Psychotherapist and trauma expert David Grand developed a therapeutic technique called “Brainspotting,” describing it as “a powerful, focused treatment method that works by identifying, processing, and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional/body pain, trauma, dissociation, and a variety of other challenging symptoms.” Brainspotting therapy essentially locates points in a person’s visual field in order to help them access unprocessed trauma in the brain.
Christy Goldstandt, is a licensed therapist who employs Brainspotting along with other experiential and somatic therapeutic approaches, including the Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM) and a mindfulness approach called Hakomi. “I teach people how to pause, notice, and breathe, so they can identify and connect with what they're feeling in their present moment.”
Brainspotting Therapy vs. EMDR
Similar to Brainspotting, CRM accesses the left and right hemispheres of the brain. While EMDR (eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing) involves tapping from left to right or the use of sound to activate the brain, Brainspotting uses so-called brainspots, while CRM uses resource-eye positions. The intention with all these approaches is to identify and desensitize the cognitive and somatic (meaning of, related to, or affecting the body) triggers that hold people back from thriving in their lives. Here Goldstandt teaches her clients somatic resources that can help them connect their body with a focus on how to get calm and centered via breathwork. In this grounded space, they can see and know their life experiences differently.
She finds most people are really insightful, aware, resilient, and smart. At the same time, they feel incredibly stuck. The somatic work or the integration of the body within the therapeutic approach allows them to negotiate that conflict from a different perspective. “Somatic work is like doing an archeological dig and going into a portal of yourself,” Goldstandt observes.
In her capacity as a therapist, she feels it’s not her job to tell anyone what they should do. Rather she helps the client to identify what they need and then helps guide them in the process towards their goals. When Goldstandt first starts working with a client, she builds a relationship with them before diving into a somatic session. Here, talk therapy can be beneficial to establish a connection, build attachments, and provide validation.
Next Goldstandt teaches mindfulness. As she guides clients, she finds the session turns into a guided visual meditation. She meets her clients where they are and encourages them to learn how to become the observer of their thinking, breath, and bodily sensations, encouraging acceptance of the present moment. The intention for that session is to help them connect with their breathing and to notice things in their environment. The breath becomes a place for the mind to focus when it wanders, along with an anchor for the body.
Goldstandt also teaches her clients how to live in gratitude by helping them feel this sensation in their bodies. “We can’t be in gratitude all the time. But at any moment we can choose to move into a moment of gratitude.” Being in gratitude, she contends, changes one’s mental and physical state, and helps us feel happier and more connected to even seemingly simple things like a pet, an exercise bike, or an awesome cup of coffee.
Tuning in to Brainspots
According to Goldstandt, stepping into the work from a somatic perspective allows her clients to notice their minds from an “internally tuned-in state.”
Here she gives her clients space to explore what they’re feeling while serving as a guide when they encounter uncomfortable sensations. This safe therapeutic space gives them the expansiveness to explore and move out of their darkness. “Utilizing brainspots and resource-eye positions helps clients move through and discharge thoughts and emotions that have kept them stuck, so they can be free,” Goldstandt says.
After they meet and work through the darkest parts of themselves, they feel reconnected with themselves and the world. In this awakened state, they can experience compassion towards themselves and others. “They have remembered who they really are, and thinking becomes knowing.”
More food for thought: how “Talk Therapy Changes the Brain.”