Brainspotting accomplishes a primary goal in counseling
A primary goal of counseling is to support individuals to move from dysregulation to self-regulation, from imbalance to homeostasis, from emotional stress to emotional healing. Distress causes the body and mind to become imbalanced or dysregulated. This can be mapped in the brain and body. When mapping regulation, it appears the process of Brainspotting directly accesses the parts of the brain associated with regulation including the agranular isocortex (ventromedial, orbitofrontal, and anterior prefrontal cortex) and the limbic cortex or allocortex.
The Brain Science Behind Brainspotting
Let’s take a deeper look at brain science from the research of Frank Corrigan and David Grand.
In the process of regulation and healing Brainspotting accesses the:
- subcortical regions of the brain
- right brain
- limbic system
- brain stem (midbrain)
Brainspotting allows for processing down in the reflexive core of the brain stem and spine reaching into the deepest subcortical regions of the brain. In doing so it combines physiological sensory activation with emotional processing. It reaches deep down where the heart of trauma is stored in the unconscious. It is not focused on thoughts, thinking, or analyzing as all of this inhibits flow of deep limbic, brainstem experiences and are not involved in regulation.
Attachment and Coregulation
Another way it helps move from dysregulation to self-regulation is through the mindful presence of the therapist. Research shows that the safe, caring support of another person moves us into the part of our brain-body connection for healing. Brainspotting’s dual attunement frame activates regulation by supporting an individual to reconsolidate traumatic energy and memory and move into greater homeostasis. It is through the safety and compassionate presence of the therapist that implicit memory becomes activated and can be moved into explicit memory.
Stop Hypervigilance and Hyper-Scanning
It is further theorized that through the use of the pointer, traveling down the optic nerves, individuals access the visual layer of the superior colliculi in the midbrain. The pointer becomes a resource anchor that provides a sense of stabilization and safety and allows the brain to stop scanning the room.
As part of our survival instinct, our brain is constantly scanning our environment and adjusting accordingly to ensure our safety and equilibrium. The pointer along with the presence of the therapist refocus this self-scanning tendency from external to internal. From here we can use the massive power of our brain to self-scan, identify, and heal unresolved imbalances.
Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Approach
Many traditional therapies work from a top-down model where thoughts are used to change feelings, behaviors, and experiences. This model relies on the upper part of the brain (neocortex) which is also the newest part in our evolution, to manage and alter the inner and more primitive parts of the brain. As a result, the success of a top-down approach is contingent upon an individual’s ability to analyze, narrate, and verbally process their thoughts and feelings.
Brainspotting follows the bottom-up model where the inner brain sends information and experiences up through the limbic system for release and into the neocortex for processing. Given that stressful and traumatic experiences are stored through our sensory, nonverbal experience a bottom-up model is essential in the healing process. Brainspotting engages our innate drive to release sensory, residue or unresolved experiences and opens us up to new insights, equilibrium, regulation, and improved overall health. As more information comes up and out, more room is created for new insights and expansion. Brainspotting has a reputation for offering swift and often rapid relief to longstanding challenges.
Attunement acts as a gateway to the deep centers of the brain giving them permission to safely release pent up residual energy. The compassionate presence of the therapist is a necessary ingredient for accessing implicit memories. This process is a goal of most therapeutic approaches given it is crucial to letting go, moving on and dealing with any issues.
Attunement is highly stabilizing to brain pathways. The Brainspotting model is in alignment with what is also known as mindful witnessing and interpersonal neurobiology as coined by Daniel Seigel neuroscientist and author of Mindsight.