Although only 20 years old, brainspotting has become a popular therapy that aims to help people release their negative experiences, and the physical and emotional effects that accompany them. Yet what is brainspotting, exactly, and does it actually work?

What Is Brainspotting?

Brainspotting is a therapy based on the assumption that the brain stores all of our negative experiences and causes us to suffer on a subconscious level. This suffering manifests as disease, pain, or discomfort in the body. This is part of the brain-body connection.
Brainspotting observes the client’s visual field, and it then notes where the eyes look most often. This is a “brain spot,” or an area relating to physical, mental, or emotional discomfort.

Brainspotting is an advancement of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). It was discovered in 2003 by David Grand, Ph.D, who noticed during an EMDR session that a client’s eyes would return to and become “stuck” in the same place. Whenever their eyes would be in this position, the client would access their emotions more deeply than when their eyes were in any other position. This was the birth of brainspotting.

Brainspotting vs. EMDR

Brainspotting and EMDR do have several similarities. They both focus on:

  • Eye movements
  • Instilling resources that help the client process their physical and emotional reactions
  • Ensuring the client is well-grounded following each session
  • Applying external stimulation

However, brainspotting also has the following differences when compared to EMDR therapy. It

  • Makes changes based on client needs and not a set of protocols
  • Focuses on a single eye position as the point of “stuck” trauma
  • Uses a single device, such as a pointer, to help focus the client’s eyes

How Does
Brainspotting Therapy Treat Trauma?

Brainspotting treats trauma by focusing on the midbrain or limbic system. This area of the brain controls sleep, hearing, vision, and other central nervous system processes.

Whether a person experiences physical, sexual, verbal, or psychological trauma, the midbrain attempts to conserve resources. This helps the body to prepare to mount a defense, but causes the brain to “freeze.” 

Brainspotting therapy allows trauma to be released, but without requiring a client to relive the traumatic event to do so. It does this by having the client recognize where their negative emotions are trapped so that they can be released and their brain can heal.

What Happens During Brainspotting

After you enter a more mindful state through deep breathing or bilateral sound, which moves sound from one ear to the other, a therapist uses a pointer to guide your eyes through movements.

These movements will help you to locate areas where negative emotions are activated. You’ll be asked to identify where you feel negativity most intensely, which you’ll rank in severity from 1 to 10.

You may be asked to identify which points you’d like to work on. This is referred to as the “inside window” approach. Or, the brainspotting therapist may recommend points based on their own observations. This is referred to as the “outside window” approach.

Once points have been identified, you will focus on how each is making you feel emotionally, mentally, and physically and process your feelings. You’ll be asked once again to rate your distress or pain level from 1 to 10.

Many clients who receive brainspotting treatment report feeling more emotional or exhausted than is typical for them, and they experience the surfacing of more emotions after a therapy session.

Brainspotting Work for You?

You may have doubts about whether brainspotting will be effective for you. After all, it’s a relatively new trauma therapy. Since it was discovered, brainspotting has been used to successfully treat all forms of trauma, along with the byproducts of trauma, such as:

  • Substance abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain and fatigue
  • Anger problems
  • Problems with sports performance
  • Impulse control problems

The following issues are also signs of trauma that can be addressed by brainspotting:

  • A fear of losing someone or something
  • Strong need for approval
  • Fear of failure
  • Feeling inadequate

If You Have Already Been to a
Brainspotting Session

Some clients who have recently experienced brainspotting for the first time are unsure how to tell if the therapy is working. As said previously, it’s common to feel more emotional and more fatigued than typical following one or more sessions. Along with complete resolution of the problem, many people report the following results:

  • Seeing progression toward problem resolution after no activity for long periods
  • Experiencing new insights or realizations with regard to the problem
  • Experiencing less stress or discomfort when the issue is brought up
  • More self-awareness, including where tension is being held in the body
  • Improved mental health and well-being

Can More Than One Therapy Accompany Brainspotting?

Yes! Clients who are currently receiving other methods of treatment can add brainspotting therapy to their regimen. This type of therapy can also be administered as a standalone treatment. It’s really up to your individual needs and what you feel is working for you.


Everyone experiences trauma differently, and emotions and their intensities can vary widely. All trauma therapies, including brainspotting, offer clients many benefits. However, as with any trauma therapy, brainspotting can affect how you feel.

Those who are considering receiving brainspotting therapy for the first time are wise to prepare for the possibility of strong emotions following a session. Ensure you have a support network of friends, family, and/or a traditional talk therapy professional to help process emotions that may arise.

Self-care is another vital component; make time for yourself. Take long walks, read, meditate, and participate in other activities that help you stay centered.

Get Started with Personalized, Award-Winning Treatment

Trauma exists in many forms, and no two people experience trauma in the same way.

That’s why Serenity Trauma Center offers personalized treatment programs based on your unique experiences and needs. Our skilled staff delivers award-winning care with the goal of helping to ensure long-term wellness and recovery. You can learn more about Serenity’s benefits by visiting us online or calling (310) 310-9249.