What is Brainspotting and Why is it Relevant to PTSD?
Written by: Stephanie Carpizo, LPC
June is PTSD awareness month, and I believe it is crucial to not only understand the clinical presentation of PTSD, but also understand the treatment options. There are many trauma-informed treatments out there. To be “trauma-informed”, simply stated, is to be aware of how trauma impacts a person’s physical and psychological health and to use therapeutic interventions that address the whole person, rather than a sole-focus on the problem behavior.
However, it is important to note that research has shown that the modality of treatment is less of a predictor of effectiveness than the quality of the relationship between therapist and client, otherwise known as “dual attunement” in a model of trauma-informed treatment called, Brainspotting (BSP). In BSP, the ultimate resource is the relationship between therapist and client within the Dual Attunement Frame. It is within this frame that clients are guided through a transformative healing process.
What is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting is a model of therapy developed by Dr. David Grand in 2003 that has shown ground breaking and research supported results in helping people process and resolve the traumatic events that have previously left them feeling “stuck”, emotionally and physically depleted, and/or ashamed. Brainspotting locates points in the client’s visual field that help to access unprocessed trauma in the deeper, older parts of the brain. It is believed that (BSP) taps into and harnesses the body’s natural self-scanning, self-healing ability.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is loosely defined as an emotional response to a terrible event, like an accident, rape, or a natural disaster. An emotional response to a terrible event is natural, of course! However, emotional responses are supposed to “complete their cycles”, so to speak. When an emotional response to a triggering event becomes frozen and unresolved in the person, a traumatic response then takes its place. The category of “trauma” encapsulates such a broad spectrum of experiences, and these experiences can overwhelm the person’s capacity to effectively cope. In addition, some people have no language or memory of the traumatic event(s). Yet, they report a longstanding feeling of restlessness, irritation, boredom, and/or lethargy that they just can’t explain or “shake.” Further, some people have memory of the trauma event(s), yet, avoid discussing the details surrounding the event(s). Clients use avoidance strategies for all different reasons, but commonly they fear the emotional overwhelm that comes with the memory of the traumatic event.
How Can Brainspotting Help with Trauma?
In (BSP), the client explains the concern, worry, or simply states a feeling of agitation that he/she/they cannot explain. Then, a body-resource is located (positive felt-sense in the body) and then paired with a Brainspot, a spot in the person’s visual field that indicates some reactivity, this could look like a blink, a yawn, a twitch, feelings of nausea, etc. The therapist then guides the client through a mindfulness process within the dual attunement frame: the empathic, witnessing presence of the therapist as the client focuses on the Brainspot. Clients may even stay silent if they wish! The therapist purely works with the sensations in the body as it relates to the triggering event, thought, or story. It is within this body-based, deeply attuned process I have witnessed the body unearth and release various forms of trauma. This release opens up a space for clarity, calm, and a newfound sense of compassion for self and others in many clients. As Bessel VanderKolk says, “the body keeps the score”, and just as the body keeps the score, the body also intrinsically knows how to heal. The trained therapist guides and holds the space for this process with curiosity and compassion.(BSP) provides the container for trauma to find its way through and out the body, just as nature intended.
If you or someone you know is seeking a gentle way to approach working through a traumatic event or an event they don’t fully remember or understand, then Brainspotting may be the appropriate treatment. Stephanie Carpizo, LPC is a certified Brainspotting therapist who works remotely so clients can engage in therapeutic work in the safety and comfort of their own homes. Brainspotting can be done with children as young as six. Read more about Stephanie and schedule an appointment with her HERE.