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What is Brainspotting

What is Brainspotting and How Does it Work

What is brainspotting? Brainspotting is another form of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). It focuses primarily on the physical effects of trauma and distress, and helps people desensitize from upsetting thoughts and feelings associated with an event or even just ongoing stress.

The main difference between EMDR and brainspotting is that anyone can do brainspotting on themself as a self-guided exercise, whereas EMDR is led by a trained professional. Watch how brainspotting works as LeighAnn demonstrates this procedure on her colleagues. Watch until the end if you want to see Dr. Hawkins try brainspotting!

What is Brainspotting and How Does it Work

In a world filled with various therapeutic approaches, Brainspotting stands out as a compelling and effective technique for reducing anxiety, healing trauma, and addressing a wide range of emotional and psychological challenges. In this article, we will delve into what is  Brainspotting, explore its origins, and gain an understanding of how it can be utilized as a powerful tool for self-improvement and emotional healing.

The Birth of Brainspotting

Dr. David Grand, an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapist, developed Brainspotting as a subsequent version of EMDR in the early 1990s. This therapeutic method has since gained recognition and is actively researched, much like its predecessor. While EMDR primarily relies on eye movements, Brainspotting focuses on desensitizing distress and processing upsetting thoughts and feelings associated with traumatic events or persistent distress.

A Body-Centric Approach

One of the fundamental aspects that set Brainspotting apart is its emphasis on the body’s role in the healing process. Traditional talk therapy often prioritizes verbal communication, whereas Brainspotting delves into the physical sensations and reactions within the body. This may initially feel unfamiliar and even intimidating to some, as it requires individuals to connect with and expose themselves to their bodily sensations.

How Does Brainspotting Work?

Finding the “Brainspot”

The cornerstone of Brainspotting is locating the “brainspot” in an individual’s visual field that activates the most intense bodily sensation associated with their distressing experience. The therapist assists the client in identifying this spot by gently guiding their gaze around their visual field while asking them to focus on the bodily sensations that arise.

Tracking the Sensation

As the individual’s gaze settles on the brainspot, they are encouraged to tune into the bodily sensation linked to their distress. This sensation may manifest as tension, tightness, or discomfort. The therapist then helps the individual track this sensation as it intensifies and subsides, guiding them through the process.

Using the Resource Spot

Brainspotting also employs a “resource spot” technique, typically located in the opposite quadrant of the visual field. This spot serves as a refuge where the individual can temporarily shift their gaze to find relief from the intense bodily sensation. The resource spot provides a necessary break during the process and allows the individual to regroup.

Transformation and Resolution

The primary goal of Brainspotting is to reach a point where the intense bodily sensation, often rated on a scale of distress, starts to decrease. This can be achieved through repetitive tracking, allowing the individual to witness the gradual transformation of their physical discomfort. As the sensation diminishes, the mind often shifts towards more productive and comforting thoughts related to the distressing event.

The Power of Self-Application

What makes Brainspotting particularly appealing is its adaptability for self-use. Unlike EMDR, which can be challenging to perform on oneself, Brainspotting offers individuals the opportunity to employ the technique independently once they have learned it. This means that individuals can develop Brainspotting as a valuable skill to manage ongoing distress and emotional challenges in their lives.

Real-Life Application

To illustrate Brainspotting in action, we’ll briefly discuss two case studies: one involving Leanne Fernandez and another featuring Dr. David Hawkins himself.

LeighAnn’s Experience

LeighAnn shared her experience of participating in a weekend event, where she had to interact with many unfamiliar people. She described feeling anxious and uncomfortable in social situations, particularly during small talk. Using Brainspotting, she identified the bodily sensations associated with her discomfort.

Her therapist guided her to focus on the brainspot, and through tracking and shifting to the resource spot, LeighAnn was able to significantly reduce her distress. By the end of the session, her discomfort had decreased from an initial rating of 5 to just 1 on the distress scale.

Dr. David Hawkins’ Exploration

Dr. David Hawkins, curious and willing to explore Brainspotting, also participated in a session. He discussed a piece of distressing news he had received and the weight it placed on his chest. Through the Brainspotting process, he identified the brainspot related to this bodily sensation. With guidance, he tracked the sensation, finding relief and a reduced distress level from 6 to 1. Dr. Hawkins emphasized how the experience allowed him to witness his own story and how the calming presence of the therapist made the process transformative.


Brainspotting, though initially sounding mysterious and unconventional, has proven to be a valuable therapeutic tool for reducing anxiety, healing trauma, and enhancing emotional well-being. Its unique focus on the body’s role in emotional healing offers individuals a powerful means of self-improvement and personal growth. As ongoing research explores the underlying mechanisms of Brainspotting, its potential for transforming lives continues to captivate therapists and clients alike.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: Why do Narcissists Deny Responsibility?

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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