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Brainspotting (BSP)

Brainspotting (BSP) is a therapy approach which evolved from EMDR and was developed by David Grant in 2003. Brainspotting is a beautiful and elegant way of dealing with emotional distress through engaging in deep brain processing.  Like IFS and EMDR, it can be viewed as a neuro-physiological approach, with psychological consequences. However, many individuals find Brainspotting easier to engage with and more intuitive and report that processing is achieved to a deeper level than with other similar approaches.

​Brainspotting originates from the observation that where we look whilst we are talking, or thinking is not random. In fact, when we are thinking of specific issues, because the eyes are an extension of the brain, our eyes naturally orientate towards specific eye positions that are neurologically linked (via the optic nerve) to the brain folders that contain the information we are accessing. This intriguing observation has led to the discovery of Brainspots. A ‘Brainspot’ is therefore the eye position which is related to the emotional activation of an emotionally charged issue within the brain.

During a Brainspotting session, whilst talking about an emotional issue, the therapist will guide the client towards their Brainspot. Keeping a fixed gaze on the Brainspot, appears to open the brain’s ‘felt memory files’ and at this point the client is invited to ‘go inside’ and to begin observing her/his own internal process, with a mindful focus. What follows from here is a powerful form of accelerated yet effortless ‘focused mindfulness’. Clients describe this as a 'torrential stream of consciousness’ or 'conscious release' that pours out in the form of thoughts, emotions, sensations, memories, images and reflexes. The client becomes a passive witness whilst the brain is literally going over fragments of unprocessed information and metabolizing the emotionally charged material until all activation has cleared and the network has been re-integrated into the brain. This feels different from meditating or ruminating, in that it requires no effort on client's part and the experience is usually relatively mild and not overwhelming.

There are two active ingredients that are viewed as resources during Brainspotting. This includes the Brainspot itself. The second one is the ‘therapeutic relationship’. The therapist is in dual ‘attunement’ with the client, and is actively following the client’s system wherever it goes, thereby creating a safe space within which it is safe to feel every thought, emotion, memory, sensation etc. This is a very unique experience where we can truly feel 'seen' by and 'connected to' another human being. In fact, research shows that ‘deep attunement’ is highly stabilizing to brain's pathways and is akin to inner attachment work. In other words, in Brainspotting, the safety and compassionate presence of the therapist, combined with accessing the Brainspot, create the right conditions for new more adaptive neural networks to be built and for old redundant pathways to be cleared (through a process known as memory reconsolidation).


During Brainspotting, the brain is re-stabilizing, re-regulating, re-organising, resourcing, and rebooting itself and the processing often continues to occur after the session has ended. The process also gives the brain an opportunity to sort through old information by keeping anything that’s worth keeping and letting go of what is no longer useful. The result is that emotional distress is reduced, new insights are formed, and we have more access to feelings of safety within our own bodies and within the world itself. When this happens, the prior activation eases and the person feels and functions better.

​In the last 20 years since Brainspotting has been developed, it has spread quickly through the world of therapy. There are now at least 25,000 Brainspotting therapists worldwide. I have personally managed to convince at least 10 of my colleagues to do the training! Even therapists who’d pioneered different trauma treatments are now singing Brainspotting’s praises. For example, Somatic Experiencing developer Peter Levine, was reportedly impressed by an early demonstration of Brainspotting administered during a chance meeting. Bessel van der Kolk (trauma expert and renowned author) listed Brainspotting among the methods he claimed had 'great success.' And trauma specialist Gabor Maté later remarked that after just one Brainspotting session, he was able 'to relax the grip of a burdensome perspective and its associated emotions, both of which I had carried for a long time.'

With it being a newish form of therapy, the empirical evidence supporting its effectiveness is still emerging. One study by Maréchal et al. (2018) examined the efficacy of Brainspotting in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD in a sample of refugees, showing promising results. Also, a recent study published by the Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology, compared the efficacy of BSP therapy with EMDR and concluded that BSP is a good alternative to EMDR in the treatment of trauma.

Brainspotting can be combined with most psychological therapies. I personally, really enjoy integrating Brainspotting with Internal Family Systems Therapy and I am simply humbled by it's power and the positive change it can bring to everyone that tries it. Please click here if you would like to read more about combining IFS with Brainspotting. 

"Neuro-physiotherapy with psychological consequences"              

    - David Grand,

founder of Brainspotting

Brainspotting IFS Therapist  Neuro-physiotherapy with psychological consequences. London and York, Online Lisbon
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