I’ve been hearing a lot about brainspotting. What is it and what can it do?

Brainspotting evolved out of David Grand’s work and experience with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). It can be an effective tool for both addressing trauma and improving performance by, for example, unblocking creativity. 

Here’s an example of how a session of brainspotting might go. After asking a client to think of a troubling or traumatic event, the therapist directs the client to look in a variety of directions while paying attention to how they are feeling as they shift their eyes to different places. The theory is that locating the point in their visual field at which the person feels the most intensity about the event can help access the unprocessed trauma in the subcortical brain. Most types of therapy, like talk therapy, involve the neocortex, or the rational part of the brain. Brainspotting bypasses that and goes right to the subcortical layers, or reptilian part of brain. It’s just a different approach that may help people get “unstuck” on issues.

Ann McKnight, a therapist who offers brainspotting along with other approaches, says that while we like to think that our rational brain is in charge, the reality is that the subcortical brain is hugely influential in how we act. Brainspotting addresses that part of the brain. “There is something that happens when our ocular system stays in that fixed spot that allows things that get stuck in that place of meaning—in that part of our limbic system—to unwind,” she says, so we can process them. To learn more, check out this podcast, Fullness of Midlife, which is an interview with Ann.