neo-cortex and get to the deeper, more emotional responses of the sub-cortex. Dr. Grand says, “It is the brain’s activity, especially the deeper brain, the sub-cortical brain that organises itself around the eye position.”
I spoke to Dr Christine Rancke, PhD., one of the earliest practitioners of Brainspotting to learn more. A colleague of Dr Grand, she was sharing an office with him in 2003 and started using the tool almost as soon as he developed it. “I am a psychoanalyst; when I learned BSP and found it works faster and more effectively than traditional therapy, I switched my talk therapy clients to BSP. Talk therapy helps, but sometimes it doesn’t get to the reptilian brain.” Brainspotting supports the therapy relationship and is referred to as one of the power therapies.
How it works
The idea of an eye position is really quite unique, as is finding the spots. Anger and sadness are so close to each other. When a brainspot is stimulated, the deep brain appears to reflexively signal the therapist that the source of the problem has been found. With focus and precision – like a laser beam – the brainspot where you hold the trauma can be found, which then allows the brain to process through the trauma in a way that cannot be done through talking. Our brain knows how to do this on its own.
BSP can also therefore be used to find and strengthen our natural resources and resilience. In addition to an activation model, it is also a resource model, where we feel more grounded, calm and resilient. “….you find a brainspot for the grounded-ness – a groundspot, and then process the trauma from that,” says Dr Rancke. “I was sceptical at first,” she adds, “but I have learned from experience that you can make miracles for some people with BSP. Even people who have been raped or mugged…they have recovered so fast…”
Not just deep trauma, BSP works well in the treatment of people with a range of issues _ medical, physical and psycho-emotional. From relationships and professional performance anxiety, deep worries and fears to creativity enhancement, BSP is a valuable resource. Both Dr Grand and Dr Rancke, as well as other practitioners, have seen great breakthroughs using this revolutionary tool. They also say it works really well with children since they are the most open and haven’t yet completely developed. It can be also used with couples or in groups.
“There’s not a single issue that cannot be addressed with Brainspotting,” says Dr Rancke.
A very deep process, where the patient stays focused on the brainspot, can be very gentle and very relaxing, even though usually there’s a lot going on in the mid-brain. There is no language there; only emotion and images and memory. There are times when it is not necessary to talk at all.
The BSP philosophy is unique. The mindfulness of the process is important. It is dependent on very powerful attunement – staying in tune with the client and paying close attention to their physiology and their neuro-biology. It is about following the client and the system. “The system will work if you get out of the way. As therapists we are trained to be the experts and see the themes. In the BSP philosophy, the client is the expert… we are quiet and do not lead the client. The process goes exactly as it is meant to. Keeping quiet is a difficult thing for psychoanalysts to do! Here it is all about WAIT – Why Am I Talking?” says Dr Rancke.
But what about professionals who already work successfully with other methods? BSP can help a therapist by providing tools for quick healing that they don’t already have. Brainspotting can be the primary tool used by helping professionals or it could be integrated easily to complement various body-based therapies including advanced bodywork, chiropractic, acupuncture, somatic therapies, physical therapy, nursing, medicine, and other specialised approaches to physical healing.
There is a tremendous amount of research that has been done and continues to be done around Brainspotting. It has proven to be a highly effective treatment for trauma and other issues, and is fast becoming the most sought-after treatment for resolution of trauma as well as positive performance enhancement.
Some of you may remember the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, USA, in December 2012, when a 20-year-old man fatally shot 20 children and six adults. After the event, the community engaged many therapists to attend to the brain health and well-being needs of the residents. The Community Foundation conducted a survey to get a better understanding of the effectiveness of various types of therapeutic interventions for themselves. 59.09 per cent of the respondents felt that BSP had been very effective, far more than all the other therapies.
From the first moment of discovery to becoming an international phenomenon, BSP has spread like wildfire. People are recognising the validity of this technique. The first BSP conference was held in Rio; there is a large BSP Institute in Brazil, one in Germany, and three in the US. David Grand travels across the globe – “My goal for BSP – in whatever time – is to inspire a therapist anywhere in the world – to discover something breakthrough – beyond BSP.”
There are 30 BSP trainers in the world. The senior-most amongst them, Dr Christine Rancke, based in New York, will arrive in India to introduce BSP in March 2017 and conduct certification trainings in Delhi and Mumbai.
“David Grand(’s)…. development of Brainspotting is a very important leap forward in helping people resolve trauma. Brainspotting is a remarkable, sophisticated, flexible addition to the therapeutic toolkit of any psychotherapist. I know because I use it regularly and find that, combined with the psychoanalytic approaches I normally practice, the results are astonishingly helpful. Using it, one becomes amazed at the extent to which our traumas can be detected in our ordinary facial and eye reflexes and how, by using these windows to inner mental states, many traumas and symptoms can be rapidly relieved….” concludes Norman Doidge, MD. FRCPC, author of The Brain That Changes Itself. Considering the extent of the suffering psychological ailments can have on the victim and the family, any therapy that can heal rapidly should at least be explored.
About the author : Anita Vasudeva is a writer and an executive and personal coach based in New Delhi.
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