Atlanta Brainspotting Therapy
In addition to the traditional form of psychotherapy that involves talking through personal issues, I'm highly trained in a technique called “brainspotting”. Brainspotting can be used to reduce the negative efect of disturbing memories and unproductive patterns of thinking. It can also be used to increase flexibilty of attention and thinking so that the mind becomes less 'stuck' and more effective. It can also provide a 'distancing' effect from sources of stress or distraction. Brainspotting shares some similarities with EMDR, but even though I'm also a trained EMDR provider I no longer provide it due to my vast preference for the flexibility and creativity inherent to brainspotting.
Brainspotting directly targets the nervous system’s information-processing center to make dysfunctional, self-defeating thoughts, beliefs and feelings less threatening and more self-supportive. It uses"bilateral sensory stimulation" (the rhythmic activation of the right and left hemispheres of the brain) to activate the brain’s natural healing abilities. Unlike traditional talk therapy, brainspotting acts directly on the deep, unconscious "body brain", also known as the reflexive core, which is as outside of awareness as respiration, circulation and digestion. It involves much less talking and time than traditional psychotherapy.
The human brain processes life events into a unique combination of specific memories, images, emotions, sensations, thoughts, beliefs and symbolic associations. These are actual neurological pathways that can be unconsciously activated by many internal and external cues, most of which are outside of a person’s awareness. Brainspotting helps the brain process and integrate any dysfunctionally encoded neural pathways. Think of cleaning out a room that's almost completely cluttered with junk in order to rearrange the underlying furniture in a more effective way.
Brainspotting is surprisingly easy to do. You will simply focus on a symptom or problem you want to work on, including any negative thoughts, feelings and sensations that go along with it. I'll give you some headphones with special music I've helped to create that alternates back and forth between the left and right channel. (Many people tell me they enjoy this music all by itself.) I will help you move your eyes very slowly until you notice a subtle shift in your awareness or I notice a reflexive eye movement. This is a “brainspot”, the point at which spontaneous neurological processing begins to take place. The deceptively simple process of holding your gaze on this spot activates your nervous system so that the images, thoughts, feelings and sensations you notice will begin to evolve along more adaptive neural pathways. This can be a remarkably stimulating, validating and meaningful process that can benefit you in both dramatic and subtle ways long after you leave my office.
I realize all of this may seem a little confusing at first. If you have some understanding about how computers operate several analogies may help. When the data on a hard drive becomes sprinkled in lots of different places, even routine tasks take longer to perform. This is why hard drives need to be “defragmented” on a regular basis. The human nervous system can also store bits of information from our life experiences in all kinds of ways that can make it hard to operate effectively under some circumstances. Brainspotting can be thought of as a way to defragment your neurological hard drive. Computers also get infected with viruses, run poorly coded or corrupted programs, become littered with “orphan files”, develop “registry errors”, and so forth. The brain can experience very similar types of impediments to its optimal functioning. Brainspotting addresses all of these issues in a manner that is practical, versatile, elegant and powerful -- and even fun!
It's been said that brainspotting combines the versatility of a Swiss army knife with the power of a jackhammer and the precision of a laser beam. It’s only limits are willingness and application. A great book about all of the many different forms and uses of brainspotting is “Brainspotting: The Revolutionary New Therapy for Rapid and Effective Change” by David Grand, Ph.D.
People often find that brainspotting allows them to respond in more adaptive ways when presented with problems that used to be overwhelming. Memories or triggering situations that were once very disturbing suddenly begin to lead toward healthier responses. More positive and adaptive thoughts, feelings and beliefs become available in situations where they simply didn’t exist before.
Will it work work for you? The answer depends on a lot of factors. For example, these techniques often take longer for people who have been severely traumatized over a long period of time. I’ve seen dramatic changes occur in just one session but it’s important to take enough time to bring about the reprocessing and healing every person deserves.
This has been just a brief overview of a remarkable technique that can potentially help you achieve rapid and lasting healing for issues that may have been troubling you for many years. I believe that over the next few years many more therapists will be providing brainspotting, and I’m glad I can offer it today.